- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 11, 2002

House Judiciary members yesterday decided not to wait for the Bush administration to try to fix the embattled Immigration and Naturalization Service, voting to abolish the beleaguered service and create two new agencies to handle enforcement and immigration services.
The House Judiciary Committee voted 32-2 to send the full House a bill offered by the chairman, Rep. James F. Sensenbrenner Jr., to break up the INS into two separate agencies under the Justice Department.
A plan pushed by the Bush administration would have a similar effect on the service but would do it from within the INS.
"The current INS administrative plan keeps the INS intact as a consolidated agency when what needs to be created are two new bureaus in the Justice Department," said Mr. Sensenbrenner, Wisconsin Republican. "The INS has reorganized itself numerous times in the past two decades, but the agency is still in a deep quagmire. I don't think any additional attempt at internal reorganizing can pull the INS out of this morass in which it finds itself."
Under Mr. Sensenbrenner's plan, which has been endorsed by committee Democrats, the bureaus would remain under the Justice Department and would report to a new associate attorney general for immigration affairs.
INS Commissioner James Ziglar wants to divide the INS functions administratively but keep the agency intact.
But committee members said they have heard too many ineffective INS overhaul plans from different presidents. "We have given the INS almost 20 years with administrative changes," said Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, Texas Democrat. "I believe that we have now a large opportunity to begin turning the tide."
The INS has been criticized for years because of long backlogs of applications for benefits such as naturalization or permanent residency, and lawmakers say they have political momentum to abolish the agency in light of the September 11 attacks and an increased priority on protecting the nation's borders.
Supporters and critics agree the service has conflicting missions to help immigrants enter and stay in the country and to identify and keep out those who try to enter illegally or who may pose a danger.
The INS also was embarrassed by the disclosure that six months after the attacks, it issued paperwork relating to student visas for two of the September 11 hijackers.
Democratic Reps. Melvin Watt of North Carolina and Zoe Lofgren of California voted against the bill. Mr. Watt said splitting up the INS won't help if the new agencies don't get enough money to operate properly. "Instead of one ineffective agency, you will get three or four ineffective agencies as a result," he said.
Mr. Ziglar said the Bush administration has no position on Mr. Sensenbrenner's bill.
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, plans to introduce legislation to overhaul the INS in the Senate. His bill would split the service into two agencies. Rather than an associate attorney general in the Justice Department, however, Mr. Kennedy wants an independent administrator appointed by the president to oversee the separate immigration bureaus.

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