- The Washington Times - Friday, April 26, 2002

Congress took the first major step in abolishing the Immigration and Naturalization Service yesterday when the House voted to split it into separate bureaus, one to handle law enforcement and one to administer immigration services.
The measure passed 405-9, with only one Republican, seven Democrats and one independent voting against it.
Proposals to reform the INS have been pending for years, but it took the terrorist attacks of September 11 to turn the issue into a matter of national security and put it on a fast legislative track.
"The public no longer has confidence in the INS," said Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., Wisconsin Republican and author of the bill. "The public is right, and this bill abolishes this agency."
Senators are working on a similar bill, and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, has called for a hearing next week in the Judiciary Committee's subcommittee on immigration to discuss the legislation he is writing with Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican.
With congressional action looming, the Bush administration has abandoned its neutral position to legislation. Attorney General John Ashcroft announced at a morning news conference that the administration supports the House bill, with some reservations.
"This is not the end of the journey. This is an important set of first steps essential to the journey's end, but not sufficient to get us there," he said.
Administration officials had lobbied for Congress to delay legislative action and let the INS try an internal reorganization, but lawmakers clearly were fed up with the half-dozen reorganization schemes during the last two decades that they say led to little reform.
During the House debate, Democrats and Republicans alike delighted in calling the INS the "Incompetent and Negligent Service" or saying the acronym stands for "Ignoring National Security." Some said their offices receive six times as many complaints about the INS as they do about the IRS, and at times they seemed to be competing with each other to describe the agency in the worst terms.
"With this agency and what it has done, we need to shred it, gather the shreds, burn them, gather the ashes and distribute them through the four corners of the world," said Rep. Bob Barr, Georgia Republican.
As reasons for change, lawmakers listed long waiting periods for those seeking to immigrate legally, a failure to track legal visitors and an inability to keep illegal immigrants out, and said an agency charged with serving immigrants and with enforcing the law against illegal immigrants cannot properly do either.
The bill would create a new associate attorney general to oversee an Office of Immigration Affairs and establish two bureaus under it. The bureaus would have separate budgets.
The bill also includes an amendment by Rep. Jeff Flake, Arizona Republican, that would rotate INS managers among districts the way top FBI officials rotate now. One common complaint is that INS officials become ensconced in a particular region, and several representatives said officials run the regions like "fiefdoms."
"Just shaking it up over there, getting rid of the current management structure, can only be a bonus," Mr. Flake said.
Even some of those who voted against the bill agreed the INS is in bad shape. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, California Democrat, said it ranks as the worst federal agency.
But she and other opponents said the bill won't achieve better service or better enforcement.
"You've got one inefficient, unproductive INS now. It seems to me what you're going to end up with is two inefficient agencies," said Rep. Melvin Watt, North Carolina Democrat. "Will lines at INS be any shorter? No. It just means you will have to go to a different place to stand in line."
He said the problem isn't structural, it is that too much funding goes to enforcement and not enough goes to administration and services. He said that will only get worse if the agency's duties are split.
Besides Mr. Watt and Mrs. Lofgren, Democrats voting against the bill were Reps. Neil Abercrombie and Patsy T. Mink of Hawaii, Eva Clayton of North Carolina, Earl Pomeroy of North Dakota and Michael M. Honda of California.
Rep. Jim Kolbe of Arizona was the only Republican opponent, and independent Rep. Bernard Sanders of Vermont also voted against the proposal.
Mr. Kolbe had an alternative proposal he wasn't allowed to present on the floor that would have divided INS functions three ways. Instead of leaving them in the Justice Department it would have divided duties between the Justice, State and Labor departments.
As the debate shifts to the Senate, there is agreement on a two-bureau structure. The dispute is over who should oversee the two bureaus and how high up in government that person should be. Mr. Kennedy's proposal would establish a director of immigration affairs who would administer an Immigration Affairs Agency. The director's status would be on par with the FBI director.

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