- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 17, 2002

James Ziglar, the embattled commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, announced yesterday that he will resign from the agency and return to the private sector.
Mr. Ziglar, who underwent back surgery last month to fix a herniated disk, told President Bush in a letter that he will step down after Congress creates the Department of Homeland Security.
The INS is in the midst of a restructuring and has been criticized by Congress since the September 11 terrorist attacks. A May inspector-general investigation found "widespread failure" in the agency's ability to manage student visas.
"Although I could not have imagined the events of September 11 and the dramatic changes visited upon the Immigration and Naturalization Service, I have done my best to continue making progress toward the goals of restructuring the agency and reducing backlogs while responding to the call to arms in the war on terrorism," Mr. Ziglar said.
"I believe that the record will indicate that we have made substantial progress toward those goals," he said.
Mr. Ziglar, 56, took over the job on Aug. 6, 2001 little more a month before the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center.
Pro-immigration activists praised Mr. Ziglar for striking a balance between the need for heightened security and welcoming new immigrants.
"I suspect it was becoming increasingly difficult for a pro-immigration Republican to feel that he has a place at the table within this administration, which is increasingly perceived by immigrants as hostile to hard-working, law-abiding newcomers," said Angela Kelley, deputy director of the National Immigration Forum.
"We will certainly miss his valuable insights into how we can balance the need to isolate terrorism while refraining from isolating America and making all immigrants feel unwelcome," she said.
Mark Krikorian, executive director for the Center for Immigration Studies, however, said Mr. Ziglar was "never a good fit even before September 11."
"He was ambivalent about the law enforcement part of the job, and that was especially inappropriate after the attacks," Mr. Krikorian said.
"He never seemed to appreciate the central role that immigration control plays in homeland security. He always seemed to be more comfortable handing out green cards than in seeing the border was controlled. That might have been appropriate in a different time, but not in the midst of this kind of war, where immigration control is one of the most important priorities," he said.
Immigration-reform supporters critical of Mr. Ziglar said his resignation gives the Bush administration the opportunity to "start fresh with a new team."
"Commissioner Ziglar's agenda seemed more consistent with the original intention of President Fox to practically eliminate the southern border," said Dan Stein, executive director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), referring to Mexican President Vicente Fox.
"The public mood has dramatically shifted. They want solid, secure borders and a system that encourages adherence to the law and respect for U.S. sovereignty," Mr. Stein said.
The agency was widely criticized by Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican and a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, for attempting to punish whistleblowers earlier this year.
Two border-patrol agents told a newspaper about security problems along the U.S.-Canada border and afterward were recommended for suspensions and demotions.
The whistleblowers were given a reprieve under pressure from Mr. Grassley.
Mr. Ziglar's lack of experience in immigration issues was a key cause of concern among INS officials and immigration experts during his Senate confirmation. He formerly was sergeant at arms in the Senate.
"Part of the challenge facing INS is getting its system sorted out, and it concerns me that he has no immigration background," Jeanne Butterfield, executive director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said during his confirmation.
*Jerry Seper contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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