- The Washington Times - Friday, March 22, 2002

The leadership of the House Judiciary Committee yesterday reached a bipartisan agreement on what was described as "comprehensive legislation" that would overhaul the embattled U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.
The proposed legislation, according to Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., Wisconsin Republican, would dismantle the INS and split its functions into two separate bureaus one for immigration enforcement and another for client services.
The legislation also would create a new associate attorney general for immigration affairs, the third-ranking official at the Justice Department, whose office would handle children's issues concerning immigration services and enforcement and be assigned a general counsel to provide legal advice for both bureaus.
Both bureaus would set and implement their own policies and develop budgets to meet their separate missions, according to the legislation.
President Bush and Attorney General John Ashcroft have called for INS to be split into separate divisions for services and for law enforcement, with both men saying that dividing these functions would help improve INS efficiency and effectiveness.
The INS has been criticized by members of Congress and others for years over questions of competence all of which came to a head after the disclosure that the agency had sent notices last week to a flight school that terrorists Mohamed Atta and Marwan Al-Shehhi had been granted student visas. The two men have been identified as the pilots aboard jetliners that crashed into the World Trade Center towers.
Mr. Ashcroft ordered a reorganization of the agency in November, hoping to split it into separate service and law-enforcement functions without legislation.
The new legislation was endorsed by Mr. Sensenbrenner; Rep. John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, the committee's ranking Democrat; Rep. George W. Gekas, Pennsylvania Republican and chairman of the Judiciary immigration and claims subcommittee; and Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee of Texas, the subcommittee's ranking Democrat.
Mr. Sensenbrenner has scheduled a committee hearing on reforming the INS for April 9, followed by a debate on the proposed legislation the following day.
"This agreement will allow Republicans and Democrats in Congress in concert with the Bush administration to work together on fundamentally dismantling the INS and starting anew with two separate agencies," Mr. Sensenbrenner said.
"The support of Mr. Conyers and Miss Jackson-Lee is invaluable to moving this bipartisan legislative fix expeditiously through Congress and getting it signed by the president," he said.
"The INS is a dysfunctional agency," Mr. Conyers said, "unable to serve those who follow the rules and unable to exclude terrorists identified on the evening news.
"This legislation is an important first step in tearing down the INS and replacing it with an agency that works."
Under the new legislation, the Office of Immigration Litigation would be transferred from the Justice Department's Civil Division to the Bureau of Immigration Enforcement. Immigration inspections would also occur in the enforcement bureau.
The Executive Office for Immigration Review, which houses the immigration judges, would continue to report to the deputy attorney general.


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