- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 1, 2003

House leaders from both parties yesterday urged Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge to "vigorously enforce our immigration laws" as head of the new department.
With Homeland Security officially taking over the reins from the now-abolished U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, House Judiciary Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., Wisconsin Republican, and the committee's ranking Democrat, Rep. John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, offered the panel's assistance with immigration resource needs and legislative changes.
"Restructuring the dysfunctional INS was this committee's top immigration priority last Congress, which was accomplished with the creation of the DHS. Now, our top immigration priority is overseeing and assisting a smooth transition of immigration responsibilities into your department," they wrote in a letter to Mr. Ridge.
Mr. Sensenbrenner and Mr. Conyers were joined in the request by House immigration, border security and claims subcommittee Chairman John Hostettler, Indiana Republican, and Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee of Texas, the subcommittee's ranking Democrat.
In their letter, the committee members said that having separated immigration enforcement functions from immigration service functions within Homeland Security, they expect that each mission will be "much more manageable and successfully handled than when they were together in the INS."
They said the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, with its own immigration services budget and independence from immigration enforcement, should "excel at fairly, correctly and expeditiously administering immigration benefits."
"We urge you to keep this committee informed about this critical immigration transition into DHS," they said. "Immigration services and enforcement and their respective programs are too important to let them slip through the cracks while DHS gets on its feet.
"Feel free to contact this committee with immigration resource needs and suggested legislative changes. We look forward to working with you to make our immigration system a success and one of which the American people can be proud," they said.
Mr. Sensenbrenner has been a longtime critic of INS and first introduced legislation in November 2001 after the September 11 attacks to restructure the agency to "create a better immigration agency with clear missions, more accountability and clear chains of command."
At the time, he described INS as "the most dysfunctional agency in the federal government," adding that the suicide strikes on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon made it "even clearer … that INS presently fails both immigrants and the American people, it does not carry out its law enforcement or service mission well."
That legislation would have created within the Justice Department an Agency for Immigration Affairs headed by the associate attorney general for immigration affairs, with two bureaus the Bureau of Immigration Enforcement and the Bureau of Immigration Services and Adjudications.
It served as the model for what later became the Department of Homeland Security.

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