- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 4, 2003

The head of a critical Immigration and Naturalization Service center in Vermont, where two veteran INS officers said they were not allowed to track illegal aliens, including potential terrorists, has been transferred to a new position.Carol Chasse, director of the Law Enforcement Support Center (LESC) in South Burlington, Vt., was named last week as acting regional immigration enforcement officer liaison at the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection and the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, two new agencies within the Department of Homeland Security.Miss Chasse was replaced by J. Scott Blackman, acting executive associate director for immigration enforcement in Washington. Mr. Blackman is a veteran INS official who has held numerous supervisory positions within the agency, including a stint at LESC.INS spokesman Michael Gilhooly yesterday described the transfer of Miss Chasse as “routine.”“Transfers and reassignments of senior personnel are to be expected as we continue the process of structuring a new bureau inside a new agency,” Mr. Gilhooly said, adding that Miss Chasse would serve as a key liaison among the several agencies that have been merged into the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.In a farewell letter to LESC employees, Miss Chasse said she was notified of her transfer “while I was on leave taking my mother on our annual outing to see tennis.”“We do not own our jobs. You have all heard me say that. We perform the duties we are assigned to the best of our abilities and give a good day’s work for a good day’s pay,” she said. “That has always been a basic core value of the LESC and I know you will all continue to perform to the best of your ability.”LESC agents Steve Letares and Mathew Markiewicz complained in February they and other criminal investigators at LESC were assigned to desk jobs instead of investigating criminal aliens and would-be terrorists. Both men were targeted for an internal probe after telling reporters they were not allowed to do their jobs, and were questioned yesterday by the agency’s Office of Internal Affairs.Mr. Letares, speaking as a union steward for the American Federation of Government Employees, said ICE Assistant Secretary Michael Garcia “has taken a step in the right direction” in making changes of senior personnel at LESC but “the cuts are not deep enough.” He did not elaborate.LESC provides information to state and local police agencies on the immigration status of aliens suspected of crimes or under arrest. Its computer-based information system contains data on lawful permanent residents, naturalized citizens, immigration violators and others with open alien files or in whom there is a “special interest.”Last year, the center drew the attention of Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican, who asked if LESC mismanagement had hampered the nation’s ability to control its borders and if criminal investigators were being misused.In an August letter to Attorney General John Ashcroft, Mr. Grassley said that while LESC told his staff that criminal investigations constituted 90 to 95 percent of the work being done by the agents, that was not the case.”The agents do none of the criminal investigative work that supposedly entails 90 to 95 percent of their work,” Mr. Grassley said, adding that the agents currently compare information from police agencies nationwide with LESC information on file and then advise local INS agents of a positive or negative match.”Such administrative work could easily be handled by the dozens of law-enforcement technicians on staff,” he said.Mr. Grassley inquired again about the center this year, questioning Miss Chasse’s ability to lead LESC based on a 1995 report by the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General that said she was “most responsible for a scheme to mislead” a congressional inquiry into charges that an INS processing center in Miami was overcrowded.INS defended LESC, saying it provides support to police agencies in determining whether a person they have contacted or have in custody is an illegal, criminal or fugitive alien. The agency said LESC gives the agencies direct access to INS and that interaction increases public safety by identifying criminal aliens who might pose a threat.

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