SPEAKERS CONTENTS INSERTS
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IMMIGRATION REORGANIZATION AND IMPROVEMENT ACT OF 1999
IMMIGRATION AND CLAIMS
COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED SIXTH CONGRESS
JULY 29, 1999
Page 2 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCSerial No. 76
Printed for the use of the Committee on the Judiciary
For sale by the U.S. Government Printing Office
Superintendent of Documents, Congressional Sales Office, Washington, DC 20402
COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY
HENRY J. HYDE, Illinois, Chairman
F. JAMES SENSENBRENNER, Jr., Wisconsin
BILL McCOLLUM, Florida
GEORGE W. GEKAS, Pennsylvania
HOWARD COBLE, North Carolina
LAMAR S. SMITH, Texas
ELTON GALLEGLY, California
CHARLES T. CANADY, Florida
BOB GOODLATTE, Virginia
STEVE CHABOT, Ohio
BOB BARR, Georgia
WILLIAM L. JENKINS, Tennessee
ASA HUTCHINSON, Arkansas
EDWARD A. PEASE, Indiana
CHRIS CANNON, Utah
JAMES E. ROGAN, California
LINDSEY O. GRAHAM, South Carolina
Page 3 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCMARY BONO, California
SPENCER BACHUS, Alabama
JOE SCARBOROUGH, Florida
DAVID VITTER, Louisiana
JOHN CONYERS, Jr., Michigan
BARNEY FRANK, Massachusetts
HOWARD L. BERMAN, California
RICK BOUCHER, Virginia
JERROLD NADLER, New York
ROBERT C. SCOTT, Virginia
MELVIN L. WATT, North Carolina
ZOE LOFGREN, California
SHEILA JACKSON LEE, Texas
MAXINE WATERS, California
MARTIN T. MEEHAN, Massachusetts
WILLIAM D. DELAHUNT, Massachusetts
ROBERT WEXLER, Florida
STEVEN R. ROTHMAN, New Jersey
TAMMY BALDWIN, Wisconsin
ANTHONY D. WEINER, New York
THOMAS E. MOONEY, SR., General Counsel-Chief of Staff
JULIAN EPSTEIN, Minority Chief Counsel and Staff Director
Page 4 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCSubcommittee on Immigration and Claims
LAMAR S. SMITH, Texas, Chairman
BILL McCOLLUM, Florida
ELTON GALLEGLY, California
EDWARD A. PEASE, Indiana
CHRIS CANNON, Utah
CHARLES T. CANADY, Florida
BOB GOODLATTE, Virginia
JOE SCARBOROUGH, Florida
SHEILA JACKSON LEE, Texas
HOWARD L. BERMAN, California
ZOE LOFGREN, California
BARNEY FRANK, Massachusetts
MARTIN T. MEEHAN, Massachusetts
GEORGE FISHMAN, Chief Counsel
JIM WILON, Counsel
LAURA BAXTER, Counsel
CINDY BLACKSTON, Professional Staff
LEON BUCK, Minority Counsel
C O N T E N T S
Page 5 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC July 29, 1999
TEXT OF BILL
Smith, Hon. Lamar, a Representative in Congress from the State of Texas, and chairman, Subcommittee on Immigration and Claims
Berg, Chief Paul, President, United States Border Patrol Chiefs' Association
Bonner, T.J., President, National Border Patrol Council
Bromwich, Inspector General Michael, U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, DC
Campbell, Jean, District Director, Office of Hon. Dick Armey, a Representative in Congress from the State of Texas
Gallo, Richard, President, Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association
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Hetfield, Mark, Director, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society
Hoekstra, Hon. Peter, a Representative in Congress from the State of Michigan
Mancilla, Beatriz, District Representative, Office of Hon. Peter Hoekstra, a Representative in Congress from the State of Michigan
Martin, Susan, former Director, Commission on Immigration Reform, Director of the Institute for the Study of International Migration, Georgetown University
Meissner, Doris, Commissioner, Immigration and Naturalization Service
Reyes, Hon. Silvestre, a Representative in Congress from the State of Texas
Rogers, Hon. Harold, a Representative in Congress from the State of Kentucky
Smith, Dennis J., Executive Vice President, National Immigration and Naturalization Service Council for the American Federation of Government Employees, AFLCIO
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Stana, Richard M., Associate Director, Administration of Justice Issues, General Government Division, U.S. General Accounting Office, Washington, DC
Vuna, Elizabeth, Director of Constituent Services, Office of Hon. Stephen Horn, a Representative in Congress from the State of California
Wood, John, Constituent Liaison, Office of Hon. Bob Clement, a Representative in Congress from the State of Tennessee
LETTERS, STATEMENTS, ETC., SUBMITTED FOR THE HEARING
Ackman, Kay Leslie, Attorney: Prepared statement
Berg, Chief Paul, President, United States Border Patrol Chiefs' Association: Prepared statement
Bonner, T.J., President, National Border Patrol Council: Prepared statement
Bromwich, Inspector General Michael, U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, DC: Prepared statement
Campbell, Jean, District Director, Office of Hon. Dick Armey, a Representative in Congress from the State of Texas: Prepared statement
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Gallo, Richard, President, Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association: Prepared statement
Gutierrez, Hon. Luis V., a Representative in Congress from the State of Illinois: Prepared statement
Hernandez, Ernesto: Prepared statement
Hetfield, Mark, Director, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society: Prepared statement
Jackson Lee, Hon. Sheila, a Representative in Congress from the State of Texas: ''The Immigration Restructuring and Accountability Act of 1999'' summary
Mancilla, Beatriz, District Representative, Office of Hon. Peter Hoekstra, a Representative in Congress from the State of Michigan: Prepared statement
Martin, Susan, former Director, Commission on Immigration Reform, Director of the Institute for the Study of International Migration, Georgetown University: Prepared statement
Meissner, Doris, Commissioner, Immigration and Naturalization Service: Prepared statement
Page 9 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Muzzall, Margarita and Jim: Prepared statement
Reyes, Hon. Silvestre, a Representative in Congress from the State of Texas: Prepared statement
Smith, Dennis J., Executive Vice President, National Immigration and Naturalization Service Council for the American Federation of Government Employees, AFLCIO: Prepared statement
Smith, Hon. Lamar, a Representative in Congress from the State of Texas, and chairman, Subcommittee on Immigration and Claims: Prepared statement
Stana, Richard M., Associate Director, Administration of Justice Issues, General Government Division, U.S. General Accounting Office, Washington, DC: Prepared statement
Vuna, Elizabeth, Director of Constituent Services, Office of Hon. Stephen Horn, a Representative in Congress from the State of California: Prepared statement
Wood, John, Constituent Liaison, Office of Hon. Bob Clement, a Representative in Congress from the State of Tennessee: Prepared statement
IMMIGRATION REORGANIZATION AND IMPROVEMENT ACT OF 1999
THURSDAY, JULY 29, 1999
Page 10 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCHouse of Representatives,
Subcommittee on Immigration
The subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 9:45 a.m., in room 2226, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Lamar Smith [chairman], presiding.
Members present: Elton Gallegly, Edward A. Pease, Charles T. Canady, Sheila Jackson Lee, Howard L. Berman, and Zoe Lofgren.
Staff present: George Fishman, Chief Counsel; Laura Baxter, Counsel; Judy Knott, Staff Assistant; and Leon Buck, Minority Counsel.
OPENING STATEMENT OF CHAIRMAN SMITH
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. The subcommittee will come to order.
We are expecting more members later on. There is a Republican Caucus meeting as we speak now. I know that the ranking member, Sheila Jackson Lee will be here momentarily, all of which makes me especially appreciate the presence of the Gentleman from Indiana, Mr. Pease. We need two people to get this off to a start, and we will begin now.
I have an opening statement, and then if the ranking member is here we will hear her opening statement, and then go to our first panel.
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The INS is like a baseball team that ends every season in last place. Despite having loyal supporters and unsung heroes, when the game is on the line there are so many errors the scorekeepers stop counting.
To quote Yogi Berra, today's hearing is ''deja vu all over again.'' One year ago to the day in this very room we held a markup of Congressman Harold Rogers' H.R. 4264 restructuring the INS.
Since then, we gave the INS Commissioner time to work with us to reorganize the agency and improve INS performance.
Meanwhile, another season has passed and our immigration system still cannot hit, pitch, or field. Commissioner Meissner did not come out of the dugout to develop a consensus plan in fact until a few days ago.
Her solutionbringing in a relief pitcher after the team is down too many runs to recoverkicks dirt in the faces of citizens who demand protection and immigrants who have sacrificed and waited patiently for services they have earned.
Congress has a bipartisan solution to rebuild the home teamH.R. 2528which has 54 Republican and 33 Democratic cosponsors and support from two Federal law enforcement unions.
Among the INS' current problems are:
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A lack of accountability and responsiveness;
Poor resource management;
Deplorable customer service; and
Nothing has improved.
The Department of Justice Inspector General and the General Accounting Office will provide details of their respective investigations with INS automation, INS financial management, and internal communication.
Government Executive Magazine and Syracuse University's Maxwell School studied 15 government agencies, and the INS received the lowest grades of all agencies that were studied.
Without objection, those findings will be made a part of the record.
Regarding INS service, the INS currently has a backlog of 4.4 million pending applications for benefits. This includes 1.8 million naturalization petitions and 800,000 applications for permanent residence.
Employment-based petitions often take more than 3 years. The INS has stopped adjudicating most applications besides naturalization. The other backlogs will simply continue to grow.
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It takes 15 months to 2 years to become a citizen, despite my pleas to set 90 days as a reasonable goal.
Due to the lengthy backlogs, applicants' fingerprints are lost or expire, requiring them to be re-fingerprinted. The INS lost the fingerprints of one applicant, Mrs. O'Connell, four times. Her naturalization petition has been pending for over 3 years.
Children applicants for immediate-relative status turn 21 years old while applications are pending and 'age-out' of that visa category, leading to many years' wait in other visa categories. This happened to Montserrat Rodriguez, one of my own constituents.
Applicants are unable to contact the INS to make inquiries on case status. Their lives are in limbo. We will hear from two such applicants today.
One result is that applicants are turning to Members of Congress more and more for basic information and for help to find out the status of their applications. The immigration-related casework of Members' District offices has grown in recent years. Even Congressional caseworkers have difficulties obtaining information from the INS, and we will hear from four of those caseworkers today.
We know from our nine oversight hearings this year that the enforcement side of the INS is not working either. INS has developed an 'Interior Enforcement Strategy' that simply does not deport noncriminal illegal aliens.
Page 14 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC INS developed an IDENT system that allowed previously deported criminal alien and suspected serial killer Angel Maturino Resendez to be released because the database is not compatible with other law enforcement agencies.
We know of another case where the Border Patrol released an illegal alien with an outstanding murder warrant. In that case, the warrant was issued for Alfredo Remirez Rosas on August 20th, 1993, for the murder of Mildred Stallones.
The FBI filed a complaint against him for unlawful flight to avoid prosecution, but the INS allowed him to voluntarily return to Mexico in March 1994. Ramirez Rosas remains at large, perhaps even in the United States.
These are examples of why we need to pass H.R. 2528. Congressman Rogers and Congressman Reyes will be here to explain that the bill improves our system because it creates two new immigration bureaus.
The enforcement bureau will be a true law enforcement agency that will remove illegal and criminal aliens, not release them into our communities. The service bureau will process applications quickly and thoroughly and will provide courteous information. The American people deserve an immigration system that both serves and protects them.
[The bill, H.R. 2528, follows:]
Page 15 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC H. R. 2528
To establish the Bureau of Immigration Services and the Bureau of Immigration Enforcement within the Department of Justice.
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
JULY 15, 1999
Mr. ROGERS (for himself, Mr. SMITH of Texas, Mr. REYES, Mr. BARR of Georgia, Mr. BARRETT of Nebraska, Mr. BECERRA, Mr. BENTSEN, Mr. BILBRAY, Mr. BONILLA, Mrs. BONO, Mr. BOSWELL, Mr. BOYD, Mr. BRADY of Texas, Mr. CALLAHAN, Mr. CANADY of Florida, Mr. CANNON, Mrs. CAPPS, Mr. CHAMBLISS, Mr. CLEMENT, Mr. COLLINS, Mr. CONDIT, Mr. COSTELLO, Mr. CUNNINGHAM, Mr. DAVIS of Illinois, Mr. DEAL of Georgia, Mr. DOOLEY of California, Mr. DUNCAN, Mr. EDWARDS, Mr. FARR of California, Mr. FILNER, Mr. FORD, Mrs. FOWLER, Mr. GALLEGLY, Mr. GONZALEZ, Mr. GOODLATTE, Ms. GRANGER, Mr. GREEN of Texas, Mr. HINOJOSA, Mr. HOBSON, Mr. HUNTER, Ms. EDDIE BERNICE JOHNSON of Texas, Mr. KINGSTON, Mr. KOLBE, Mr. LATHAM, Mr. LEWIS of California, Mr. LEWIS of Kentucky, Mr. MARTINEZ, Mr. METCALF, Mr. MILLER of Florida, Mr. MINGE, Mrs. NAPOLITANO, Mr. ORTIZ, Mr. PACKARD, Mr. PASTOR, Mr. ROHRABACHER, Mr. ROMERO-BARCELÓ, Mr. ROTHMAN, Mr. ROYCE, Mr. SENSENBRENNER, Mr. SHERMAN, Mr. SKEEN, Mr. SNYDER, Mr. SPRATT, Mr. STUMP, Mr. SUNUNU, Mr. TRAFICANT, Mr. TURNER, Mr. UNDERWOOD, Mr. WAMP, Mr. WELDON of Pennsylvania, and Mr. WHITFIELD) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary
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To establish the Bureau of Immigration Services and the Bureau of Immigration Enforcement within the Department of Justice.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE; TABLE OF CONTENTS.
(a) SHORT TITLE.This Act may be cited as the ''Immigration Reorganization and Improvement Act of 1999''.
(b) TABLE OF CONTENTS.The table of contents of this Act is as follows:
Sec. 1. Short title; table of contents.
Sec. 2. Establishment of Bureau of Immigration Services.
Sec. 3. Establishment of Bureau of Immigration Enforcement.
Sec. 4. Exercise of authorities.
Sec. 5. Savings provisions.
Sec. 6. Transfer and allocation of appropriations and personnel.
Sec. 7. Statutory construction.
Sec. 8. Reports and implementation plans.
Sec. 9. Definitions.
Sec. 10. Effective date; transition.
SEC. 2. ESTABLISHMENT OF BUREAU OF IMMIGRATION SERVICES.
(a) ESTABLISHMENT OF BUREAU.
(1) IN GENERAL.There is established in the Department of Justice a bureau to be known as the Bureau of Immigration Services (in this section referred to as the ''Service Bureau'').
Page 17 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC (2) DIRECTOR.The head of the Service Bureau shall be the Director of the Bureau of Immigration Services who
(A) shall be appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate;
(B) shall report directly to the Attorney General or her delegate; and
(C) shall have a minimum of 10 years experience in providing services or processing applications for benefits, or both, with at least 5 of those years in management, or shall have comparable management experience.
(3) COMPENSATION.Such Director shall be paid at the rate of basic pay payable for level IV of the Executive Schedule (as listed in section 5315 of title 5, United States Code).
(4) FUNCTIONS.Such Director shall perform such functions as are transferred to the Director by this section or this Act or otherwise vested in the Director by law.
(b) TRANSFER OF FUNCTIONS.There are transferred from the Commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service to the Director of the Bureau of Immigration Services all functions performed under the following programs, and all personnel, infrastructure, and funding provided to the Commissioner in support of such programs immediately before the effective date of this section:
(1) Adjudications of nonimmigrant and immigrant visa petitions.
(2) Adjudications of naturalization petitions.
(3) Adjudications of asylum and refugee applications.
(4) Adjudications performed at Service centers.
(5) All other adjudications under the Immigration and Nationality Act performed by the Immigration and Naturalization Service as of the date of the enactment of this Act.
Page 18 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC (c) CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER FOR THE BUREAU OF IMMIGRATION SERVICES.There shall be a position of Chief Financial Officer for the Bureau of Immigration Services and this position shall be a career reserved position within the Senior Executive Service and shall have the authorities and functions described in section 902 of title 31, United States Code, in relation to financial activities of the Service Bureau. The provisions of section 903 of such title (relating to Deputy Chief Financial Officers) shall also apply to such Bureau in the same manner as the previous sentence applies to such Bureau.
(d) REFERENCES.With respect to any function transferred from the Commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service by this section or Act to, and exercised on or after the effective date of this section by, the Services Bureau, reference in any other Federal law, Executive order, rule, regulation, or delegation of authority, or any document of or pertaining to an office from which a function is so transferred
(1) to the head of such office is deemed to refer to the Director of the Bureau of Immigration Services; or
(2) to such office is deemed to refer to the Services Bureau.
SEC. 3. ESTABLISHMENT OF BUREAU OF IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT.
(a) ESTABLISHMENT OF BUREAU.
(1) IN GENERAL.There is established in the Department of Justice a bureau to be known as the Bureau of Immigration Enforcement (in this section referred to as the ''Enforcement Bureau'').
(2) DIRECTOR.The head of the Enforcement Bureau shall be the Director of the Bureau of Immigration Enforcement who
(A) shall be appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate;
Page 19 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC (B) shall report directly to the Attorney General or her delegate; and
(C) shall have a minimum of 10 years experience in law enforcement, with at least 5 of those years in management, or shall have comparable management experience.
(3) COMPENSATION.Such Director shall be paid at the rate of basic pay payable for level IV of the Executive Schedule (as listed in section 5315 of title 5, United States Code).
(4) FUNCTIONS.Such Director shall perform such functions as are transferred to the Director by this section or Act or otherwise vested in the Director by law.
(b) TRANSFER OF FUNCTIONS.There are transferred from the Commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service to the Director of the Bureau of Immigration Enforcement all functions performed under the following programs, and all personnel, infrastructure, and funding provided to the Commissioner in support of such programs immediately before the effective date of this section:
(1) The Border Patrol program.
(2) The detention and deportation program.
(3) The intelligence program.
(4) The investigations program.
(5) The inspections program.
(c) CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER FOR THE BUREAU OF IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT.There shall be a position of Chief Financial Officer for the Bureau of Immigration Enforcement and this position shall be a career reserved position within the Senior Executive Service and shall have the authorities and functions described in section 902 of title 31, United States Code, in relation to financial activities of the Enforcement Bureau. The provisions of section 903 of such title (relating to Deputy Chief Financial Officers) shall also apply to such Bureau in the same manner as the previous sentence applies to such Bureau.
Page 20 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC (d) REFERENCES.With respect to any function transferred from the Commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service by this section or Act to, and exercised on or after the effective date of this section by, the Director of the Bureau of Immigration Enforcement, any reference in any other Federal law, Executive order, rule, regulation, or delegation of authority, or any document of or pertaining to an office from which a function is so transferred
(1) to the head of such office is deemed to refer to the Director of the Bureau of Immigration Enforcement; or
(2) to such office is deemed to refer to the Enforcement Bureau.
SEC. 4. EXERCISE OF AUTHORITIES.
Except as otherwise provided by law, a Federal official to whom a function is transferred by this Act may, for purposes of performing the function, exercise all authorities under any other provision of law that were available with respect to the performance of that function to the official responsible for the performance of the function immediately before the effective date of the transfer of the function under this Act.
SEC. 5. SAVINGS PROVISIONS.
(a) LEGAL DOCUMENTS.All orders, determinations, rules, regulations, permits, grants, loans, contracts, agreements, certificates, licenses, and privileges
(1) that have been issued, made, granted, or allowed to become effective by the President, the Attorney General, the Commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, their delegates, or any other Government official, or by a court of competent jurisdiction, in the performance of any function that is transferred by this Act; and
(2) that are in effect on the effective date of such transfer (or become effective after such date pursuant to their terms as in effect on such effective date);
Page 21 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCshall continue in effect according to their terms until modified, terminated, superseded, set aside, or revoked in accordance with law by the President, any other authorized official, a court of competent jurisdiction, or operation of law.
(b) PROCEEDINGS.Sections 2 and 3 and this section shall not affect any proceedings or any application for any benefits, service, license, permit, certificate, or financial assistance pending on the effective date specified in section 10 before an office whose functions are transferred by this Act, but such proceedings and applications shall be continued. Orders shall be issued in such proceedings, appeals shall be taken therefrom, and payments shall be made pursuant to such orders, as if this Act had not been enacted, and orders issued in any such proceeding shall continue in effect until modified, terminated, superseded, or revoked by a duly authorized official, by a court of competent jurisdiction, or by operation of law. Nothing in this section shall be considered to prohibit the discontinuance or modification of any such proceeding under the same terms and conditions and to the same extent that such proceeding could have been discontinued or modified if this section had not been enacted.
(c) SUITS.This Act shall not affect suits commenced before the effective date specified in section 10, and in all such suits, proceeding shall be had, appeals taken, and judgments rendered in the same manner and with the same effect as if this Act had not been enacted.
(d) NONABATEMENT OF ACTIONS.No suit, action, or other proceeding commenced by or against the Department of Justice or the Immigration and Naturalization Service, or by or against any individual in the official capacity of such individual as an officer or employee in connection with a function transferred by this section, shall abate by reason of the enactment of this Act.
(e) CONTINUANCE OF SUITS.If any Government officer in the official capacity of such officer is party to a suit with respect to a function of the officer and under this Act such function is transferred to any other officer or office, then such suit shall be continued with the other officer or the head of such other office, as applicable, substituted or added as a party.
Page 22 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC (f) ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEDURE AND JUDICIAL REVIEW.Except as otherwise provided by this Act, any statutory requirements relating to notice, hearings, action upon the record, or administrative or judicial review that apply to any function transferred by this Act shall apply to the exercise of such function by the head of the office, and other officers of the office, to which such function is transferred by such section.
SEC. 6. TRANSFER AND ALLOCATION OF APPROPRIATIONS AND PERSONNEL.
(a) IN GENERAL.The personnel of the Department of Justice employed in connection with the functions transferred by this section (and functions that the Attorney General determines are properly related to the functions of the Bureau of Immigration Services or Bureau of Immigration Enforcement would, if so transferred, further the purposes of the respective Bureau), and the assets, liabilities, contracts, property, records, and unexpended balance of appropriations, authorizations, allocations, and other funds employed, held, used, arising from, available to, or to be made available to the Immigration and Naturalization Service in connection with the functions transferred by this Act, subject to section 202 of the Budget and Accounting Procedures Act of 1950, shall be transferred to the Bureau for appropriate allocation by the Director of the Bureau of Immigration Services and Director of the Bureau of Immigration Enforcement, respectively. Unexpended funds transferred pursuant to this subsection shall be used only for the purposes for which the funds were originally authorized and appropriated. The Attorney General shall retain the right to adjust or realign transfers of funds and personnel effected pursuant to this Act for a period of 2 years after the date of the establishment of the Bureaus.
(b) EFFECT ON PERSONNEL.
(1) EFFECT ON INDIVIDUAL EMPLOYEES.The transfer under this Act of full-time personnel (except special Government employees) and part-time personnel holding permanent positions shall not cause any such employee to be separated or reduced in grade or compensation for 1 year after the date of transfer to the Bureau involved.
Page 23 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC (2) COMPENSATION LEVELS.All transfers of personnel under this Act shall be consistent with employee pay and grade retention entitlement under subchapter VI of chapter 53 of title 5, United States Code, and shall not be reduced for any individual in a career position in the civil service, as of the date of the enactment of this Act.
(3) SENIOR EXECUTIVE SERVICE.A person who, on the day preceding the effective date in section 10, holds a career Senior Executive Service position in the Immigration and Naturalization Service shall be appointed, without a break in service, to a similar or like position in the Bureau of Immigration Services or the Bureau of Immigration Enforcement if the person meets the minimum qualifications of such position.
(c) NUMBER OF AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL.Nothing in this Act shall be interpreted to decrease the number of authorized positions within each program as it exists on the date of the enactment of this Act in the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
(d) DELEGATION AND ASSIGNMENT.Except as otherwise expressly prohibited by law or otherwise provided in this Act, the Director of the Bureau of Immigration Services and the Director of the Bureau of Immigration Enforcement to whom functions are transferred under this Act may delegate any of the functions so transferred to such officers and employees of the Bureau of Immigration Services and the Bureau of Immigration Enforcement, respectively, as such Director may designate, and may authorize successive redelegations of such functions as may be necessary or appropriate. No delegation of functions under this subsection or under any other provision of this Act shall relieve the official to whom a function is transferred under this Act of responsibility for the administration of the function.
(e) AUTHORITIES OF ATTORNEY GENERAL.
(1) INCIDENTAL TRANSFERS.The Attorney General (or a delegate of the Attorney General), at
Page 24 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCsuch time or times as the Attorney General (or the delegate) shall provide, may make such determinations as may be necessary with regard to the functions transferred by this Act, and to make such additional incidental dispositions of personnel, assets, liabilities, grants, contracts, property, records, and unexpended balances of appropriations, authorizations, allocations, and other funds held, used, arising from, available to, or to be made available in connection with such functions, as may be necessary to carry out the provisions of this Act. The Attorney General shall provide for such further measures and dispositions as may be necessary to effectuate the purposes of this Act.
(2) TREATMENT OF SHARED RESOURCES.The Attorney General is authorized to provide for an appropriate allocation, or coordination, or both, of resources involved in supporting shared support functions for the Bureau of Immigration Services, the Bureau of Immigration Enforcement, and offices within the Department of Justice. Such shared support functions may include information resources management, human resources and training, security, records and forms management, equal opportunity activities, and facilities and procurement administration. The Attorney General, through the Justice Management Division, shall maintain oversight and control over the shared computer databases and systems and records management.
SEC. 7. STATUTORY CONSTRUCTION.
Nothing in this Act may be construed to preclude or limit in any way the powers, authorities, or duties of the Secretary of State and special agents of the Department of State and the Foreign Service under the State Department Basic Authorities Act of 1956, the Immigration and Nationality Act, or any other Act to investigate illegal passport or visa issuance or use.
SEC. 8. REPORTS AND IMPLEMENTATION PLANS.
(a) DIVISION OF FUNDS.The Attorney General, not later than 120 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, shall submit to the Committees on Appropriations of the House of Representatives and of the Senate a report on the proposed division and transfer of funds, including unexpended funds, appropriations, and fees, between the Bureau of Immigration Services and the Bureau of Immigration Enforcement. Not later than 60 days after the date of submittal of such report, each Bureau shall submit to such Committees an operating plan of resources allocated, by object class and decision unit structure.
Page 25 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC (b) DIVISION OF PERSONNEL.The Attorney General, not later than 120 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, shall submit to the Committees on Appropriations and the Judiciary of the House of Representatives and of the Senate a report on the proposed division of personnel between such Bureaus.
(c) IMPLEMENTATION PLAN.The Attorney General, not later than 120 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, shall submit to the Committees on Appropriations and the Judiciary of the House of Representatives and of the Senate a plan to carry out this Act. The plan should include details concerning the separation of the Bureaus and address the issues of chain of command, shared services, file and data management and oversight, financial management systems, procedures for interaction between the two Bureaus, fraud detection and investigation, organizational structure, and establishment of a transition team. The plan should also include ways to phase in the costs of separating the administration support systems of the Immigration and Naturalization Service in order to provide for separate administrative support systems for such Bureaus where such systems are best provided for separately.
(d) DETENTION.The Attorney General shall, not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, submit to the Committees on Appropriations of the House of Representatives and of the Senate a plan to transfer the detention operations of the Bureau of Immigration Enforcement (established under section 3) to the Federal Prison System. The plan should specifically address the detention of criminal aliens, non-criminal aliens, and asylum seekers and should outline the steps necessary for the transfer to occur not later than 4 years after the date the plan is submitted.
SEC. 9. DEFINITIONS.
For purposes of this Act:
(1) The term ''function'' includes any duty, obligation, power, authority, responsibility, right, privilege, activity, or program.
Page 26 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC (2) The term ''office'' includes any office, administration, agency, bureau, institute, council, unit, organizational entity, or component thereof.
SEC. 10. EFFECTIVE DATE; TRANSITION.
The transfer of functions under this Act shall take effect on the date that is 1 year after the date of the enactment of this Act. The Bureau of Immigration Services and the Bureau of Immigration Enforcement shall be established, and the Directors of such Bureaus shall be appointed, not later than such effective date. To the extent that functions to be transferred to such Directors or Bureaus under this Act continue to be performed by the Immigration and Naturalization Service during fiscal year 2000, the Attorney General shall provide for an appropriate accounting of funds and an appropriate transfer of funds appropriated to the Immigration and Naturalization Service to such respective Bureaus.
[The prepared statement of Chairman Smith follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF HON. LAMAR SMITH, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF TEXAS, AND CHAIRMAN, SUBCOMMITTEE ON IMMIGRATION AND CLAIMS
The INS is like a baseball team that ends every season in last place. Despite having loyal supporters and unsung heroes, when a game is on the line, there are so many errors, the scorekeepers stop counting.
To quote Yogi Berra, today's hearing is ''deja vu all over again.'' One year ago to the day in this very room, we held a mark-up of Congressman Harold Rogers' H.R. 4264, restructuring the INS.
Page 27 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Since then, we gave the INS Commissioner time to work with us to reorganize the agency and improve INS performance.
Meanwhile, another season has passed, and our immigration system still cannot hit, pitch or field. Commissioner Meissner did not come out of the dugout to develop a consensus plan until a few days ago.
Her solution, bringing in a relief-pitcher after the team is down too many runs to recover, kicks dirt in the faces of citizens who demand protection and stiff arms immigrants who have sacrificed and waited patiently for services they have earned.
Congress has a bi-partisan solution to rebuild the home teamH.R. 2528which has 51Republican and 33 Democratic cosponsors and support from two federal law enforcement unions.
Among the INS' current problems are: A lack of accountability and responsiveness; poor resource management; outdated record-keeping; deplorable customer service; and deficient enforcement. Nothing has improved.
The Department of Justice Inspector General and the General Accounting Office will provide details of their respective investigations with INS automation, INS financial management, and internal communication. Government Executive magazine and Syracuse University's Maxwell School studied fifteen government agencies, and the INS received the lowest grades of all agencies studied. (Without objections, those findings will be introduced into the record.)
Page 28 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Regarding INS service, the INS currently has a backlog of 4.4 million pending applications for benefits. This includes 1.8 million naturalization petitions and 800,000 applications for permanent residence. Employment based petition often take more than three years. The INS has stopped adjudicating most applications besides naturalization. The other backlogs will simply continue to grow.
It takes 15 months to two years to become a citizen, despite my pleas to set 90 days as a reasonable goal.
Due to the lengthy backlogs, applicants' fingerprints are lost or expire, requiring them to be refingerprinted. The INS lost the fingerprints of one applicant, Mrs. O'Connell, four times. Her naturalization petition has been pending for over three years.
Children applicants for immediate relative status turn 21 years old while applications are pending and ''age out'' of that visa category, leading to many years wait in other visa categories. This happened to Montserrat Rodriguez, one of my constituents.
Applicants are unable to contact the INS to make inquiries on case status. Their lives are in limbo. We'll hear from two such applicants today.
One result is that applicants are turning to Members of Congress more and more for basic information and for help to find out the status of their applications. The immigration-related casework of Members' District office has grown in recent years. Even Congressional caseworkers have difficulties obtaining information from INS. We'll hear from four of those caseworkers today.
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We know from our nine oversight hearings this year that the enforcement side of the INS is not working either. INS has developed an ''Interior Enforcement Strategy'' that does not deport noncriminal illegal aliens. INS developed an IDENT system that allowed previously deported criminal alien and suspected serial killer Angel Maturino Resendez to be released because the database is not compatible with other law enforcement databases.
We know of another case where the Border Patrol released an illegal alien with an outstanding murder warrant. In that case, the warrant was issued for Alfredo Ramirez Rosas on August 20, 1993, for the murder of Mildred Stallones. The FBI filed a complaint against him for unlawful flight to avoid prosecution on August 31, 1993. The Border Patrol allowed him to voluntarily return to Mexico in March 1994. Ramirez-Rosas remains at large, perhaps even in the United States.
These are examples of why we need to pass H.R. 2528. Congressman Rogers and Congressman Reyes will be here to explain that the bill improves our system because it creates two new immigration bureaus.
The enforcement bureau will be a true law enforcement agency that will remove illegal and criminal aliens, not release them into our communities. The service bureau will process applications quickly and thoroughly and will provide courteous information. The American people deserve an immigration system that serves and protects them.
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. That concludes my opening statement, and I will recognize the ranking member, Ms. Jackson Lee, for her opening statement.
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Ms. JACKSON LEE. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, and good morning.
I would like at the outset to thank the chairman for holding a hearing on the restructuring and improvement of the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
I think we all agree that the INS desperately needs restructuring, and that the operations, functions, and the way the services are administered need much-needed improvement.
I am not today, however, an apologist for the INS. I am as concerned about ways to improve and to reform this complex, and at times embattled, agency as I would imagine most of my colleagues and those who are in the room are.
H.R. 2528, the Immigration Reorganization and Improvement Act of 1999, would eliminate the INS in its current form and create two new immigration bureaus in its place.
One of them would be a bureau of immigrant services that would only deal with immigration benefits such as naturalizations, visa petitions, asylum, and refugee applications, and all other adjudication presently performed at the INS.
The bill would also create a new bureau of immigration enforcement which would perform the functions of the Border Patrol, investigations, detentions, and deportation, intelligence, and inspections.
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This is an admirable and noble idea, but one that could have devastating impact and far-reaching ramifications.
H.R. 2528 does not ensure that both bureaus will receive adequate resources. Enforcement and services are both important and should both be assured of receiving the resources they need to achieve their objectives.
In fact, I will have my caseworker that deals with immigration issues and, like the chairman, I can assure you that we have had difficult hurdles to cross as it relates to servicing people who desire to follow the legal process to achieve their immigration, or their legal immigration status.
The Services Division serves to administer to people who have chosen the legal route to obtain citizenship or legal permanent resident status. In fact, I am working on a case, and my office is, of an individual, Mr. Chairman, who has had his fingerprints lost and is back in the cycle again.
The services side of our immigration system should not be diminished or shortchanged. Separating out enforcement into a separate agency entity could result in most of the resources being spent on enforcement rather than on immigration services.
We must ensure that adequate Congressional appropriations are made available to improve the distribution of immigration benefits. Services under INS have been abysmal and continue to deteriorate.
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When immigrants enter this country, they are all guaranteed basic rights. They have the right to due process through hearings; the right for equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the 14th amendment; as well as all the protections guaranteed by the Bill of Rights and the Constitution.
After serving as ranking member of this subcommittee these past 7 months, I have observed that somehow it is perceived that we have people absolutely lined up outside our borders rushing to get in, that we are overwhelmed, and that we just have too many illegal immigrations.
Well I have done my own comparative research here, and here are my findings:
Currently, only 9 percent of the U.S. population is foreign born. That is much higher than Israel at 42 percent, Australia at 23 percent, Canada at 17 percent, Switzerland at 16 percent, and Kuwait at a very high 60 percent.
I point out these statistics to indicate to the subcommittee members that there really is not a need for a new FBI of Immigration because the fear of a foreign born population coming to our Nation in large waves is unfounded.
One other concern with this bill is the absence of a strong, centralized leader at the top so the top administrator knows what Peter and Paul are doing, and coordinates the activities of these two very important functions of this bureau. Services for legal immigrants who are attempting to achieve legal status, and of course enforcement.
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Without such leadership, the two bureaus could work at cross purposes with leaders sending conflicting messages on policy matters and interpretation of complex laws.
Most importantly, this bill does not go nearly far enough in addressing the underlying problems that prevent INS from functioning properly.
For instance, this bill fails to address the fact that many adjudications of applications for benefits under the INS are funded almost exclusively by user fees which generally are inadequate.
I am also concerned that the H.R. 2528 proposal transfers the detention function of the INS to the Bureau of Prisons, which has in this own committee room absolutely said that they are not interested or able to undertake that responsibility.
In addition to the obvious fact that this agency has no experience in dealing with noncriminal aliens, many of whom are women and children, its prisons are already overcrowded. Does that mean we are perpetrating some more private prisons which are in question themselves?
Unless this language is deleted from this bill, or made a lot clearer, this will become a driving force in the minds of many of the Members of our Congress, particularly those in the Democratic Caucus opposing this legislation, in Full Committee and on the Floor.
Mr. Reyes, a very respected Member of this body who is one of the leading experts in Congress on the Border Patrol and a real tireless advocate of INS reform, is one of the principal sponsors of this legislation.
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He states in his written testimony that H.R. 2528 has 88 co-sponsors from 25 States and two territories. He is a colleague from Texas and I have the greatest respect for him.
The reason for this, however, is because most Members of Congress are fed up with the endless backlogs of naturalization and green card applications, the inadequate use of resources, the lack of recruitment and retention of the Border Patrol agents, and the slow processing of asylum seekers.
They want improvement. They want restructuring. They want reform and, frankly, so do I.
Until now there was no other alternative, and now there is. That is why I will be introducing the Immigration Restructuring and Accountability Act of 1999.
This bill would restructure and reorganize the immigration function within the Department of Justice through the creation of a fair, effective, and efficient national immigration bureau.
Such a bureau is urgently needed, given both the importance of this entity's mission to hundreds of thousands of people within this country and in the international community and the size of the agency. This bill would also separate the enforcement and adjudication functions of the Federal immigration function.
Page 35 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The goal of such separation is to lead to more clarity of mission and greater accountability, which in turn will lead to more efficient adjudications and more accountable, consistent, effective, and professional enforcement.
My bill would create strong, centralized leadership for immigration policymaking and implementation. In order to fulfill this new agency's important responsibility, a single voice is needed at the top to coordinate policy matters and interpret complex laws in both enforcement and adjudications.
Finally, the bill would create an office of immigration adjudication, an office of immigration enforcement, an office of prehearing services, and an office of shared services that would provide operational support to the other offices.
This bill would require all bureaus to receive appropriate funds. It would end the current practice of having adjudication user fees go for other purposes and restore 245[i], which is a provision of the INA which allows an alien to adjust his or her status for $1000, a user fee.
This provision has expired. This bill would renew it and require that all proceeds go toward the office of adjudications.
As I conclude, Mr. Chairman, I do want to point out that I will be paying close attention to Commissioner Meissner as she outlines the administration's proposal for restructuring of the INS.
Page 36 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC So far, what I have read of her plan seems to outline streamlining services and keeping the INS intact with the Commissioner structure still in place.
My proposal differs from the INS proposal because the INS proposal does not require Congressional approval by a House vote, as their plans call for internal reorganization.
I think in light of our current situation with the INS, Mr. Chairman, that legislative action is needed. We just have to decide which is the best way to do that.
I hope this committee will give my alternative in restructuring an opportunity to be heard, as we are doing for this initiative, H.R. 2528.
In working together, I believe we can construct real solutions, real reforms, to help and cure what ails the INS.
I would simply like to take personal privilege, Mr. Chairman, to introduce or to acknowledge that my young college daughter is here, Erica Lee, who is a college student
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. Have her stand up.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. I will have her stand up, as the chairman has asked me to do.
Page 37 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC [Erica Lee stands.]
Ms. JACKSON LEE. She has written a paper on the INS, and not at my solicitation. [Laughter.]
Ms. JACKSON LEE. As a sophomore at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. So I am delighted that she is here.
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. Thank you, Ms. Jackson Lee.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. We appreciate your comments, and we welcome your daughter. She may have a chilling effect on some of our criticism[Laughter.]
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS: [continuing]. But we are very happy she is here.
Are there any other opening statements by any member of the committee?
The gentleman from Massachusetts, Mr. Frank.
Mr. FRANK. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
First of all, I want to express my agreement with the thrust of the remarks from the ranking member, who I think has been giving this very thoughtful study.
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I am extremely skeptical of the notion of splitting the agency. I have to say, however, that any effort to go to structural change without changing some basic policies would seem to me to be a grave error.
I notice you have some members' staff testifying. No member of my staff is here. If they were, they would tell you that their problem has nothing to do with the structure of the agency, but rather with the extraordinarily harsh measures that this Congress adopted several years ago.
My staff is busy trying to deal with fathers of young children who, having made a mistake, committed a crime perhaps 10 or 11 years ago, but having in the interim lived blameless lives, are now faced with deportation so that they have to go away and they face the splitting up of their families.
I think we have exacerbated the problems of the administration of the Immigration Service by mistakes made here. I think we have complicated the job of citizenship unduly, partly because some people think too many people were becoming citizens.
We have an extremely rigid policy with regard to both detention and deportation that causes enormous hardship. And I do not think it is an answer, as people have said from time to time, well, yes, the law if it was strictly followed would compel that hardship, so the Service has the option of ignoring the lawwhich is a very hard thing to do when you are dealing with law enforcement officials, telling the Commissioner that she should instruct some of those sworn law enforcement officials.
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Simply not to enforce the law is a very difficult position to put her in and not the way we should legislate. Or, to say, well, we will allow the Commissioner to give individual dispensations.
Individual dispensations should be for extraordinary cases. It should not be a routine way of alleviating the administration of excessively harsh laws.
I cite that because I think the structure and the substance are inextricably intertwined. I do not think you can well administer a bad law.
I do not think you can ignore the impact of these excessively rigid mandates we have put on that agency in this.
So I am prepared to work on an overall overhaul which would include an alleviation of what I think were excessively harsh provisions.
I would like to include in this, and one of my goals is that if people have come to America as the forbearers of every single one of us here didsince Senator Campbell is not with usif people come here and want to become citizens, it seems to me our role ought to be to facilitate that, not to put obstacles in their way as we have now done.
So anything that looks solely at the structure and does not look at the underlying policies that structure carries out seems to me doomed to have some of the same problems we now have.
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It is in that spirit that I will oppose this reorganization.
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. Thank you, Mr. Frank.
The gentlewoman from California, Ms. Lofgren, is recognized.
Ms. LOFGREN. Just briefly for a variation on the theme that has been struck.
I think I am the only member of the panel that actually has practiced immigration law. I remember back in the early 1970's what a mess the Immigration Service was.
I mean, nothing could be found. It was very difficult. We did a survey on the Hill among staff and it was I think named the worst agency in the Federal Government in 1971.
The agency has had administrative glitches for decades, and I have been a critic both publicly and privately about the processes in the agency.
I have made my concerns known to the Commissioner, along with other Members from California on numerous occasions. To say that the agency is problem free would not be correct, but these are problems of long standing.
I will give the Commissioner credit. She has given a lot of time and effort into trying to figure out ways to structurally approach the problems that have bedeviled this agency for decades.
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I also agree with Mr. Frank that at the same time that this agency is now under scrutiny by its leader to make it more accountable and more efficient, we have created all sorts of problems from the Congress, and we have also done that at a time when other problems emerged.
For example, those of us from California know that a series of ballot initiatives made permanent residents in the United States very concerned about anti-immigrant policies that were being formulated, and a mad rush was undertaken to naturalize.
I mean, in huge, huge, thousands and thousands of people decided to take that step and become U.S. Citizens. That happened at the same time we made all kinds of more burdensome changes on processes that made it harder for the agency to administer.
So I think we are observing an agency that is struggling with a number of historic problems, problems created by demographics and politics, and really severe problems that the Congress has created by the micro managing we have done in some cases on the law.
At the same time, we are going to hear from people who will tell us horror stories. I could tell horror stories. I think every Member could tell a horror story. That is not the point. That is not disputed.
The issue is what to do about it.
I hope that as we hear the sad cases, we will not be swayed to leap to one conclusion or another, because the sad cases, as they tell us in law school, bad cases make bad law. We need to be very thoughtful in terms of a resolution, and I would thank the chairman for yielding me this time.
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Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. Thank you, Ms. Lofgren.
A couple of quick comments before we go to our first panel.
That is, I apologize to the individuals who are having to stand. The larger committee rooms were not available, so we have to take what we can get.
What I would like to do is just stop for a minute and allow you all to fill in the seats that are in the middle that are not being occupied right now, and give as many people a chance to sit down as can.
Mr. FRANK. Maybe we could have a lottery for the limited space. [Laughter.]
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. Maybe it would help if everybody sort of shifted over to your right, and that would open up some seats closer to where the people are standing up.
Also in the way of preliminary announcements, let me say to you all today we have five panels. That is an unusually large number of panels.
We have a lot of territory to cover, and a lot of compelling stories to hear. It is my intention that we will go through lunch, if necessary, and go until 1 rather than taking a lunch break. So we do hope to finish this morning, or shortly after noon.
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I also want to recognize Laura Baxter, the counsel sitting to my right. She has spent many late nights preparing for this hearing and making sure that we have the appropriate witnesses, and the testimony, and so forth, and I appreciate her hard work as well.
Let me introduce our first panelist
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Chairman before you do that, may I just
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. Yes. The gentlewoman is recognized.
Ms. JACKSON LEE: [continuing]. Make one-and-a-half points for an introduction.
Let me thanklet me add that I would know that our counsel, Leon Buck, has worked with your staff and so I want to thank him, as well.
I note that you were not able to, in fairness, to have every Member's immigration caseworkers, so I acknowledge that. Mr. Frank indicated his was not able to be part of the witness list, nor was mine, but I wanted to introduce Suzanne James who is here. She certainly can attest to the importance of service.
If Suzanne would just raise her hand, I just wanted towe all have those persons with those stories, and so we are all going to attempt to work together.
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Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. Thank you, Ms. Jackson Lee.
Our first panel consists of Inspector General Michael Bromwich, U.S. Department of Justice; and Richard M. Stana, Associate Director, Administration of Justice Issues, General Government Division, U.S. General Accounting Office.
Mr. Bromwich, before you start, let me say a couple of words. Mr. Stana will not mind, I do not think, if we digress.
I would say for the record that, as I understand it, this is your next-to-the-last day of government service. You are going to be leaving the government and going into the private sector.
I just want to say publicly that over the many years that we have known each other and that you have testified before the Immigration Subcommittee, I have appreciated your integrity more than I can possibly say. I cannot imagine anybody who could have done a better job.
So we appreciate all that you have contributed to our country and to the government. We are going to miss you. I am sorry this is your next-to-the-last day.
Mr. Bromwich, if you will proceed.
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STATEMENT OF INSPECTOR GENERAL MICHAEL BROMWICH, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, WASHINGTON, DC
Mr. BROMWICH. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, for the kind words.
Mr. Chairman, Ms. Jackson Lee, other members of the subcommittee.
I appreciate this opportunity to appear before you to discuss the Office of Inspector General's oversight of the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
As you are well aware, given my prior appearances before this subcommittee, the OIG expends significant resources to investigate, audit, and inspect INS programs and personnel.
In fact, given the importance of the issues and the amount of taxpayer money appropriated to INSand frankly the concerns many in the Department of Justice and the Congress expressed with respect to INS management of its programs and personnelthe OIG spends a great deal of its resources on INS-related matters.
This morning I plan to highlight significant examples of our INS oversight work completed in the last 2 years that may be helpful to the subcommittee as it considers H.R. 2528.
Page 46 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC These OIG reviews cover a broad range of issues and problems from audits of INS' financial statements and automation systems to an inspection of the Visa Waiver Pilot Program.
Before I discuss these specific work products, however, I want to highlight for the subcommittee three issues that, if left unchecked, will affect the OIG's ability to conduct comprehensive and aggressive oversight of INS and other Department of Justice components.
In June of 1999, just last month, the Supreme Court held in NASA v. FLRA that OIG investigators are ''representatives'' of their agencies and therefore employees under investigation by an OIG have a right to union participation in any OIG interview if they believe that such an examination will result in disciplinary action.
This decision, unless changed by Congress through legislative action, will have an adverse impact on the OIG's ability to conduct investigations of INS and other Department personnel.
One of my concerns is that union representatives, in seeking to protect an entirely different set of interests than the OIG'sthat is, the interests of their membersmay knowingly or unknowingly subvert the truth-seeking process, particularly when the same union representative may attend interviews of multiple witnesses.
It is critical in any investigation to allow witnesses an opportunity to describe what they know in their own words. Having a union representative in interviews with several different witnesses has the potential to skew seriously that fact-finding process.
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This problem is particularly acute with respect to our criminal investigations. The Supreme Court's decision may discourage the FBI from working jointly with the OIG on important border corruption cases.
Unlike in OIG-led investigations, union representatives have no statutory right to be present in investigations conducted by the FBI.
In the end, this lack of coordination between the FBI and OIG may result in significant cases slipping through the cracks. I ask the subcommittee to support a legislative remedy to address this situation.
As this subcommittee is aware, we conducted an investigation with a report released in 1996 that addressed wrongdoing by senior INS officials who intentionally deceived a Congressional task force visiting a Miami detention facility in June 1995.
I testified about that report in a different hearing room approximately 3 years ago, and I remember you, Mr. Chairman, and Mr. Berman, being present. I don't recall whether the other Members here were present at that time.
In light of our findings, the Department of Justice imposed relatively severe discipline on the INS officials involved in the deception and coverup, which was somewhat unusual.
However, within the past 2 years the Merit Systems Protection Board has reduced the Department's disciplinary decisions to near meaningless proportions.
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Such actions diminish accountability and may foster a sense that some INS employees are above or beyond the law. I urge this subcommittee and/or another committee of the Congress with oversight jurisdiction to examine the decisions of the MSPB in these cases, which I believe are indefensible.
Department managers, including INS managers, need to have the ability to appropriately sanction employees who violate standards of conduct without the fear that their well-founded decisions will be overturned for what appear to be frivolous and ill-considered reasons.
Mr. Chairman, as you well know the OIG faces a dire situation both in the current fiscal year and fiscal year 2000 with respect to our funding.
Without intervention, the OIG will be unable to continue its aggressive and comprehensive oversight efforts at INS and other Department components.
The problem is typified by our Investigations Division. In 1993, the OIG opened 651 investigations against INS personnel. In 1998, the OIG opened 437. And as of June 1999, 261 investigations had been opened this fiscal year.
The OIG, as you know, Mr. Chairman, has utterly failed to keep pace with the Department that has added more than 30,000 employees during the past 6 years, and whose budget has doubled to $21 billion during the same period.
Page 49 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Now, instead of worrying about keeping pace with the Department's rapid growth, I am concerned about the OIG's losing ground.
I have appreciated your firm support in the past, and I encourage you and other members of the subcommittee to help ensure that the OIG obtains the resources necessary to continue our important work.
I would now like to move briefly to discuss the specific work that we have done with respect to INS over the past 2 years.
The OIG Audit, Inspections, and Investigations Divisions are all involved in examining systems and the conduct of personnel to identify waste, fraud, and abuse in INS programs.
Part of our audit work is overseeing independent public accountants who annually examine the financial statements of Justice components as required by the Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990.
INS received a disclaimer of opinion on its financial statements for fiscal year 1998. That is, auditors were unable to complete the audit because of the condition of the accounting records and relevant documentation.
This was the third year an INS-wide financial statement audit was performed and the agency's third disclaimer of opinion. Prior audits of the INS fee accounts and breached bond detention account also resulted in disclaimers.
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The most critical issues for INS are the weaknesses identified in its financial management system. INS has struggled for years with its antiquated core financial management system and various subsystems that were not integrated into an overall system.
INS has been in the process of replacing this core system for several years, but has encountered significant delays in implementing the new system, which continue to this day.
During fiscal year 1998, INS management made substantial efforts to reconcile its cash account with Treasury accounts, much like reconciling a checking account balance, but was still out of balance by $76 million at year's end.
Approximately $35 million of the difference was identified by the conclusion of our audit field work, but the remaining $41 million still needed to be researched and reconciled.
Other issues reported by the auditors included the failure of INS financial management systems to comply with the Federal Financial Management Improvement Act, INS's failure to pay interest to some vendors as required by the Prompt Pay Act, INS's failure to properly allocate cash receipts between two deposit accounts, and lastly the obligation of funds by INS based on anticipated needs and unforeseen costs rather than bona fide transactions.
We considered this last issue serious enough to refer to our Investigations Division for review.
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All of these issues represent instances where controls did not function as intended. Improvements were made in fiscal year 1998 in some areasmost notably, property and equipment.
While INS has also shown improvement in some critical financial management areas over the last 3 years, it still has substantial problems that prevent it from effectively producing and using financial information in its day-to-day operations.
Of particular concern are the continuing delays in replacing its Automated Financial Management System and implementing a corresponding financial reorganization.
Also, because of a critical shortage of qualified financial personnel, INS is becoming increasingly dependent on contractor support in the financial management area.
We are concerned about INS's reliance on contractors because it is primarily a short-term fix instead of a systemic long-term solution necessary for INS to succeed.
One of our most significant audits examined INS's management of its automation programs, a $2.8 billion initiative. Our reviews have found repeatedly that INS fails to adequately manage these programs.
We first notified INS in September 1995 of our concerns regarding systemic problems in their automation program.
Page 52 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Our March 1998 comprehensive audit of INS's management of its automation program noted a failure to monitor contractor activities, lack of comprehensive performance measures, insufficient tracking of projects, and numerous other deficiencies.
We concluded that INS did not adequately manage its automation program and risked completed projects not meeting overall goals, significant delays in completing the programs, and unnecessary cost increases.
In July of this year, we issued a follow-up report and again found that INS does not adequately manage its automation programs.
In the most recent audit, we noted that INS could not sufficiently track the status of its automation projects to determine whether progress was acceptable given the amount of time and money already spent.
As a result, projects were running behind schedule with no documented explanations as to what was causing the delays.
We also found that INS had no assurance that systems will meet performance and functional requirements. The ultimate cost for INS's automation programs was uncertain because actual costs incurred were unreliable, and projected cost estimates were unsupported.
We also found that INS had not implemented adequate safeguards to ensure the accuracy of existing data, or the adequacy of future data inputs. As a result, existing or new INS systems could rely on inaccurate or unreliable data.
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We identified three causes for these problems:
First, INS managers did not have a common baseline of automation projects by which they could focus their collective efforts. Indeed, INS had substantial difficulty providing us with a complete list of its projects.
Second, project information needed for effective management and decisionmaking was not readily available.
Third, INS managers did not develop, document, or implement basic management control processes necessary to ensure that projects will be completed under cost, on schedule, and within performance and functional requirements.
In addition to our comprehensive audit of INS's management of its automation systems, we also examined the management and performance of individual automation systems such as the Automated Biometric Identification Systems, known as IDENT, which you referred to in your opening statement, and the Performance Analysis System, which is used to track and report on agency productivity.
In both instances we found, among other problems, no controls in place to ensure the quality of data being entered into the data bases.
Several of our reviews identified problems in INS programs that concern how and when citizens of other countries enter or stay in the United States. We found that some of these problems could result in aliens, criminals, or terrorists illegally entering or remaining in the country.
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For example, the OIG assessed INS efforts to minimize illegal immigration and security threats posed by abuse of the Visa Waiver Pilot Program, a program that waives visa requirements for citizens of 26 participating countries.
Visitors travelling for business or pleasure under the VWPP are not screened in any way prior to their arrival at U.S. ports of entry. INS inspectors have, on average, less than 1 minute to check and decide on each applicant.
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. Mr. Bromwich, I hate to give you a 1-minute warning, but we need to proceed.
Mr. BROMWICH. That is fine, Mr. Chairman. I would be happy to do that.
Although we perform misconduct investigations in all components over which we have jurisdiction, the vast majority of our investigations involve allegations against INS personnel. Allegations that INS officials have accepted bribes for illegally providing immigration documents to aliens and for smuggling drugs across the border are the most common.
Mr. Chairman, this work demonstrates the OIG's significant commitment to oversight of INS. I believe our work throughout the years, as typified by the products that I have highlighted in this testimony, have well served the INS, the Department, and the public not only by shedding light on problems, but also by helping to reach constructive solutions.
Page 55 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC [The prepared statement of Mr. Bromwich follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF INSPECTOR GENERAL MICHAEL BROMWICH, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, WASHINGTON, DC
Mr. Chairman, Congresswoman Jackson Lee, and Members of the Subcommittee on Immigration and Claims:
I appreciate the opportunity to appear before the Subcommittee to discuss the Office of the Inspector General's (OIG) oversight of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). As you are well aware given my prior appearances before this Subcommittee, the OIG expends significant resources to investigate, audit, and inspect INS programs and personnel. In fact, given the importance of the issues, the amount of taxpayer money appropriated to INS, and, frankly, the concern many in the Department of Justice and the Congress express with respect to INS's management of its programs and personnel, the OIG spends more than half of its total resources on INS-related matters.
This morning I plan to highlight significant examples of our INS oversight work completed in the last two years that may be helpful to the Subcommittee as it considers H.R. 2528, the ''Immigration Reorganization and Improvement Act of 1999.'' These OIG reviews cover a broad range of issues and problems, from audits of INS's financial statements and automation systems to inspections of the voluntary departure and Visa Waiver Pilot programs.
Page 56 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Before I describe these specific workproducts, however, I want to identify for the Subcommittee three issues that, left unchecked, will affect the OIG's ability to conduct comprehensive and aggressive oversight of INS and other Department of Justice components.
A. Union Presence at OIG Interviews
In June 1999, the Supreme Court held in NASA v. FLRA that OIG investigators are ''representatives'' of their agencies and, therefore, employees under investigation by an OIG have a right to union participation in any OIG interview if they believe that such an examination will result in disciplinary action. This decision, unless changed by Congress through legislative action, will have an adverse impact on the OIG's ability to conduct investigations of INS and other Department personnel.
One of my concerns is that union representativesin seeking to protect an entirely different set of interests than the OIGmay knowingly or unknowingly subvert the ''truth-seeking'' process. It is critical in any investigation to allow witnesses an opportunity to describe what they know in their own words. Having a union representative in interviews with several different witnesses has the potential to skew the fact-finding process.
This problem is particularly acute with respect to our criminal investigations. The Supreme Court's decision may discourage the FBI from working jointly with the OIG on important border corruption cases. Unlike OIG-led investigations, union representatives have no statutory right to be present in investigations conducted by the FBI. In the end, this lack of coordination between the FBI and OIG may result in significant cases slipping through the cracks. I ask the Subcommittee to support a legislative remedy to address this situation.
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B. Merit Systems Protection Board
This Subcommittee is aware of our investigation of wrongdoing by senior INS officials who intentionally deceived a congressional task force visiting a Miami detention facility in June 1995. In light of our findings, the Department imposed relatively severe discipline on the INS officials involved in the deception and cover-up. However, within the past two years the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) reduced the Department's disciplinary decisions to near-meaningless proportions. Such actions diminish accountability and may foster a sense that some INS employees are ''above the law.'' I urge this Subcommittee or another committee of the Congress with oversight jurisdiction to examine the decisions of the MSPB in these cases. Department managers need to have the ability to appropriately sanction employees who violate standards of conduct without the fear that their well-founded decisions will be overturned for what appear to be frivolous reasons.
C. Lack of Adequate Funding
The OIG faces a dire situation both in the current fiscal year and in FY 2000. Without intervention, the OIG will be unable to continue its aggressive and comprehensive oversight efforts at INS and other Department components. The problem is typifies by our Investigations Division. In 1993, the OIG opened 651 investigations against INS personnel. In 1998, the OIG opened 437 and as of June 1999, 261 investigations had been opened. The OIG has utterly failed to keep pace with a Department that has added more than 30,000 employees during the past six years and whose budget has doubled to $21 billion during the same period. Now, instead of worrying about keeping pace with the Department's rapid growth, I am concerned about the OIG losing ground. I have appreciated your firm support in the past, Mr. Chairman, and I encourage you and other members of the Subcommittee to help ensure that the OIG obtains the resources necessary to continue our important work.
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II. HIGHLIGHTS OF RECENT OIG REVIEWS
The OIG Audit, Inspection, and Investigations Divisions are all involved in examining systems and the conduct of personnel to identify waste, fraud, and abuse in INS programs. We also routinely make recommendations in an effort to assist INS in improving its operations.
A. INS Financial Statement Audits
INS received a disclaimer of opinion on its financial statements for FY 1998that is, auditors were unable to complete the audit because of the condition of the accounting records and relevant documentation. This was the third year an INS-wide financial statement audit was performed and the agency's third disclaimer of opinion. Prior audits of the INS Fee Accounts and Breached Bond Detention Account also resulted in disclaimers.
For FY 1998, the auditors noted nine reportable conditions, five of which were considered material weaknesses. A ''material weakness'' is a condition in which internal controls are not sufficient to ensure that errors or fraud that are material to the financial statements or performance measures would be detected timely in the normal course of events. ''Reportable conditions'' are significant deficiencies in internal controls that could adversely affect the organization's ability to meet its internal control objectives. All material weaknesses are reportable conditions. However, only the most serious reportable conditions are material weaknesses
Page 59 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The most critical issues for INS are the weaknesses identified in its financial management system. INS has struggled for years with its antiquated core financial management system and various subsystems that are not integrated into an overall system. INS has been in the process of replacing this core system for several years but has encountered significant delays in implementing the new system.
During FY 1998, INS management made substantial efforts to reconcile its cash accounts with Treasury accounts, but was still out of balance by $76 million at year's end. Approximately $35 million of the difference was identified by the conclusion of our audit fieldwork, but the remaining $41 million still needed to be researched and reconciled.
Improvements were made in FY 1998 in some areasmost notably property and equipment. However, the auditors still considered this a material weakness for FY 1998 because of the substantial effort needed to obtain year-end amounts and the lack of ongoing procedures to record and reconcile these accounts.
Compliance issues reported by the auditors included the failure of INS financial management systems to comply with the Federal Financial Management Improvement Act; INS's failure to pay interest to some vendors as required by the Prompt Pay Act; INS's failure to properly allocate cash receipts between two deposit accounts; and lastly, the obligation of funds by INS based on anticipated needs and unforeseen costs rather than bona fide transactions. We considered this last issue serious enough to refer to our Investigations Division for review. All of these issues represent instances where controls did not function as intended.
While INS has shown improvement in some of these critical financial management areas over the last three years, it still has substantial problems that prevent it from effectively producing and using financial information in its day-to-day operations. Of particular concern are the continuing delays in replacing its automated financial management system and implementing a corresponding financial reorganization. Also, because of a critical shortage of qualified financial personnel, INS is becoming increasingly dependent on contractor support in the financial management arena. We are concerned about INS's reliance on contractors because it is primarily a short-term fix instead of a systemic, long-term solution necessary for INS to succeed.
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B. INS Automation Initiatives
INS plans to spend approximately $2.8 billion on its automation programs through 2001 and beyond, but our reviews have found that they fail to adequately manage these programs. In September 1995, we first notified INS of our concerns regarding systemic problems in their automation program. Based on extensive audit work during 1990 through 1995, we identified ten risk areas in INS's management of automation programs requiring close attention by agency managers.
In March 1998, we reported on a comprehensive audit of INS's management of its automation programs. We noted a failure to monitor contractor activities, lack of comprehensive performance measures, insufficient tracking of projects, and numerous other deficiencies. We concluded that INS did not adequately manage its automation programs and risked completed projects not meeting overall goals, significant delays in completing the programs, and unnecessary cost increases.
In July of this year we issued a follow-up report and again found that INS does not adequately manage its automation programs. In the most recent audit, we noted that INS could not sufficiently track the status of its automation projects to determine whether progress was acceptable given the amount of time and funds already spent. As a result, INS continued to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on automation projects for which there were inadequate budgeted costs or explanations for how the funds were spent. In addition, projects were running behind schedule with no documented explanations as to what was causing the delays. We also found serious deficiencies in compliance with the system development life-cycle process. As a result, INS had no assurance that systems will meet performance and functional requirements.
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We identified three causes for these problems. First, INS managers did not have a common baseline of automation projects by which they could focus their collective efforts. Indeed, INS had substantial difficulty providing us with a complete list of their automation projects. Second, project information needed for effective management and decision making was not readily available. Third, INS managers did not develop, document, or implement basic management control processes necessary to ensure that projects will be completed under cost, on schedule, and within performance and functional requirements.
Despite uncertain funding sources and rising costs that could significantly delay completion of its automation projects, INS still had not developed a contingency plan to ensure that mission-essential programs are implemented. In addition, the ultimate cost for INS's automation programs was uncertain because actual costs incurred were unreliable and projected cost estimates were unsupported.
We also found that INS had not implemented adequate safeguards to ensure the accuracy of existing data to be used by systems currently being developed or re-engineered. Moreover, INS had not implemented adequate safeguards to ensure the adequacy of future data inputs. As a result, existing or new INS systems could rely on inaccurate or unreliable data.
C. Automated Biometric Identification System (IDENT)
In addition to our comprehensive audit of INS's management of its automation systems, we examined the management and performance of individual automation systems as well.
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In a report issued in March 1998, the OIG assessed INS's implementation of its IDENT system that uses fingerprints and other biometrics to enhance its law enforcement and benefits processing operations. Border Patrol agents and inspectors at ports of entry historically have relied upon the name given by individuals or listed on identification documents to identify individuals they encounter. Such name-based identification has inherent problems. Along the Southwest border, apprehended aliens usually do not carry identification and often provide false names. Consequently, existing records relating to these individuals cannot be located. INS's solution is to use biometricsindividually unique biological measurements such as fingerprints, hand geometry, facial recognition, retinal patterns or other characteristics.
Our inspection found that INS was enrolling less than two-thirds of the aliens apprehended along the U.S.-Mexico border into IDENT. In addition, INS had entered the fingerprints in the IDENT lookout database of only 41 percent of the aliens deported and excluded in FY 1996; of these, only 24 percent had accompanying photographs even though INS relies on photographs to confirm identification. These failures hamper INS's ability to make consistent and effective use of IDENT as a tool for border enforcement.
We found virtually no controls in place to ensure the quality of data entered into the IDENT lookout database. As a result, we found duplicate records and invalid data. We also raised concerns that INS had not provided sufficient training to Border Patrol agents on the use of IDENT.
The OIG is currently conducting an investigation of INS's interactions with alleged serial killer Angel Maturino Resendez. Among other things, the OIG review will examine any corrective actions taken as a result of the findings and recommendations in our IDENT report.
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D. Performance Analysis System
INS uses its computer-based Performance Analysis System (PAS) to track and report agency productivity. PAS contains data on the workload activities of INS employees such as the number of hours worked that relate to the processing of applications for various benefits available under U.S. immigration law. PAS is an important system used to support budget requests, determine position allocations, measure planned versus actual accomplishments, and analyze application backlogs.
An OIG audit disclosed that PAS adjudications and naturalization data are not reliable. We found arithmetical errors, data omissions, and incorrect posting of data. The data are unreliable because of: (1) inadequate monitoring of data collection, consolidation, and reporting at field offices; (2) unclear guidance; and (3) lack of an audit trail to connect PAS data to underlying applications and case files. Because the PAS adjudications and naturalization data are unreliable, we concluded that they do not provide INS with an adequate basis for sound decisions. We consider the accuracy of any reports based on PAS to be questionable.
E. Visa Waiver Pilot Program
Several of our reviews identified problems in INS programs that concern how and when citizens of other countries may enter or stay in the United States. We found that some of these problems could result in aliens, criminals, or terrorists illegally entering or remaining in the country.
Page 64 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In one of our more significant inspections, the OIG assessed INS efforts to minimize illegal immigration and security threats posed by abuse of the Visa Waiver Pilot Program (VWPP), a program that waives visa requirements for citizens of 26 participating countries. Visitors traveling for business or pleasure under the VWPP do not have to obtain visas and therefore are not screened in any way prior to their arrival at U.S. ports of entry. Instead, VWPP applicants present their passports and other inspection documents to INS inspectors on arrival. The inspectors observe the applicants, examine their passports, and conduct checks against a computerized lookout system to decide whether to allow applicants entry into the United States. This review by INS inspectors is the principal and, in many cases, the only means of preventing illegal entry. INS inspectors have, on average, less than one minute to check and decide on each applicant. In fiscal year 1997, 14.5 million visitors entered the United States under the VWPP.
We found that INS inspectors do not query all VWPP passport numbers against the computerized lookout system (machine-readable passports are queried automatically). In addition, our inspection found that terrorists, criminals, and alien smugglers have attempted to gain entry into the United States through the VWPP. We also found that VWPP visitors violate their nonimmigrant status by staying beyond the allowed 90-day limit; however, sufficient reliable data does not exist to gauge the extent of the problem.
INS informed us that the theft of passports from VWPP countries is a problem. Because these stolen passports are genuine documents, their fraudulent use is difficult for INS inspectors to detect. During our review, we tested a sample of 1,067 stolen VWPP passports and found that almost 10 percent may have been used to successfully enter the United States. We conducted a separate review of 138 stolen passports because INS intelligence reports indicated that alien smugglers were using some of these passports. Our review showed that 46 of the passports were used for successful entry, some more than once.
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We identified problems with the way INS maintains its lookout system. INS fails to enter information about stolen VWPP passports into the database in a timely or accurate manner. As a result, 567 stolen passports in our sample of 1,067 (53%) had no lookout record, and of the 500 passport numbers that had lookout records, 112 (22%) were not entered accurately. This missing or inaccurate information reduces the effectiveness of the lookout system and increases the possibility that inadmissible VWPP applicants can enter the United States.
Our report noted weaknesses in INS's intelligence operations that result in a failure to collect and disseminate VWPP intelligence information systematically. Finally, we recognized promising INS efforts to prevent illegal entry through the use of such things as airline carrier training and cooperative efforts with Customs, but we found these efforts sporadic and ad hoc.
F. Voluntary Departures
Voluntary departure is a process by which an illegal alien agrees to leave the United States voluntarily, thus avoiding the penalties and stigma of removal. Voluntary departure is an alternative to a formal order of removal for eligible illegal aliens to leave the country through a streamlined and quicker process while potentially saving the U.S. Government detention and removal costs. We sought to determine whether INS district officers and immigration judges from the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) adequately establish alien's eligibility for voluntary departure and whether aliens granted voluntary departure actually leave the United States.
Page 66 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Our inspection found that aliens were granted the privilege of voluntary departure when, in some cases, they were not eligible because they were aggravated felons. INS district officers performed few criminal checks prior to granting voluntary departure to apprehended aliens and immigration judges frequently issued decisions without completed checks.
The inspection also revealed that INS could not verify that many aliens granted voluntary departure had left the country. We found no evidence of departure in 54 percent of the cases that we reviewed. INS district officers seldom seek or apprehend aliens who violate voluntary departure orders, and immigration judges do not fully utilize voluntary departure bonds or conditions to assist INS in the enforcement of voluntary departure orders.
G. Fingerprint and Biographical Checks
We also conducted reviews of INS's management of programs that involve the collection of fees for services that INS provides to the public. For example, INS receives a fee from applicants for conducting background checks prior to the individual receiving certain immigration-related benefits. We reviewed INS's billing and payment procedures for the background checks conducted by the FBI.
Individuals applying for benefits from INS must furnish fingerprints, biographic data, and other background information. INS requests background checks from the FBI, Central Intelligence Agency, State Department, and Defense Investigative Service depending on the type of benefit and the status of the applicant or petitioner at the time of application. FBI background checks include fingerprint and biographical checks.
Page 67 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC For FY 1996, INS paid the FBI $32.5 million to conduct more than 1.8 million fingerprint checks and $5.7 million to conduct approximately 1.6 million name checks. In FY 1997, INS paid the FBI $45.5 million for 2.6 million fingerprint checks. INS requested that we conduct an audit of the adequacy of its procedures for requesting and paying for fingerprint and name checks and the extent and accuracy of FBI billings for these services.
We found that INS did not reconcile payments against its requests for fingerprint and name checks conducted by the FBI. INS did not have a system to track and account for all of the fingerprint and biographical check requests submitted to, or the results received from, the FBI. Because of this weakness, INS paid about $7 million during fiscal years 1996 and 1997 for unclassifiable and duplicate fingerprint cards, submitted incomplete or inaccurate fingerprint checks for thousands of INS applicants, and did not detect a potential FBI underbilling of approximately $800,000. For name checks, we identified approximately $220,000 that INS incurred unnecessarily for duplicate requests. We also identified more than $230,000 for services rendered by the FBI but not charged to INS. This latter amount is offset by about $563,000 in charges not supported adequately by the FBI. In light of the OIG review, INS and the FBI initiated actions to track requests for fingerprint and background check services and to reconcile billings.
Although we perform misconduct investigations in all the components over which we have jurisdiction, the vast majority of our investigations involve allegations against INS personnel. Allegations that INS officials have accepted bribes for illegally providing immigration documents to aliens and for smuggling drugs across the border are the most common. The OIG also investigates allegations of sexual and physical abuse of aliens by Border Patrol agents and the theft of fees paid for immigration benefits, among numerous other types of criminal and administrative misconduct.
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This work demonstrates the OIG's significant commitment to oversight of INS. I believe our work throughout the years, as typified by the products that I have highlighted in this testimony, have well-served the INS, the Department, and the public, not only by shedding light on problems but also by helping to reach constructive solutions.
I will be happy to answer any questions that you may have.
Mr. BROMWICH. Mr. Chairman, I am not sure whether a witness is allowed a point of personal privilege, but I would like to just take a moment to express my appreciation to you personally for the relationship that we have been able to develop.
I think when we first met back in the summer of 1996 in connection with our Miami INS review, you were skeptical as to whether a political appointee of the opposition party could in fact conduct a thorough, frank, and honest review of misconduct within the Department of Justice.
I think we demonstrated to you at that time that we could and did, and ever since then I think the relationship that we have formed serves as a model for the kind of relationship an oversight committee chairman and an inspector general can have.
I just want to express my personal appreciation to you, Mr. Chairman, for making that relationship possible.
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Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. Thank you, Mr. Bromwich.
You are right. You did demonstrate your independence and integrity in that investigation in Florida. But I appreciate those comments.
STATEMENT OF RICHARD M. STANA, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE ISSUES, GENERAL GOVERNMENT DIVISION, U.S. GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE, WASHINGTON, DC
Mr. STANA. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee:
I am pleased to be here today to discuss management and program issues concerning the INS. The INS faces difficult challenges in its efforts to enforce immigration laws at the borders and the interior of the country, and to provide services to facilitate entry, residence, employment, and naturalization of legal immigrants. GAO and others have reported that long-standing weaknesses in INS's management systems and processes have allowed serious problems to go unresolved. These weaknesses and problems have undermined INS's ability to effectively address certain enforcement and service delivery responsibilities.
My prepared statement discusses in more detail some of the major management program challenges faced by INS. In my oral statement I would like to focus on two main points:
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First, that INS has taken steps to address some of its management problems, but much more remains to be done.
And second, despite its strategic planning efforts, INS program results often come up short.
The problems at INS did not occur overnight and sustained management attention and commitment are needed to ensure that they are addressed appropriately.
With respect to my first point on INS management problems, since 1994 INS has developed a strategic plan and a priority management process and implemented a new organizational structure intended to provide for more direct oversight of field units. But less progress has been made on some fundamental management issues. For example, many employees lack clear guidance and up-to-date manuals on how to implement immigration laws. So the employees have had to search for information and guidance from multiple sources. Sometimes they've found good information, other times they've found conflicting information which led them to create their own policies. This added to an already significant coordination and standardization problem.
As a second example, the 1994 organizational structure did not provide for clear channels of communication. INS field managers viewed headquarters as being out of touch with events, concerns, and problems. They told us that uncertain exists about the relative roles and responsibilities of top level executives within the structure.
As a third example, although INS is in the process of acquiring a new financial management system, long-standing problems with the old one continue to make it difficult to know the status of accounts and to track how well the large budget increases that you have given the INS are being spent. INS's external auditor reported that for fiscal year 1998, again, INS had not maintained appropriate accounting records and relevant documentation to support certain balances in its financial statements, and thus rendered a disclaimer of opinion.
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My second point is that, despite its strategic planning efforts, INS program results too often come up short. The appendix to my prepared statement lists dozens of products we have issued over the past several years on the status of INS programs and the improvements needed. Here I would like to highlight the attention needed in four key programs.
While INS is making progress in implementing the Southwest Border strategy, it has yet to determine whether the strategy is achieving its key objectives. This includes achieving an efficient and effective balance between staff and other resources, and determining whether aliens are in fact being deterred from entering or re-entering the United States and whether the strategy has reduced border violence. Knowing this is important given the billions of dollars we are investing in that strategy.
INS has not been effective at removing incarcerated criminal aliens from the country. For years INS's inaction has resulted in several thousand criminal aliens being released from Federal and State prisons into our communities before they were identified and placed into deportation proceedings. Even when INS identified criminal aliens and placed them in proceedings, it often started the process to late and unnecessarily incurred millions of dollars in incarceration costs.
INS has had chronic problems addressing naturalization applications. It did not wait for fingerprint checks to be completed by the FBI before granting citizenship and, as a result, it naturalized thousands of aliens with felony convictions. Also, INS has not balanced its resources to address backlogs and the significant differences in processing times among locations.
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INS's Worksite Enforcement Program is not neutralizing the job magnet that draws aliens into our country. Its employment-verification system is susceptible to fraud, and initiatives to improve it are beset with obstacles. Further, INS has devoted about 2 percent of enforcement resources to worksite enforcement, and has achieved modest results.
In closing, we believe that fundamental management issues need to be addressed regardless of how INS is structured. Any reorganization needs to focus on such basic management reforms as creating clear objectives and priorities, uniform guidance, standard processes, reliable program and financial information, and accountability for all managers up and down the line.
Mr. Chairman, this concludes my prepared statement and I would be happy to answer any questions you or other members of the subcommittee may have.
[The prepared statement of Richard Stana follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF RICHARD M. STANA, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE ISSUES, GENERAL GOVERNMENT DIVISION, U.S. GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE, WASHINGTON, DC
GAO and others have identified management and program challenges that have troubled the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) for years. GAO's management reports in 1991 and 1997 and related reviews have indicated that urgent attention should be given to INS' management challenges. GAO pointed out significant issues related to INS' (1) strategic planning process; (2) organizational structure; (3) communications and coordination; and (4) financial management processes.
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More specifically, GAO said that:
INS' strategic planning required sustained management attention and commitment;
INS' reorganization had created some uncertainty about organizational roles and responsibilities;
INS' internal communications and coordination were problematic, as evidenced by its outdated policies and procedures on how to implement immigration laws; and
INS' financial management processes were weak, including outdated accounting systems, weak internal controls, and a lack of management emphasis on financial management.
In addition to these management challenges, program implementation issues at INS have been the focus of much of GAO's work. GAO's reports on these issues have been related to INS' efforts to:
stem the flow of illegal aliens across the Southwest Border;
identify and remove criminal aliens from the country;
process applications for naturalization;
enforce workplace immigration laws; and
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process aliens for expedited removal.
GAO recognizes that addressing these management and program challenges can be difficult. In carrying out its mission, INS has to contend with issues of foreign policy (e.g., U.S. readiness to provide asylum to political refugees); domestic policy (e.g., the tension between the need for cheap labor that immigrants have historically met and the protection of employment and working standards for U.S. citizens); and intergovernmental relations (e.g., between the federal government, which sets policy on immigration, and state and local governments, which largely bear its costs and consequences). Sustained top-level management commitment and monitoring are necessary to ensure that these challenges are addressed appropriately.
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:
I am pleased to be here today to discuss work we have done addressing management and program challenges at the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). These challenges have been related to INS' strategic planning process, organizational structure, communications and coordination, financial management, and program implementation. For the most part, our testimony is based on products that we have issued on these matters since 1991. Attached to my statement is a bibliography of this work.
INS' mission involves carrying out two primary functions. One is an enforcement function that involves preventing aliens from entering the United States illegally and removing aliens who succeed in doing so. The other is a service function that involves providing services or benefits to facilitate entry, residence, employment, and naturalization of legal immigrants.
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To enable INS to better implement and enforce immigration laws, Congress significantly increased its resources during the past several years. For example, between fiscal years 1993 and 1998, the number of onboard staff at INS increased from about 19,000 to nearly 31,000. During the same period, INS' budget more than doubled from $1.5 billion in fiscal year 1993 to about $3.8 billion in fiscal year 1998. Funding increases have continued in fiscal year 1999 with Congress providing over $3.9 billion.
Earlier this year, we reported on management challenges and program risks in the Justice Department.(see footnote 1) Most of the challenges and risks that we identified were in INS. However, we noted that, in carrying out its responsibilities, INS has to contend with issues of foreign policy (e.g., U.S. readiness to provide asylum to political refugees); domestic policy (e.g., the tension between the need for cheap labor that immigrants have historically met and the protection of employment and working standards for U.S. citizens); and intergovernmental relations (e.g., between the federal government, which sets policy on immigration, and state and local governments, which largely bear its costs and consequences).
Several of our past reports have identified significant management challenges that have troubled INS for years. Those challenges have been related to INS' (1) strategic planning process; (2) organizational structure; (3) communications and coordination; and (4) financial management processes.
Page 76 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCINS' Strategic Planning Process
In 1991, we reported that INS lacked a strategic plan and that past priority management processes were not successful.(see footnote 2) We also stated that past efforts to implement agencywide planning systems lacked sustained top management support, managers were not held accountable for achieving goals and objectives, and priorities were not used in planning for decisionmaking. Three years later, INS developed and issued a strategic plan to better focus its attention on key mission and operational priorities. The plan identified eight major strategic priorities, including such challenges as facilitating compliance with immigration laws, deterring unlawful migration, and reengineering INS work processes.
In fiscal year 1995, INS implemented a priorities management process intended to facilitate the achievement of the strategic priorities identified in the plan. Specific annual goals related to strategic priorities were identified for special management attention, including the establishment of objectives, time frames, and performance measures. In fiscal year 1996, to further focus management attention on the most important goals, INS ranked the annual goals according to their priority. By assigning senior INS managers specific responsibility for achieving the annual priority goals, INS intended to establish better organizational and individual accountability. In 1997, we said that these efforts appeared to be consistent with the intent of the Government Performance and Results Act. However, we also concluded that, while INS' initial steps in developing a strategic plan and management priorities had been positive, our past work at INS had indicated that, to be successful, such initiatives would require sustained management attention and commitment.(see footnote 3)
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INS' Organizational Structure
In 1991, we reported that, historically, INS leadership had allowed INS' organizational structure to become decentralized without adequate controls.(see footnote 4) Specifically, its regional structure had created geographical separation among INS programs and hampered resource allocation and consistent program implementation. The field structure to carry out INS' enforcement functions was bifurcated between districts and Border Patrol sectors, resulting in uncoordinated, overlapping programs. In addition, INS' 33 district directors and 21 Border Patrol chiefs were supervised by a single senior INS headquarters manager.
In 1994, with the appointment of a new Commissioner, INS implemented an organizational structure intended to remedy at least two problems with the 1991 structure. First, the Commissioner thought the agency's field performance was uneven and poorly coordinated. In particular, the headquarters operations office had an unrealistically large span of control because of its responsibility for overseeing the operations of 33 district offices and 21 Border Patrol sectors. Second, the Commissioner believed that program planning, review, and integration had suffered because the operations office was preoccupied with matters that should have been handled by field managers and therefore could not focus on program planning. To address these and other problems, the reorganization established Executive Associate Commissioner (EAC) positions for (1) policy and planning, (2) programs, (3) management, and (4) field operations. The EAC for Field Operations had overall responsibility for managing INS' operational field activities through three regional directors, who were delegated budget and personnel authority over INS' district directors and Border Patrol chiefs in their respective areas.
Page 78 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In 1997, we reported that the reorganization had succeeded in shifting some management authority to officials closer to the field activities, and many INS managers that we interviewed perceived the reorganization as a positive step in providing oversight to the field units.(see footnote 5) However, the implementation of the headquarters reorganization also appeared to have created some uncertainty among INS managers and field staff about the relative roles and responsibilities of some of the EACs. This uncertainty had been amplified by internal questions about possible staffing imbalances among the offices. For example, we found that no analysis had been done to determine the appropriate number of staff needed for the office of programs, given the reassignment of some its new responsibilities to other offices.
Internal Communications and Coordination
INS' Commissioner stated that the 1994 reorganization would build communication capabilities. However, communication continued to be a problem at INS. We reported in 1997, as we did in 1991,(see footnote 6) that INS' headquarters and field managers generally viewed headquarters as not being in touch with events, problems, and concerns in the field. Part of the communications challenge involved uncertainty among INS managers about the roles and responsibilities of headquarters executives, which in turn caused uncertainty about proper channels of communication for obtaining policy guidance or implementing program initiatives. Headquarters' efforts to resolve concerns about roles, responsibilities, and communication processes were not successful. For example, there was still confusion among field managers regarding roles and responsibilities, and inconsistent versions of guidance on naturalization procedures were distributed to field offices. INS did not intend to issue written guidance on appropriate communication channels and coordination methods between offices until it obtained a decision on how the agency would be restructured.
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Lack of up-to-date policies and procedures had also contributed to INS' communications challenges. For example, at the time of our 1991 report, field manuals containing policies and procedures on how to implement immigration laws were out-of-date and had not been updated by the time of our 1997 report. As a result, INS employees were burdened with having to search for information on immigration laws or regulations in multiple sources, which sometimes resulted in their obtaining conflicting information. The lack of current manuals also led some field officers to create policy locally, thus compounding coordination difficulties. However, during the past 2 years, INS has published an administrative manual and established a timetable through January 2001 for issuing five field manuals.
The financial statement audit of INS' fiscal year 1998 Statement of Financial Position and the related Statements of Operations and Changes in Net Position resulted in a disclaimer of opinion. The auditor reported that INS had not maintained appropriate accounting records and relevant documentation to support certain balances in the financial statements. In addition, INS' internal control structure was not adequate to ensure that its assets were properly safeguarded from loss, damage, or misappropriation, and that transactions were accurately and completely recorded. Accordingly, the auditor could not perform sufficient audit procedures to determine whether the financial statements were affected by these conditions. The auditor identified five material weaknesses(see footnote 7) with respect to (1) the fund balance with the Treasury reconciliation process, (2) fixed assets, (3) accounts payable, (4) deferred revenue, and (5) INS' financial management systems. INS has taken action to address some of its financial management problems, including engaging a contractor to reconcile the fund balance differences with Treasury.
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With respect to INS' financial management systems, the auditor reported that the systems (1) were not integrated, resulting in significant delays and burdensome reconciliation efforts; (2) had significant internal control weaknessesincluding computer control problemsaffecting the accuracy and reliability of financial information; and (3) limited, rather than enhanced, effective decisionmaking.
In 1991, we reported that INS' budget development process, which had evolved with weak controls over expenditures and revenues, significantly impeded INS management's ability to address program weaknesses. In addition, we said that INS did not have fiscal accountability over its resources. Its outdated accounting systems, weak internal controls, and lack of management emphasis on financial management had contributed to this situation. As we reported again in 1993 and more recently in 1997,(see footnote 8) INS' financial management systems' weaknesses made it difficult for the agency to monitor the status of its budget and to make sound budgetary decisions. For example, in March 1995, INS' budget office projected that the field offices would have about $115 million in surplus funds through the rest of the year. Upon subsequent input from INS' field offices, it turned out that the field offices would experience a $5 million shortfall for the remainder of the year.
Earlier this year, concerned that INS would incur a budget shortfall, the House Appropriations Committee asked that we examine INS' fiscal condition for fiscal year 1999. Based on discussions with officials from INS, the Justice Department, and the Office of Management and Budget, and based on our analysis of INS budget documents, we concluded that INS was not experiencing an overall budget shortfall for fiscal year 1999.(see footnote 9) However, we noted that the hiring policy that INS followed in fiscal year 1998, and the reduced revenues from INS' Examinations Fee revenues, contributed to reduced discretionary funding in fiscal year 1999.
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In 1997, INS selected a new financial management system but did not first analyze its financial management processes, as required by the Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996,(see footnote 10) to ensure that the new system did not automate outmoded, inefficient business processes. Instead of developing and implementing a risk management plan, as we had recommended, INS tasked its contractor with helping to ensure that risks associated with implementation of the new system would be identified and necessary steps taken to mitigate them. According to INS, it had an urgent need to replace its financial management system, which was over 19 years old and did not have the functionality needed for INS to efficiently manage and account for its resources, and INS believed that this was a prudent way to proceed.
In addition to the long-standing management challenges that we identified, program implementation issues at INS have been of continuing concern. These issues have been related to INS' efforts to (1) stem the flow of illegal aliens across the border, (2) identify and remove criminal aliens, (3) process applications for naturalization, (4) enforce immigration laws that pertain to the workplace, and (5) process aliens for expedited removal from the country.
In 1993, we testified that INS was confronted with the challenge of preventing millions of aliens from entering the country illegally.(see footnote 11) Our prior work in this area had shown that INS had difficulty in removing illegal aliens once they entered the country and had limited space to detain aliens it apprehended. We concluded, therefore, that the key to controlling the illegal alien population was to prevent their initial entry. Consistent with the Attorney General's strategy, in 1994, INS issued a national Border Patrol strategy intended to deter illegal entry between the ports of entry along the Southwest Border. In the strategy's initial phase, the focus was on two sectorsSan Diego and El Pasothat in 1993 accounted for the majority of apprehensions nationwide. In the second phase of the strategy, INS increased the resources it allocated to sectors in Tucson, Arizona, and south Texas.
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In 1997, we reported that INS had made progress in implementing some, but not all, of its strategy.(see footnote 12) For example, INS had allocated Border Patrol agents in general accordance with the strategy, focusing resources in the areas of highest known illegal activity. However, the proportion of time the agents at the Southwest Border collectively spent on border enforcement activities did not increase between 1994 and 1997 as planned. Further, the Border Patrol had not determined the most appropriate mix of staffing and other resources needed for its sectors, as called for in the strategy.
We also stated in our 1997 report that INS lacked data on several outcomes that the strategy was expected to achieve. For example, there were no data to indicate whether (1) illegal aliens were deterred from entering the United States, (2) there had been a decrease in attempted reentries by those who had been previously apprehended, and (3) the strategy had reduced border violence. We said that, despite the investment of billions of dollars in the strategy, INS had amassed only a partial picture of the effects of increased border control and did not know whether the investment was producing the intended results. Further, INS lacked a systematic and comprehensive evaluation plan to assess the strategy's overall effectiveness. We noted also that developing such a plan would be in keeping with the principles embodied in the Results Act. In September 1998, INS contracted with independent research firms for an evaluation.
In an update to our 1997 report,(see footnote 13) we noted that available data suggested that several anticipated interim effects of the strategy had occurred. For example, apprehensions of illegal aliens continued to shift from traditionally high entry points like San Diego and El Paso to other locations along the border, as resources were deployed. Also, southwest border ports of entry inspectors apprehended an increased number of persons attempting fraudulent entry, and there were reports of higher fees being charged by smugglers, which INS said indicated an increased difficulty in illegal border crossing. However, data were still not available on the overall impact of the strategy and how effective it has been in preventing and deterring illegal entry.
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Criminal Alien Removal
As far back as 1989, we reported that INS had not been effective in removing illegal aliens from the country.(see footnote 14) Five years later, the Commissioner stated that over half of the illegal alien population initially entered the United States legally but then overstayed their period of admission. She added that no effective means existed to locate and arrest those aliens. With respect to criminal aliens, INS did not know how many prisoners in state and local prisons were deportable criminal aliens. Our work has shown that removing deportable criminal aliens from this country has been one of INS' long-standing challenges.
INS' Institutional Hearing Program (IHP)(see footnote 15) is the Department of Justice's main vehicle for placing aliens who are incarcerated in state and federal prisons into deportation proceedings so that they can be expeditiously deported upon release. In 1997, we reported on the 1995 performance results of the IHP, and more recently, in 1998, we reported on 1997 IHP results.(see footnote 16) In each year, for a 6-month period, we found that INS failed to identify nearly 2,000 potentially deportable criminal aliens before they completed their prison sentences. Hundreds of those criminal aliens were aggravated felons who, by law, should have been placed in removal proceedings while in prison and taken into INS custody upon release. Some of those aliens were subsequently rearrested for new crimes, including felonies.
Even when INS determined that an alien was potentially deportable and should be placed in removal proceedings, INS did not complete the IHP for at least half of such cases in both 1995 and 1997. As a result, INS took many of the released criminal aliens into custody and completed the removal process for them after their prison release. As a result of its failure to complete the IHP before prison release, INS incurred about $37 million in avoidable detention costs in 1995 and about $40 million in 1997. INS took action on some, but not all of our 1997 recommendations to improve the IHP. For example, responding to our recommendation that INS give priority to aliens serving time for aggravated felonies, INS indicated that it should be screening all foreign-born inmates as they enter the prison systems. Therefore, INS took the position that it did not need to single out aggravated felons as a unique group. However, it remains unclear whether INS has the resources needed to screen everyone as they enter the prison system. INS has acknowledged and started to address the need for eliminating the backlog of cases that were not screened in previous years because aggravated felons could be part of the backlog.
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Processes for Granting Citizenship
INS is authorized to charge user fees to recipients of certain INS services, such as the processing of an alien's application. In 1991, we said that INS had a chronic problem with not processing applications for naturalization within its 4-month time frame. In our 1994 report on INS user fees,(see footnote 17) our analysis of INS' workload in its four largest districts showed that it did not allocate its staff in proportion to its estimated workload. We said that about 80 percent of applicants could expect to wait 4 months or less for their applications to be processed. However, the expected waiting times for two of the four districts in our review exceeded 4 months; in New York and San Francisco, the waiting times for naturalization applications took 7 and 10 months, respectively.
More recently, we reported that the number of applications was continuing to grow and that differences in production rates and processing times existed among field units in application processing.(see footnote 18) For example, our analyses of INS data for the 25-month period of June 1994 through June 1996 showed significant differences in the production rates for the five predominant types of applications processed by INS' district offices and three predominant types of applications processed by its service centers. We also reported large differences in the projected processing times for the types of applications for which these data were readily available. While we did not directly determine the cause of the differences, we noted that differences in processing times mean that aliens in different INS districts have had to wait disparate amounts of time for their applications to be processed. We pointed out that the need to treat applicants fairly and use government resources efficiently makes both determining the causes of the production and timing differences and, if feasible, improving production and timeliness, important goals for INS.
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As part of the process of applying for naturalization, aliens are required to submit completed fingerprint cards with their applications so that a criminal's record can be obtained. A criminal conviction can result in denial of the application. In 1994, we issued a report related to INS' processing of aliens' applications for permanent residency and naturalization.(see footnote 19) Specifically, we reported that INS did not obtain the results of all requested fingerprint checks from the FBI, and the results were, therefore, not always available to examiners before the alien's hearings. As a result, INS improperly naturalized citizens with felony convictions.
In 1997, we testified that INS could still not assure itself and Congress that it was granting citizenship only to deserving applicants.(see footnote 20) In addition, a report to the Department of Justice by a consulting firm indicated that INS had not ensured that its field units were implementing internal control procedures issued by the INS Commissioner. INS has begun restructuring its naturalization process to address these problems.
The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA)(see footnote 21) made it illegal for employers knowingly to hire or continue to employ or recruit or refer for a fee unauthorized aliens. The act further required employers to comply with an employment verification process intended to provide employers with a means to avoid hiring unauthorized aliens.(see footnote 22) In 1994, we testified that INS' worksite enforcement effort had declined from fiscal year 1989 through 1993.(see footnote 23) Our more recent work in this area has shown that, while INS has undertaken several initiatives to improve the employment verification process to make it less susceptible to fraud, significant obstacles remained.(see footnote 24) First, as mandated in the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996,(see footnote 25) INS is testing pilot programs in which employers must electronically verify an employee's eligibility to work. However, INS has had difficulty in meeting its goal for enrolling employers in the pilot programs. Although originally expected to enroll 16,000 employers by the end of fiscal year 1999, only 2,500 were participating as of November 1998. Second, INS has made little progress in reducing the number of documents that employers can accept to determine employment eligibility. We pointed out that having a smaller number of acceptable documents would make the process more secure and reduce employer confusion. Lastly, INS had begun issuing new documents with increased security features, which it hoped would make it easier for employers to verify the documents' authenticity. However, in addition to those INS documents, aliens can show employers various other less secure documents that authorize them to work. Therefore, unauthorized aliens seeking employment can circumvent the improved security features of INS documents by simply presenting fraudulent non-INS documentssuch as counterfeit Social Security cardsto employers.
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Further, we reported that, since no verification system is foolproof, enforcing IRCA's employer sanctions provisions would continue to be important. Since 1994, INS had devoted about 2 percent of its enforcement work years to its worksite enforcement program, which is designed to detect noncompliance with the law. INS completed about 6,500 investigations of employers in 1998about 3 percent of the U.S. employers believed to have unauthorized workers on their payrolls. INS' worksite enforcement program has infrequently imposed sanctions on employers. INS is in the process of changing its approach to worksite enforcement, but it is too soon to know how these changes will be implemented or to assess their impact on the hiring of unauthorized workers.
The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 included provisions establishing a new process for dealing with aliens who attempt to enter the United States by engaging in fraud or misrepresentation (e.g., falsely claiming to be a U.S. citizen or misrepresenting a material fact) or who arrive with fraudulent, improper, or no documents (e.g., visa or passport). Known as expedited removal, the new process gives INS officers, rather than immigration judges, the authority to formally order these aliens removed from the country. The process also limits the rights of aliens to appeal a removal order. Aliens who fear being persecuted or tortured if they are returned to their home country are to be granted a ''credible fear'' interview to determine if their claims of asylum have a significant possibility of succeeding.
In our 1998 report,(see footnote 26) we addressed several aspects of INS' implementation of the expedited removal process, including the implementation and results of the process for making credible fear determinations and the mechanisms that INS had established to monitor expedited removals and credible fear determinations and to improve these processes. In our report, we pointed out that our review of case file documentation indicated a range of compliance with certain aspects of the required expedited removal processes at five selected locations.(see footnote 27) For example, case file documentation indicated that supervisors reviewed the expedited removal orders in an estimated 80 to 100 percent of the cases at the five locations. Further, our report noted that INS had or was in the process of developing mechanisms to monitor the expedited removal procedures, including the credible fear determinations. Those mechanisms included creating an Expedited Removal Working Group to visit locations and address problems, creating a quality assurance team at headquarters to review selected credible fear files, and meeting with nongovernmental organizations to discuss issues and concerns. INS has made changes to its processes on the basis of concerns raised by these internal reviewers and outside organizations.
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Mr. Chairman, this completes my statement. I would be pleased to answer any questions that you or other members of the Subcommittee may have.
Contact and Acknowledgement
For further information regarding this testimony, please contact Richard M. Stana at (202) 5128777. Individuals making key contributions to this testimony included Evi Rezmovic and Brenda Rabinowitz.
Illegal Aliens: Significant Obstacles to Reducing Unauthorized Alien Employment Exist (GAO/TGGD99105, July 1, 1999).
Illegal Immigration: Status of Southwest Border Strategy Implementation (GAO/GGD9944, May 19, 1999).
Immigration Benefits: Applications for Adjustment of Status Under the Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act of 1998 (GAO/GGD9992R, April 21, 1999).
Illegal Aliens: Significant Obstacles to Reducing Unauthorized Alien Employment Exist (GAO/GGD9933, April 2, 1999).
Drug Control: INS and Customs Can Do More To Prevent Drug-Related Employee Corruption (GAO/GGD9931, March 30, 1999).
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Visa Issuance: Issues Concerning the Religious Worker Visa Program (GAO/NSIAD9967, March 26, 1999).
INS Budget: Overhiring and Decline in Revenues Have Created Fiscal Stress (GAO/TGGD/AIMD99129, March 24, 1999).
Major Management Challenges and Program Risks: Department of Justice (GAO/OCG9910, January 1, 1999).
Criminal Aliens: INS' Efforts to Remove Imprisoned Aliens Continue to Need Improvement (GAO/GGD993, October 16, 1998).
INS User Fee Revisions: INS Complied With Guidance but Could Make Improvements (GAO/GGD98197, September 28, 1998).
H2A Agricultural Guestworker Program: Experiences of Individual Vidalia Onion Growers (GAO/HEHS98236R, September 10, 1998).
Immigration Statistics: Information Gaps, Quality Issues Limit Utility of Federal Data to Policymakers (GAO/GGD98164, July 31, 1998).
Immigration Statistics: Guidance on Producing Information on the U.S. Resident Foreign-Born (GAO/GGD98155, July 22, 1998).
Page 89 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCImmigration Statistics: Status of the Implementation of National Academy of Sciences' Recommendations (GAO/GGD98119, June 9, 1998).
Assessment of Contractor's Review of INS' Analysis of a Random Sample of Recently Naturalized Aliens (GAO/GGD98131R, May 28, 1998).
Illegal Aliens: Changes in the Process of Denying Aliens Entry Into the United States (GAO/GGD9881, March 31, 1998).
Naturalized Aliens: Efforts to Determine if INS Improperly Naturalized Some Aliens (GAO/GGD9862, March 23, 1998).
Retirement Eligibility of Customs and INS Employees on the Southwest Border (GAO/GGD9870R, March 13, 1998).
Community Development: Changes in Nebraska's and Iowa's Counties With Large Meatpacking Plant Workforces (GAO/RCED9862, February 27, 1998).
H2A Agricultural Guestworker Program: Changes Could Improve Services to Employers and Better Protect Workers (GAO/HEHS9820, December 31, 1997).
Illegal Immigration: Southwest Border Strategy Results Inconclusive; More Evaluation Needed (GAO/GGD9821, December 11, 1997).
Customs and Border Patrol: Resources Needed for Reopening Rail Line From Mexico-U.S. Border Into the United States (GAO/GGD9820R, November 5, 1997).
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Combating Terrorism: Federal Agencies' Efforts to Implement National Policy and Strategy (GAO/NSIAD97254, September 26, 1997).
Illegal Immigration: Information on Illegal Immigrants and Automobile Insurance in California (GAO/GGD97172R, September 5, 1997).
Higher Education: Verification Helps Prevent Student Aid Payments to Ineligible Noncitizens (GAO/HEHS97153, August 6, 1997).
INS Management: Follow-up on Selected Problems (GAO/GGD97132, July 22, 1997).
Immigration and Naturalization Service: Employment Verification Pilot Project (GAO/GGD97136R, July 17, 1997).
Criminal Aliens: INS' Efforts to Identify and Remove Imprisoned Aliens Need To Be Improved (GAO/TGGD97154, July 15, 1997).
INS Criminal Record Verification: Information on Process for Citizenship Applicants (GAO/GGD97118R, June 4, 1997).
Alien Applications: Processing Differences Exist Among INS Field Units (GAO/GGD9747, May 20, 1997).
State Department: Efforts to Reduce Visa Fraud (GAO/TNSIAD97167, May 20, 1997).
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Naturalization of Aliens: INS Internal Controls (GAO/TGGD9798, May 1, 1997).
Naturalization of Aliens: Assessment of the Extent to Which Aliens Were Improperly Naturalized (GAO/TGGD9751, March 5, 1997).
Federal Law Enforcement: Investigative Authority and Personnel at 13 Agencies (GAO/GGD96154, September 30, 1996).
Border Patrol: Staffing and Enforcement Activities (GAO/GGD9665, March 11, 1996).
INS Investment Strategy (GAO/AIMD9626R, December 11, 1995).
INS Border Crossing Cards (GAO/GGD9625R, November 29, 1995).
Federal Law Enforcement: Information on Certain Agencies' Criminal Investigative Personnel and Salary Costs (GAO/TGGD9638, November 15, 1995).
Law Enforcement Support Center: Name-Based Systems Limit Ability to Identify Arrested Aliens (GAO/AIMD95147, August 21, 1995).
Illegal Aliens: National Net Cost Estimates Vary Widely (GAO/HEHS95133, July 25, 1995).
INS: Information on Aliens Applying for Permanent Resident Status (GAO/ GGD95162FS, June 8, 1995).
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Information Integrity: Using Technology to Determine Eligibility to Work and Receive Benefits (GAO/TAIMD9599, March 7, 1995).
Border Control: Revised Strategy Is Showing Some Positive Results (GAO/GGD9530, December 29, 1994).
INS Fingerprinting of Aliens: Efforts to Ensure Authenticity of Aliens' Fingerprints (GAO/GGD9540, December 22, 1994).
INS: Management Problems and Program Issues (GAO/TGGD9511, October 5, 1994).
Employer Sanctions: Comments on H.R. 3362Employer Sanctions Improvement Act (GAO/TGGD94189, September 21, 1994).
INS Drug Task Force Activities: Federal Agencies Supportive of INS Efforts (GAO/GGD94143, July 7, 1994).
INS User Fees: INS Working to Improve Management of User Fee Accounts (GAO/GGD94101, April 12, 1994).
INS' EEO Progress in DC/LA (GAO/GGD9410R, October 5, 1993).
Illegal Aliens: Despite Data Limitations, Current Methods Provide Better Population Estimates (GAO/PEMD9325, August 5, 1993).
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Assessing EEO Progress at INS (GAO/GGD9354R, July 15, 1993).
Customs Service and INS: Dual Management Structure for Border Inspections Should Be Ended (GAO/GGD93111, June 30, 1993).
INS Corrective Action (GAO/GGD9346R, June 16, 1993).
Information on Black Employment at INS (GAO/GGD9344R, May 17, 1993).
Border Patrol: Southwest Border Enforcement Affected by Mission Expansion and Budget (GAO/TGGD9266, August 5, 1992).
Immigration Control: Immigration Policies Affect INS Detention Efforts (GAO/GGD9285, June 25, 1992).
Immigration and the Labor Market: Nonimmigrant Alien Workers in the United States (GAO/PEMD9217, April 28, 1992).
Immigrants in Indiana: Northwest Indiana Compared to Other Parts of the State (GAO/GGD9232FS, January 10, 1992).
U.S.-Mexico Trade: Concerns About the Adequacy of Border Infrastructure (GAO/NSIAD91228, May 16, 1991).
Page 94 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCEmployee Drug Testing: Status of Federal Agencies' Programs (GAO/GGD9170, May 6, 1991).
Border Patrol: Southwest Border Enforcement Affected by Mission Expansion and Budget (GAO/GGD9172BR, March 28, 1991).
International Trade: Easing Foreign Visitors' Arrivals at U.S. Airports (GAO/NSIAD916, March 8, 1991).
Financial Management: INS Lacks Accountability and Controls Over Its Resources (GAO/AFMD9120, January 24, 1991).
Immigration Management: Strong Leadership and Management Reforms Needed to Address Serious Problems (GAO/GGD9128, January 23, 1991).
Information Management: Immigration and Naturalization Service Lacks Ready Access to Essential Data (GAO/IMTEC9075, September 27, 1990).
Immigration Services: INS Resources and Services in the Miami District (GAO/GGD9098, August 6, 1990).
Criminal Aliens: Prison Deportation Hearings Include Opportunities to Contest Deportation (GAO/GGD9079, May 25, 1990).
Immigration Reform: Employer Sanctions and the Question of Discrimination (GAO/GGD9062, March 29, 1990).
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Immigration Reform: Major Changes Likely Under S. 358 (GAO/PEMD905, November 9, 1989).
Immigration Control: Deporting and Excluding Aliens From the United States (GAO/GGD9018, October 26, 1989).
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. Thank you, Mr. Stana.
I have questions and I will begin with Mr. Bromwich.
Mr. Bromwich, you mentioned in your testimony I think something on the order of eight or nine major problems with the INS. Among them were weaknesses in its financial management system and failing to adequately manage automation programs.
I want to read a couple of excerpts from your statement and then ask you to respond to that.
In regard to the financial statement audits, you said that ''Auditors were unable to complete the audit because of the condition of the accounting records and relevant documentation. This was the third year an INS-wide financial statement audit was performed and the agency's third disclaimer of opinion.''
Then you mentioned the nine reportable conditions as well.
As far as the automation program goes, you said ''The INS continues to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on automation projects for which there were inadequate budgeted costs or explanations for how the money was spent.''
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Those are incredible statements that, quite frankly, if any other agency was guilty of any of these eight or nine problems that you cite, I don't know how they would function.
Is the problem here one of management? If so, who is responsible and how do we correct it?
Mr. BROMWICH. I think there are manifold problems in INS. I think there are data integrity problems. There are systems problemsmassive systems problems. And I think there are management problems.
I do not think you can look at each in isolation. I think there are multiple problems that are reflected in the audit reports that you have just described, both the automation systems and the financial statement audits.
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. Thank you, Mr. Bromwich.
Mr. StanaIn the GAO's report you identify such problems with the INS management as failure to establish clear channels of communication, issuing updated policies and procedural manuals, not implementing appropriate accounting methods, failing to establish performance measures, and the need for making improvements in removing criminal aliens, and in the naturalization program.
Now you said that the GAO has repeatedly found failures in the INS operations and in their management style. In your report last March, you said the INS had failed to hire for all appropriated positions, and then they used the extra money from the unhired positions for discretionary operating expenses; but this year they in effect did the reverse, they overhired but failed to request money for operating expenses.
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You called these ''management problems.'' How should they be corrected?
Mr. STANA. Well they are problems. Not only do we think they are problems, but even in a survey we have done of INS managers, two-thirds of the managers we queried, 3700 managers, told us that the lines of communication are not clear. Over half said that headquarters does not understand what their problems are, and they question if they really have the solutions.
I think it really gets down to a handful of basic management tenets, that you need to have clear objectives, a clear mission statement, and a clear road map on how to carry out the objectives.
Secondly, you need clear channels of communication. You know where to go to get guidance when guidance is needed. You need reliable information systems, reliable financial systems. You need feedback loops.
And you need to use the strategic planning mechanisms that you have. You cannot just make planning an end in itself. If you do not use it, it becomes a paper exercise. And we have seen time and again that these management and performance measures are not really used to manage the agency.
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. Okay. Thank you, Mr. Stana.
I do not have any other questions.
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Ms. Jackson Lee is recognized for hers.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I would like to also acknowledge the leadership of Mr. Bromwich, and also thank him for his service and wish him very well as he goes into public life, and indicate to him that Democrats as well enjoy his integrity and his professionalism and the ability for him to secure the information that allows us to run this government in the way that the American people would like to see us do so.
Mr. BROMWICH. Thank you, very much.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Stana, you have enunciated for us some interesting points, and I think the chairman has focused on them as well, and forgive me if I may ask a redundant question, but I think you led into your final remarks by saying thator not making a comment, per se, on restructuring, but sort of pointing us in another direction, or a direction of internal mechanisms.
I may not have captured all of your points, but I am noting clear objectives, uniform guidelines, standard practices, reliability, and I think you said something about consistency in management may be another term that you use.
Help me understand how we got to this place in terms of your analysis when you look at other governmental agencies, because you study them all, or your agency studies them all.
Page 99 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC What is unique about INS that has us facing this? And then could you comment on those points that I made, that whether we restructure or leave it, are you suggesting to us that we have got to clean up these issues to even get where we need, well let's say to get to first base?
Mr. STANA. Yes. Let me handle the first part first.
As Ms. Lofgren mentioned earlier, INS is an agency that grew up very fast, very quickly and had a number of difficult challenges thrown at it in the last 20 years or so.
It also had substantial budget increases thrown at it. In just this decade it has increased by three-fold, I believe, something of that nature.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Because of the need.
Mr. STANA. Yes, because the need was there. You know, now when you go to the border, and I am sure you all have recently, you drive in much better vehicles than you would have 10 years ago. So the resources are now there.
But as the agency grew up, I believe that the management systems were not really growing with it. Much of the management structures and management processes are still the same as 20 years ago. You do not see the well-established procedures and processes in place that you would like to see in an agency that has 31,000 employees with operations all over the country. So those have to be in order.
Page 100 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC With respect to the second part of your question, however the subcommittee decides to restructure the INS is certainly a matter of policy, and that is something that you are going to have to deliberate on.
But I would say that these kinds of problems are long-standing. They have survived two other restructurings just in this decade. And until you really focus on the clear objectives, the standardized processes, reliable information, the feedback loops, the different kinds of management tools that most large corporations and successful government agencies have, if those are not really addressed, what you have at the end of the day is either two components of the same agency, or two different agencies, that are not well managed. These management issues need to be paid attention to in this next restructuring.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. I do have a question for Mr. Bromwich, but let me just take that line of questions. Do you have an example for us of an agency that was on its knees that has used internal management structures that we might be able to reflect upon?
Mr. STANA. I do not have a best example, but I can get back with you on that.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. I would appreciate it.
Mr. STANA. It might be instructive as you go through this process.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. And the last point to you is, then, what is your recommendation? Are you suggesting an outside management consultant? Immediately ceasing the work of the INS and just internally providing consultants and automation and overhaul?
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Where are you? Because obviously there are ongoing responsibilities at the INS.
Mr. STANA. Yes, they cannot stop what they are doing, obviously. Right now there are waiting rooms full of people
Ms. JACKSON LEE. I understand that.
Mr. STANA: [continuing]. Waiting for naturalization
Ms. JACKSON LEE. That is why I posed the question.
Mr. STANA: [continuing]. Or removal, or whatever.
But there are some interim steps that can be taken. I think learning from the mistakes of the past is important. For example, reviewing the experiences of Citizenship USA, would be instructivehow that was implemented, how that unfolded, and how the guidance and directives from on high were never implemented. Of the 24 locations that KMPG visited, 15 were not in compliance with the INS Commissioner's directives on how to proceed. Fifteen. Over half. That is just not acceptable.
Why does that happen? Well, the systems are not there to hold managers accountable, to make sure these directives are carried out.
Page 102 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. JACKSON LEE. So parallel to them continuing their work, we need to be implementing systems and adhere to them.
Mr. STANA. Yes. Whether that should come from a consultant, or whether it should come from a really tough examination of lessons learned, I don't have a recommendation. But I think that that really has to be the next step.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. And I appreciate you giving me an example. I know we have had some that come to mind.
Mr. STANA. Okay.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Bromwich, let me focus on personnel and thank you for your exploring that issue.
In your looking at various personnel productivity and activities, I did not hear you whether you said you found criminal violations, or fraud, or
Mr. BROMWICH. We certainly have. Yes, we have. We conduct both criminal and administrative investigations. We have most of our investigative caseload that is shouldered by approximately 150 criminal investigators
Ms. JACKSON LEE. In the INS system?
Mr. BROMWICH. In INS.
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Ms. JACKSON LEE. And
Mr. BROMWICH. And department-wide jurisdiction. But well over half of our work is in the Immigration Service.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. The light is on. Let me just quickly ask you this last question.
In finding it, was it out of ignorance or lack of training, or do you find a great conspiracy, if you will, of wrongdoing there than you might have found in other agencies?
Mr. BROMWICH. These are misconduct cases. These are corruption cases and violations of the law.
Our Investigations Division does not look at performance problems. I think those are very substantial issues in the agency. In addition to dealing with systems issues, you have to deal with people issues, and you really need to work on accountability.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. So these are actively engaged in this kind of behavior?
Mr. BROMWICH. The ones that we investigate, absolutely.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. More than any other agency?
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Mr. BROMWICH. Under my jurisdiction, yes.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. I thank the chairman.
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. Thank you, Ms. Jackson Lee.
The gentleman from California, Mr. Gallegly, is recognized.
Mr. GALLEGLY. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, and thank you for calling this hearing today. I apologize for coming in a little bit late, particularly because I wanted to hear Mr. Bromwich's statement, but I have read a good part of it. At this time of the year we always seem to have more balls in the air than we have hands to catch them.
But I would certainly like to echo my colleague and friend from Texas, Ms. Jackson Lee's statements, as it relates to you, Michael Bromwich.
In this business we meet a lot of very, very capable people, and occasionally we meet some that aren't very capable, but I can tell you without reservation that in my 12 1/2 years here I have never had the pleasure to deal with someone that I have anywhere near the level of respect that I have for the quality of work that you have done in an even-handed way under very difficult circumstances.
It is our country's loss from the government's standpoint to see you move on, but I know we all wish you well.
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Mr. BROMWICH. Thank you very much, Mr. Gallegly. I appreciate that.
Mr. GALLEGLY. I read part of your statement as it relates to the Merit Systems Protection Board, and I sense some real frustration.
For those that were not aware of what took place in Khrome, I happened to be the chairman that led the delegation on that trip. In fact, we had no idea what was going on. We thought that, boy, this has got to be the cleanest operation that ever was, only to find out that it was a real dog and pony show.
And, based on allegations from employees within the INS, we just sent the inquiry to the AG and subsequently met with you and, after seven or eight of your best investigators working the better part of a year, we found out some very interesting things.
The fact remainsand correct me if I am wrong as to some of the instances that took placebut basically there were allegations of lying to Congress, compromising the public safety by putting people that didn't even have health checks out into the community, some with criminal records, and doing it for the sole purpose of deceiving Members of Congress and the delegation that were there.
You had an investigation move forth, and after over a year there were some that were found tothe recommendation was to dismiss them totally, some to reduce them in rank, some to reduce their pay, some to have suspension without pay, and various other things.
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But what took place is that you did not even have cooperation as the Inspector General when you went down and asked for certain documents. They refused to give you the documentation that you asked for without a subpoena.
Then after you went to get the subpoena, during the course of the time while you were acquiring the subpoena, they made every attempt to destroy the documents by deleting things in their e-mail and their computers. But they were smartbut they weren't smart enough, because they had not purged the material and it took LOTUS or one of the software companies to go back and completely reconstruct their records.
But having said all this, and your findings and so on and so forth, and then one was terminated and some had all these penalties, the Merit Systems Board restored their, or reinstated their previous position across the board.
Now that is bad enough. But what did INS do? Did any of these folks get any promotions that were beyond what the Merit System Board provided bythe Merit System Board didn't require that they promote any of these people?
Mr. BROMWICH. Mr. Gallegly, that was a generally accurate summary of what happened. And as I think you may recall, some incarcerated aliens were sent to other facilities in order to make the facility that you and other members of the Task Force reviewed look like it was manageable and had a reasonable number of people.
And one of the reconstituted e-mails that we found, sent by a high-ranking camp administrator at the Khrome Detention Facility in Miami stated that those aliens had been moved, and the phrase was ''stashed out of sight for cosmetic purposes,'' talking about the people being moved.
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So you were generally accurate. I am not aware of what INS has done subsequently with respect to promoting or not promoting these people. My focus has been on what I view as the completely inadequate response by the Merit Systems Protection Board to clear evidence of wrongdoing by these employees.
The reason why I raised it in the context of this hearing is I am very concerned about a culture of accountability. I think that is necessary. I think that consistent with the things that Mr. Stana has said, and other Members have said so far, it is vital that people at all levels of the INS know and understand that if they engage in misconduct there will be consequences for that misconduct. They will be terminated, or they will be otherwise disciplined.
I am very concerned that the kind of outcomes we have in these cases that went before the Merit Systems Protection Board work against trying to create a culture of accountability in INS that I fear does not currently exist.
Mr. GALLEGLY. Mr. Chairman, I ask unanimous consent for one quick question
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. Please.
Mr. GALLEGLY: [continuing]. On the Merit Systems Protection Board.
Page 108 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC On the Merit System Board, would you please for the record let us know, is the Merit Systems Protection Board strictly to, their role, to be an advocate for anybody in the Federal Government like you would go out and hire a private lawyer to defend you even if you knew you were guilty of murder and their job was to get you off no matter what?
Mr. BROMWICH. It is a quasi-judicial panel, Mr. Gallegly. It is a quasi-judicial panel. It renders decisions based on arguments made by parties to a case.
In the case of the MSPB decisions, it was the Department of Justice seeking to sustain the disciplinary recommendations that had been made, and it was the individual employees seeking to reduce those or overturn those.
Mr. GALLEGLY. But in effect it is somewhat, at least in this case, a de facto advocacy board.
Mr. BROMWICH. The outcomes in these cases were very unsatisfactory.
Mr. GALLEGLY. Thank you, Mr. Bromwich.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. Thank you, Mr. Gallegly.
Ms. Lofgren, the gentlewoman from California, is recognized.
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Ms. LOFGREN. Thank you.
I would just like to echo the comments made by my colleagues, Mr. Bromwich. You look like a happy man today. [Laughter.]
Ms. LOFGREN. Going off to the private sector, and we all do wish you well and thank you for your years of service to your country
Mr. BROMWICH. Thank you.
Ms. LOFGREN. As I listened to your comments, this becomes, in a way I guess the issues become clearer to me. And the issues you are raising, Mr. Bromwich, are enormously important as to integrity and corruption. But they are not the bulk of the problems we face, and I think you would acknowledge that.
Mr. BROMWICH. I agree with that.
Ms. LOFGREN. Misconductand I can think of cases going back decades where temptation has gotten the better of an officer because people are so hungry to come to America, and bribes are accepted, and then they are caught and they are prosecuted and it is a terrible thing, but that is different than, you know, we walk into our Immigration office and there are hundreds of people, and nothing is happening, and the computers are down, and no one has been told, and people take off from work for their appointment, and the file is lost. That is not misconduct, but that is the sort of thing that our offices face and the public faces and that is so important to resolve.
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As I think through the bill that is before us, and looking at the Commissioner's recommendation on restructuring, I am struck, Mr. Stana, by your comment that the need not just to look at the gross structure but what is going to go on within the structure. Because instead of one dysfunctional agency, we could end up with two dysfunctional agencies unless we really take a look at what is going on internally.
I would add, and I guess I would ask you this question:
In addition to, if we do not deal with the accountability issues, and the clarity issues that you have addressed, we also could, if we created two agencies, end up with a coordination problem between the two that actually is even worse than one dysfunctional agency.
Would you agree with that?
Mr. STANA. Well, again, it would depend on how that was set up. I could think of advantages and disadvantages to doing it either way. So I would not dismiss one or the other structure out of hand simply because there is a coordination or a communication problem here, or there is a lack of clarity of objectives and mission.
But it does speak to the central point. I am glad that you picked up on it. That is, we have been through restructurings before.
Ms. LOFGREN. I remember.
Page 111 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. STANA. Two just in this decade, and if we don't fix these problems, you are going to see them again.
Ms. LOFGREN. I am wondering, looking at the distribution of work in the United Statesand the Commissioner has addressed that in her testimony and proposal, we have the District Director system that has been work us for many, many decades, but the problem with that that I see is that those districts were established a long time ago. They have basically not been adjusted for workload flow.
Putting aside the issue of coordination and accountability, just in terms of resource division it is very difficult to manage that.
The Commissioner has recommended kind of areas, looking at where is the work being generated, it is being generated primarily in certain parts of the country, and trying to adjust divisions that reflect that reality.
What do you think of that proposal?
Mr. STANA. If she is suggesting that she needs to move resources to better address work flows, she is exactly right.
We found in doing work on detention centers, and doing work in adjudication processes, that all too often people who are dealt with by INS in different geographical areas get an entirely different shake out of the system.
Page 112 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC If there is detention space in one location and not in another, a person may be detained or not detained.
Similarly, someone mentioned earlier that the naturalization processing times can be days, weeks, or months. It can go very quickly in some districts because the work flows are not as great, but there are, relatively speaking, more than enough resources to handle it, and in other locations the process is inordinately long. And yet the management action has not been taken to readjust those resource levels.
Ms. LOFGREN. We have 2- and 3-year waits for naturalization.
Mr. STANA. That is very difficult, and it blurs the line in the immigrant's mind between whether it is worth pursuing legal immigration or entering and staying illegally.
Ms. LOFGREN. Let me ask you one more question, and this may be a phenomena more experienced in Silicon Valley than other places, but part of having a good system is having employees that know what they are doing, and you don't just walk in through the door and know how to do it.
I mean, there is a training component and also an experience component.
We have tremendous vacancies, and we provide staff resources in some parts of the country. We can't fill the positions. Part of it is a morale issue, but part of it is a pay issue.
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I mean, when you are in Silicon Valley you can't hire anybody to do anything. I am wondering if you have taken a look at the salary adjustment issue for high-cost issues in the vacancy rate. Should we do something with salary and vacancy rates so that in areas like Silicon Valley we can actually hire somebody, train them, and keep them?
Mr. STANA. Well it is not just happening in Silicon Valley. We are doing some work for the Senate Immigration Subcommittee on the Border Patrol's ability to hire the thousand new agents a year that IIRIRA called for.
And whereas INS has been successful in hiring the agents the first couple of years, they are running into a real problem this year. One of the issues there is that the pool of people willing and able and qualified to do this sort of work is beginning to evaporate, or other agencies have already hired them.
Ms. LOFGREN. They are competing with police departments, too.
Mr. STANA. My point here is that the end of the career rainbow for the agents may be a GS9 position, and there is not much chance for growth beyond that. And while we all come into our jobs thinking we are the one that is going to get to the top, more often than not agents do not get beyond journeyman level pay, which is not very much. Even the entry-level pay needs to be looked at again.
But if we want to have a viable INS, or however we structure it, with the types of people we need to run it well, and the numbers of people we need to run it well, then I think we ought to put pay on the table.
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Ms. LOFGREN. Thank you.
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. Thank you, Ms. Lofgren.
The gentleman from Indiana, Mr. Pease, is recognized.
Mr. PEASE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Bromwich, I have not worked with you as much as the other folks here have, but I do want to say that your work and your person have inspired trust. I am grateful for your work, and I too am sorry to see you leaving.
Mr. BROMWICH. Thank you.
Mr. PEASE. I wish you the best.
Mr. BROMWICH. Thank you.
Mr. PEASE. I did not practiceI was not a practitioner in immigration law as Ms. Lofgren was, although in my prior role as general counsel for a university I did some immigration work.
My major recollection from that time was the frustration of delays and not knowing how long it was going to take to get something done, and frequently being told to do the same thing several times, and never at the end of all of it knowing why.
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After more than 2 years on this committee I say the same thing, and that is frustrating for me personally and professionally.
I am inclined, my instincts tell me, that a restructuring within the existing INS makes the most sense, but my frustration says I am tired of that.
I want to make sure that the emotional reaction that we all have to these frustrations does not overwhelm good sense about what we ought to be doing here.
So I want to try and focus on some of the specific problems and how we might address them.
Mr. Bromwich, you in your report talked about INS's problems with automated systems. You identified some problems in 1995, and you identified the same or related problems in 1998, and you did so again in 1999.
The INS is preparing to spend I think somewhere between $2.5 and $3 billion in the next few years on automation.
The question that comes to mind is. If we have consistently over all the years identified that as a problem within the agency, I assume with the same people or the same office administering it, what confidence do we have that this expenditure of $2.5 or $3 billion more is going to fix that problem?
Page 116 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. BROMWICH. We do not have a lot of confidence.
On the other hand, the need to upgrade and modernize this system is just so overwhelming that I do not see that we can stop those efforts and just say, no, we do not think the agency is going to be able to do it therefore we are not going to push ahead and do it.
There is really no alternativeno ability to pull back and say, no, we are going to go back to paper processing and so forth.
So it is not a satisfying answer, but the best that we can do, and the best that we will continue to do, is to continue to monitor these programs because of the amount of money at stake, and because of the importance of the programs for our country. And, to continue to work both with the Immigration Service and with you to try to improve these absolutely vital programs.
Mr. PEASE. Well are the same people, or the same office, working on automation now that did in 1995 when you issued your report, and in 1998 when you issued your report, and when you issued your report in 1999?
Mr. BROMWICH. I cannot speak to the individuals back in 1995. There has been some continuity recently. So there is the tension between accountability if things are not going wellthe sentiment that maybe we ought to get rid of those people.
On the other hand, what is so often lacking in INS is continuity and the ability to have people in place for some period of time where you can fairly hold them accountable for a tenure in their positions that makes sense.
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And so that is a veryit is a difficult balance to strike.
Mr. PEASE. Are there other units elsewhere in the Department of Justice that have tackled similar problems with automation that might be helpful in INS to address this problem?
Mr. BROMWICH. The problems in INS are at an order of magnitude different from what other components have faced.
There is some general overall overarching management assistance that is being provided on a continuing basis by the Justice Department's Justice Management Division.
It has the benefit of experience with hands-on participation in the problems that other Justice Department components have had. And so they are in a better position to be able to address that question than I am.
Mr. PEASE. Mr. Stana, do you have any thoughts on this subject?
Mr. STANA. We haven't done much work in the information systems area, but I do think one of the points he raised is worth amplifying. That is, there ought to be a way to let people know at every level exactly what they are responsible for, and then hold them accountable.
Time and again we have seen that that just does not happen.
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Mr. PEASE. Speaking of accountability, you pointed out even after your initial work, of a $41 million difference in the fund balances for last year. Can you tell us what is happening, what INS is doing to address that?
Mr. BROMWICH. There has been some improvement in terms of INS's responsiveness to the specific deficiencies that we have identified. I do not want to suggest that things are worse, or absolutely as bad as they were before. There has been some marginal improvement, and they do work to try to, in your example, reconcile those balances.
But unfortunately the problems are so grave, and there are so many that these marginal improvements really are not significant enough for us to have that be the overarching comment, ''Look how well they've done.'' That would not be to look reality squarely in the face.
Mr. PEASE. Thank you.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. Thank you, Mr. Pease.
The gentleman from Massachusetts, Mr. Frank, is recognized.
Mr. FRANK. Thank you.
Page 119 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. Bromwich, in your statement you talk about the Visa Waiver Program. One question I have is on the quote, ''We also found that the Visa Waiver Pilot Program visitors violate the non-immigrant status by staying beyond the allowed 90-day limit, but reliable data does not exist to gauge the extent of the problem.''
Is there any reason to think that is better or worse than overstays by people who have visas?
Mr. BROMWICH. I am not sure that there is, Mr. Frank. We issued a separate report on non-immigrant overstays generally, and so we have no data showing it is worse
Mr. FRANK. But there is no basis for saying that people who come in under the Visa Waiver Program overstay more than people who come under a visa?
Mr. BROMWICH. Not that I am aware of.
Mr. FRANK. And if you are not aware of it, Mr. Bromwich, I doubt if anybody is aware. [Laughter.]
Mr. FRANK. We will stipulate to your awareness. I appreciate that, because I am a strong supporter of the Visa Waiver Program, and I think we do have an overstay issue but it is not peculiar to that.
But that also gets to my point, which is. I think in fairness to the INS a good part of the problem is one that my colleague from Indiana alluded to when he said he would be trying as a counselor in a university to get decisions.
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Generally what happens is we pass very strict ruleswe here in the Congressand then we join private citizens in trying to get INS to make exceptions to these rules. And we are frustrated when INS does not make enough exceptions quickly enough.
Now that seems to me to be the dilemma, and we ought to recognize it. In virtually every case, I am sure what Mr. Pease was trying to do, what I try to do, what every one of us try to do, is to make exceptions.
Back then he hadn't voted for the things he was trying to make exceptions to[Laughter.]
Mr. FRANK. But we have people who, having voted for the 1996 act, now spend a good deal of INS's time trying to get them to make exceptions to it. And sometimes I think what we need to do, then, is to change the basic rules.
I was strucklet me ask. You were both asked to testify about this bill? Is that correct? Were you both asked to testify?
Mr. STANA. Not specifically about the bill, but about the
Mr. BROMWICH. My understanding was that this was to form a factual predicate for a subsequent hearing that would address the restructuring itself.
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Mr. FRANK. Okay, because I was struck that there was not really a reference to the bill in here.
Mr. BROMWICH. That was by design.
Mr. FRANK. I am still waiting for the evidence on the bill, because I think the issues really are not affected bylet me put it this way:
I think if we had two separate immigration offices over the years, people would not be in here asking to make it one, because I think structural change because a substitute for dealing with the real problems.
Let me ask you now, Mr. Bromwich, one important question I have. I would ask Mr. Stana, too, but you are a law enforcement person.
In 1996 we passed a very significant tightening of the aggravated felon rules, mainly by redefining aggravated felon and having that definition go retroactively, and the law purports to say ''without exception.'' This is, if you are in this category, it is automatic.
Some of us have felt that in individual cases this has produced harsh results. Some people have suggested that the fault here is not with the statute but with the INS because they enforce it too much.
We have had it suggested that where enforcement in strict terms of the 1996 act regarding deportation, automatic deportation of aggravated felons, where that is going to produce an unfair result, the INS could alleviate that simply by not enforcing that particular law in that particular case.
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I am wondering from theand I have had the INS people say to me, well, we really have a hard time doing that because we have got sworn law enforcement officials and it is kind of hard for us to say, hey, ignore that law in this case.
I am wondering what your take would be on that as a law enforcement technique.
Mr. BROMWICH. My take on that is that you can't ask a law enforcement person not to enforce the law.
Mr. FRANK. So that if the law is on the books and we think it is harsh, it is our job to alleviate it or give some flexibility. But the notion that the INS can simply say don't enforce it in these cases is a bad one?
Mr. BROMWICH. Yes. That is your job.
Mr. FRANK. Thank you. I agree with that, and I hope we will address that, because that has been put forward. Prosecutorial discretion, we call it.
I will yield to the gentlewoman.
Ms. LOFGREN. I would add in terms of the issue of visa overstays, which is now really beginning to be a crunch, I had a recent case that made the papers of the Martinez family, and Mrs. Martinez had overstayed her visitor's visawhich was not a good thing. I mean I am not defending that. But she and Ralph have a baby, and she went home to visit her dying father.
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She is facing a 10-year bar. Ralph doesn't even speak Spanish. He was going to try and move to Peru and make a living for his wife and children.
And I kept saying, that's not the Immigration Service's fault. We did that. And we need to allow some discretion where the result is really a great hardship to a U.S. citizen.
Mr. BROMWICH. Yes. Our work on non-immigrant overstays was simply trying to highlight that it is a very substantial share of the overall illegal immigration problem.
Mr. FRANK. By the way, I think that is a fair point.
One of my concerns has been I think when we in fact talked about eligibility for visa waiver, turndowns by the American Consul was not nearly as good a statistic as overstays.
We ought to be really focusing on overstays, because you have got an element of arbitrariness and the turndowns becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy, whereas overstays would be a much better one.
One other point, if I could just ask Mr. Bromwich to clarify again, in the case of what seemed to be quite egregious misbehavior on the part of INS officials in the incident Mr. Gallegly referred to, in the end the INS was seeking to impose good, appropriate discipline, and it was the Merit Systems Protection Board, independent of INS, which frustrated that?
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Mr. BROMWICH. Well, INS was actually not involved in recommending the discipline.
Mr. FRANK. Who recommended the discipline?
Mr. BROMWICH. Because the case involved senior people in INS
Mr. FRANK. Okay, so it was sort of
Mr. BROMWICH: [continuing]. They withdrew and the Justice Management Division in fact made the recommendation on discipline.
Mr. FRANK. So this is a case then where it wasso INS is not involved one way or the other.
Mr. BROMWICH. Correct.
Mr. FRANK. They are not culpable on the discipline thing. The senior people were exonerated or basically let off easy by the Merit Systems Protection Board, which is the old Civil Service Commission.
Mr. BROMWICH. Correct.
Page 125 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. GALLEGLY. Would the gentleman yield?
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. We are going to need to try to squeeze in Mr. Canady's questions before the break is the only concern I had, but
Mr. FRANK. Well it is your choice. You can either squeeze Mr. Canady, or yield to Mr. Gallegly. [Laughter.]
Mr. FRANK. I will defer to the chairman.
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. Let me recognize the gentleman from Florida, Mr. Canady, and I am sure he might yield to the gentleman from California for a minute.
Mr. CANADY. I thank the chairman.
I want to thank both the witnesses, and I will be happy to yield in a moment to my colleague from California.
I did want to ask a question about an issue that my District office staff has brought to my attention, and I apologize if you addressed this before I arrived.
Mr. Stana, have you looked at the use of contract employees by INS and the impact that has on the effectiveness of the functioning?
Mr. STANA. No, we have not looked at that specifically.
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Mr. CANADY. Because it has been suggested to me by my staff that there is an over-use of contract employees, which makes it difficult for the agency to perform with the effectiveness that it might otherwise perform if they had more permanent employees.
And at least in some offices, most of the employees are contract employees. I would just suggest that I think that that is an issue that we should focus on to see what impact that might have.
Let me just bring this to the micro level. I do not have the answers to all these problems, but just to give you an example and to give the members of the subcommittee an example of the kind of things that my office experiences, which I am sure is similar to the experience of other Members, we have had some of our constituents who have received appointment letters from the INS to appear in the Tampa office for a citizenship interview.
The applicants show up. They go to Tampa, as instructed by the INS. When they arrive there at the appointed hour, they are told that the interview cannot take place at that time in Tampa because the Tampa office has not received the applicant's file from the Texas office.
Now this is going on on a recurring basis. We call to find out what can be done. We talk to the Service Center in Texas. And so far we have not really received an assurance that that kind of problem will not just continue taking place.
Page 127 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Well this is just mind boggling. That is a discrete problem. You think, well, someone can focus on this. Someone can figure out how we can get the files to the offices on time.
I just profess to being mystified. I understand that there are an enormous number of problems here, but the way you deal with enormous numbers of problems is to tackle them one problem at a timeat least that is part of dealing with the situationand that we cannot get an answer that is satisfactory that shows someone is tryingnow I am not saying they're not trying. I should withdraw that. But that they cannot figure out how to deal with what seems to me to be a relatively manageable issue is very troubling.
Mr. STANA. Yes. That is something that INS has had trouble with for years, and years, and years, and I don't know why it persists.
I know there have been directives on how to process the applications, and how to get the fingerprint checks done, and who is supposed to be staying on top of this, but it just is one of those problems that for one reason or another just hasn't been resolved.
It is time for INS to lay out what has to be done and hold somebody accountable for doing it. It shouldn't persist. And someone saying that they're part of the INS bureaucracy and the problems are somebody else's fault just isn't good enough.
Mr. CANADY. Well let me now yield to the gentleman from California, Mr. Gallegly.
Page 128 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. GALLEGLY. Thank you very much, Mr. Canady.
I would just like to say to Mr. Frank, you had a very good question. It was right on point as it related to the respective roles of the IG, the INS, and the Merit Protection Board.
As Mr. Bromwich said, it was the IG that made the recommendation because of the level of these folks, but the interesting part is that after the Merit Protection Board had reversed all of these decisions, it would be very interesting to go back and look and see what INS has since done with these employees.
In fact, one that was guilty, clearly guilty of one of the most egregious violations was promoted to Acting Regional Director and, had it not been for a lot of hell raising by certain Members of this Congress, he would probably have been promoted again.
So the INS really, the way they responded was to promote rather than to
Mr. FRANK. Mr. Chairman, in the absence of Mr. Canady could I get 30 seconds of his time?
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. He is not here to yield the time, but we will recognize the gentleman from Massachusetts.
Mr. FRANK. I appreciate the gentleman's clarifying that, and I think that is relevant.
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The only other point I wanted to make and I had forgotten wasand Mr. Bromwich mentioned the Visa Waiver Program and highlighted the difficulties with the Visa Waiver Programto get the role straight, I want to make it very clear.
The Visa Waiver Program was hardly something that the INS wanted, and in fact the most recent action we took on the Visa Waiver Program was over the objections of several people.
We may have brought the chairman and the INS together for once on this. Congress expanded the Visa Waiver Program. So I cite that as an example of our role in this. We expanded it.
I am done. I brag about that once a week back home, so I have no problem with that. [Laughter.]
Mr. FRANK. But to the extent there are problems administering the Visa Waiver Program, we did that because we expanded it without any great enthusiasm from INS.
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. Thank you, Mr. Frank.
Before we recess for 15 minutes to go catch this vote, Mr. Frank I appreciate your comments on your concern about the visa overstayers, and I trust that will mean you will support Section 110 which gives us an entry-exit system.
Page 130 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. FRANK. I am for checking all overstays, not singling out visa waiver. But I do think we should be looking atI think ''overstay'' is a better word.
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. I do, too.
Mr. FRANK. And as I said when we debated it, in terms of eligibility for a visa waiver, it should not be turned down by the Consulate. It should be overstay.
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. The focus should be on all overstays. We agree on that.
I thank our panelists on the first panel, Mr. Bromwich and Mr. Stana, for your testimony here today.
When we get back from this 15-minute recess, we will begin with our second panel.
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. I am going to introduce all but one member of this panel, because I am going to turn to my colleague, the gentleman from Michigan, Mr. Hoekstra, to recognize and introduce someone here from his office. But let me introduce the others.
Page 131 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. Ernesto Hernandez, accompanied by Kay Leslie Ackman; Margarita Muzzall, accompanied by her husband Jim Muzzall; Jean Campbell, District Director, Office of the Honorable Dick Armey; Elizabeth Vuna, Director of Constituent Services, Office of the Honorable Stephen Horn; and John Wood, Constituent Liaison, Office of the Honorable Bob Clement.
The gentleman from Michigan is recognized.
STATEMENT OF HON. PETER HOEKSTRA, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF MICHIGAN
Mr. HOEKSTRA. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
First I would like to just thank you for the way that you are approaching these hearings and welcoming people in from our district offices to testify, and that is why I would like to introduce Bea Mancilla. She is a district representative in my office, and she spends every day all day working with Department of Immigration. And over the last year has also taken the lead for the Conference in gathering input from other district representatives around the country on problems and opportunities that we face on the immigration issue.
So thank you very much for inviting her to be a part of this panel today.
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. Thank you, Mr. Hoekstra. That went so nicely, I wish we had more Members to introduce more people from their offices.
But let me thank you all again. As I mentioned to the Congressman, and as we were walking over from the vote, this is a wonderfully informative day of panels, because we do not hear often enough from real people who deal with the real situations and the real problems of the INS.
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You all have compelling stories, and today is more of a day of listening as far as I am concerned than of asking questions because you all have great tales to tell.
With that we will begin, and Mr. Hernandez you will be the first to testify.
STATEMENT OF ERNESTO HERNANDEZ
Mr. HERNANDEZ. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and members of the subcommittee.
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. If you will, pull the microphone a little closer.
Mr. HERNANDEZ. Closer?
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. Yes, please. Thank you. Right up close to your mouth.
Mr. HERNANDEZ. My name is Ernesto Hernandez. Thank you for asking me to come here to tell you about my situation with INS.
For 2 years I have been trying to finish my application for adjustment of status, but still INS has not made a decision and has not told me where I stand and what I should do to get my permanent residency.
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I have asylum, but INS cannot find a way to adjust my status. So my case is stuck at INS.
My wife and I have to deal with lawyers and other people such as the principal at my wife's school, who make money because INS keeps us from getting our permanent status.
My father was born in Nicaragua. He went to the Soviet Union to study and to be an economist. He met my mother and, in 1976, I was born in the Soviet Union.
When the Sandanistas came to power, my father was called back to Nicaragua. He was afraid to go, since he was known to disagree with the Sandinistas.
My paternal grandfather had been thrown in a Nicaraguan jail for political opposition. My father feared persecution in Nicaragua and asked for asylum in the United States. He asked for asylum for me, too, and it was granted.
When my father left the Soviet Union, I was 11 years old. I couldn't come with him to the United States at the time. I stayed behind with my mother, who is Jewish and the daughter of a well-known Jewish writer who was persecuted in the Soviet Union for his writings.
I suffered persecution in Russia because my name is Hernandez, a non-Russian name, and because I am Jewish.
Page 134 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC My father became a United States citizen and I came to the United States in 1996 to join him. I was given a work permit because I have asylum. After being here for 3 1/2 months, I get my first job and began paying taxes. I also attended school.
I knew immediately that I would become an American citizen and I checked with INS about every aspect of my application so that my citizenship case would go well. This was always the most important thing to me.
Unfortunately, my immigration case has become a nightmare. As an asylee, I was told to wait 1 year, then to apply for adjustment of status. I waited.
With the passage of 1 year, I turned 21. Nobody told me that had any significance. I was told by INS to take a medical exam for my adjustment.
However, I had already taken the same exam because it was required by U.S. in order for me to leave Russia. INS was wrong. I did not need to take that exam again. I was wrongly forced to pay for a medical examination and to take shots I had already taken.
Before I filed my adjustment application, I went to the Arlington, Virginia, INS office with my father and Marina, who was my girl friend. We spent over 3 hours waiting and, when they finally called me, I asked them whether or not it would hurt my adjustment case were I to get married.
INS told me that I could get married and it would not affect my adjustment application. So I got married. I wanted to get married before filing since INS told me that if I were married I could include my new wife on my adjustment application.
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I brought the written application to INS and they reviewed the application while I waited. I asked if there was any problem with the application. They saw my name, my wife's name, and said my application was fine. I paid the fee and left.
I was scheduled for an adjustment interview. When the interview was over, the examiner said she didn't know whether or not I was eligible for permanent residency because I was married.
I was shocked, since I had checked this in advance. She said she did not know. She said she would check with people higher up in INS and call me. She never called.
I called her many, many times. My father called, too. We left messages. Again and again, none of our calls were returned.
After 6 months of trying to get an answer, I hired a lawyer. I was tired of waiting and tired of rude people telling me that nobody knows anything.
I was tired of getting different information every time I asked.
The lawyer told me that he knows everybody at INS and, because he is insider and knows people, he can help. INS did talk to him. Within 7 minutes, he talked to the lady I had been trying to reach for 6 months.
When the lawyer asked about my case, she said she has to check with someone else to give the correct answer. After 2 months, she called my lawyer to say she needs more time to give the answer. She needs to talk to someone higher up in INS.
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But the lawyer never got an answer about how I can adjust my status from asylee to permanent resident. He told me I should get divorced and reapply.
After another year of waiting for INS to respond, my lawyer suggested that I apply for asylum again, although I already have an asylum. I should apply on my own, not with my father.
He filed an asylum application for me stating that I fear persecution in Nicaragua. This was my father's trouble, but I am from Russia and I have never been to Nicaragua.
The lawyer did this because someone in INS told him that my asylum application was the means INS had decided to use to complete my adjustment case. But INS scheduled a hearing for me at the asylum office.
I hired a new lawyer who told me she has no insider's information and no secret phone numbers from people at INS. She came with me to my asylum hearing. The INS did not have my file because it was an adjustment of status file. They wanted to postpone my case to wait for my file to arrive, but I didn't want another postponement. The INS officer said he could use the documents that my lawyer had brought along to learn about my case.
Now we are trying to get information from two offices of the INS, the adjustment office and the asylum office. Everybody in asylum office says they don't know anything about adjustment, and everybody in adjustment says they don't know anything about asylum.
Page 137 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In both places, the INS offices continue to say they need advice from people higher up in INS. They say no decision has been made. My case is on hold.
I have had trouble with my vacation because of INS mistakes. When I applied for college I told them I had asylum, but INS could not verify this because they lost my A-number. Finally, INS found my number and I was able to go to school.
My wife was supposed to get a renewal of her work authorization, which is based on economic hardship. INS said it would take 60 to 90 days to process her application. She has been waiting over 4 months and she still has not gotten it. I have tried to call INS many times but I couldn't reach anybody who was responsible for her case.
My wife and I feel constant pressure because our future is uncertain. Everything we do is directly affected by INS, and INS is not dependable. It is difficult to imagine all the problems INS has caused for me and my family.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Hernandez follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF ERNESTO HERNANDEZ
My name is Ernesto Hernandez. Thank you for asking me to come here to tell you about my situation with INS. For two years I have been trying to finish my application for adjustment of status, but still INS has not made a decision and has not told me where I stand and what I should do to get my green card. I have asylum, but INS can not find a way to adjust my status. So, my case is stuck at INS. My wife and I have to deal with lawyers and other people, such as the principal at my wife's school, who make money because INS keeps us from getting our permanent status.
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My father was born and educated in Nicaragua. He went to the Soviet Union to study and to be an economist. He met my mother and, in 1976, I was born in the Soviet Union. When the Sandinistas came to power, my father was called back to Nicaragua. He was afraid to go, since he was known to disagree with the Sandinistas. My paternal grandfather had been thrown in a Nicaraguan jail for political opposition. My father feared persecution in Nicaragua and asked for asylum in the United States. He asked for asylum for me too and it was granted. When my father left the Soviet Union, I was eleven years old. I couldn't come with him to the United States at the time. I stayed behind with my mother, who is Jewish and the daughter of a well-known Jewish writer, who was persecuted in the Soviet Union for his writings. I suffered persecution in Russia because my name is Hernandez, a non-Russian name, and because I am Jewish.
My father became a United States citizen and I came to the United States in 1996 to join him. I was given a work permit because I have asylum. After being here for 3 1/2 months, I got my first job and began paying taxes. I also attended school. I worked 5060 hours a week, while attending school full-time.
I knew immediately that I would become an American citizen and I checked with INS about every aspect of my application, so that my citizenship case would go well. This was always the most important thing to me. When I left Russia, the Russian government took my internal passport, which means that I cannot return to Russia. I wouldn't be allowed work there; I wouldn't be allowed to go to school; and I wouldn't be permitted to live any place. I have an international passport. But, when I came here with asylum, my bond to Russia was broken. I am committed to this country.
Page 139 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Unfortunately, my immigration case has become a nightmare. As an asylee, I was told to wait one year, then to apply for adjustment of status. I waited. With the passage of one year, I turned 21. Nobody told me that had any significance. I was told by INS to take a medical exam for my adjustment. I already had taken the same exam, because it was required by the U.S. in order for me to leave Russia. INS was wrong; I did not need to take that exam again. I was wrongly forced to pay $450 and to take shots I had already taken. It was a huge amount of money for me.
Before I filed my adjustment application, I went to the Arlington, Virginia INS office with my father and Marina, who was my girl friend. We spent over 3 hours waiting and, when they finally called me, I asked them whether or not it would hurt my adjustment case were I to get married. INS told me that I could get married and it would not effect my adjustment application. So I got married. I wanted to get married before filing, since INS told me thatif I were marriedI could include my new wife on my adjustment application. I brought the written application to INS and they reviewed the application while I waited. I asked if there was any problem with the application. They saw my name, my wife's name and said my application was fine. I paid $70 and left.
I was scheduled for an adjustment interview. When the interview was over, the examiner said she didn't know whether or not I was eligible for a green card because I was married. I was shocked, since I had checked this in advance. She said she did not know. She said she would check with people higher up in INS and call me. She never called me. I called her many, many times. My father called too. We left messages. Again and again. None of our calls were returned.
Page 140 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC After six months of trying to get an answer, I hired a lawyer. I was tired of waiting and tired of rude people telling me that nobody knows anything. I was tired of getting different information every time I asked. This lawyer told me that he knows everybody at INS and, because he is an insider and knows people, he can help me. He also charged me a lot of money because he knew I couldn't even get INS to return my phone calls. INS did talk to him. Within seven minutes, he talked to the lady I had been trying to reach for six months.
When the lawyer asked about my case, she said she has to check with someone else to get the correct answer. After two months, she called my lawyer to say she needs more time to get the answer. She needed to talk to someone higher-up in INS. That lawyer wrote letter after letter to INS, but received no response concerning my case.
We never got an answer about how I can adjust my status from asylee to permanent resident. The lawyer told me I should get divorced and reapply. After another year of waiting for INS to respond, my lawyer suggested that I apply for asylum again, although I already have asylum. I should apply on my own, not with my father. He filed an asylum application for me stating that I fear persecution in Nicaragua. This was my father's trouble, but I'm from Russia and I've never been to Nicaragua. The lawyer did this because someone in INS told him that my asylum application was the means INS had decided to use complete my adjustment case. But INS scheduled a hearing for me at the asylum office.
I hired a new lawyer, who told me she has no insider's information and no secret phone numbers from people at INS. I hired her anyway. She came with me to my asylum hearing. The INS did not have my file, because it was an adjustment of status file. They wanted to postpone my case to wait for my file to arrive. But I didn't want another postponement. The INS officer said he could use the documents that my lawyer had brought along to learn about my case.
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Now we are trying to get information from two offices at INS, the adjustment office and the asylum office. Everybody in asylum says they don't know anything about adjustment and everybody in adjustment says they don't know anything about asylum. An INS official in the asylum office said I could never lose my asylum status, my problem is only how to adjust. Another person in the same office called later to say, I never had asylum and I won't get it unless they approve my new application. When advice comes from INS, it is always contradictory.
In both places, the INS officers continue to say they need advice from people higher-up in INS. They say no decision has been made. My case is on-hold.
I've had trouble with my education because of INS mistakes. When I applied to Northern Virginia Community College, I told them I had asylum. But INS could not verify this, because they lost my A-number. Finally, INS found my number and I was able to go to school.
My wife was supposed to get a renewal of her work authorization, which is based on economic hardship. INS said it would take 6090 days to process her application. She has been waiting 4 months and she still hasn't gotten it. I've tried to call INS, many times, but I couldn't reach anybody who was responsible for her case.
My wife and I feel constant pressure because our future is uncertain. Everything we do is directly affected by INS. And INS is not dependable. It is difficult to imagine all the problems INS has caused for me and my family.
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PREPARED STATEMENT OF KAY LESLIE ACKMAN, ATTORNEY
Thank you for permitting me to submit this prepared statement to the House Committee on the Judiciary for the July 29, 1999 hearing on H.R. 2528 the ''Immigration Reorganization and Improvement Act of 1999'' at the Subcommittee on Immigration and Claims.
Through its laws, the American Citizenry extends its hand and hospitality to many people from foreign lands. Our laws govern the etiquette of bringing people into our country. These laws must be administered in a way that demonstrates the country's desire to provide a welcome place. Unfortunately, INS fails to do this. Inexcusably, a legal immigration applicant in the clutches of INS is forced to feel like a refugee; that is, like a person without hope.
I submit summaries of four cases, illustrative the of INS's failure to properly administer our laws and to properly demonstrate American ideals. I believe that most INS cases suffer these failures. Should Committee member request additional documentation of these cases, I can make it available.
The first case is that of Ernesto Hernandez, who will make a 5 minute oral presentation before you this morning.
1) INS provides misinformation to applicants then fails to rectify the problems they've created. INS is secretive concerning its process for adjudicating applications and refuses to correspond with applicants.
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Case in Point, Ernesto Hernandez:
The INS Arlington Office provided unreliable information to the detriment of Ernesto Hernadez, who came to this country under a grant of asylum. When he inquired about the effect his pending marriage would have on his adjustment application, he was told marriage would not harm his application. This misinformation caused his case to take an administrative tail-spin. When Mr. Hernadez tried to straighten-out the legal quagmire, INS stone-walled. Nobody would talk to him. He left messages, nobody would answer. He hired an attorney who knows the insiders at INS. (It is rumored that the only way to get something accomplished is to know somebody at INS.) That attorney's phone calls were promptly answered, but no action was taken on Mr. Hernandez' case. He hired another attorney, who has no INS connections. Mr. Hernandez is before you today because INS refused to give his new attorney the name and telephone number of someone in ''Headquarters'' who would review his case. Perhaps this Congressional Committee can get a telephone number for Mr. Hernandez. In addition to INS' information deficit, INS officials seem to fear ''stepping up to the plate'' and making a decision on Mr. Hernandez' case. An INS official in Arlington stated that ''too many people'' have already looked at this case, so she can't make a decision about it. She is ''trying to get permission'' to send his case to Headquarters so a disposition can be obtained. When his attorney asked ''Who at Headquarters will take this case and what is that person's phone number?'' the INS official replied that she's been told not to give out that information. The attorney contacted this Subcommittee in an effort to obtain what appears to be top-secret INS information: an INS telephone directory. Within the past day, INS has called Mr. Hernandez' attorney with twists and turns and false computer entries, all of which ended in another call this morning which stated that the Hernandez case is ''on hold again'' while INS attempts to get guidance from Headquarters.
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2) INS deportation functions have a chilling effect on a legal applicant's ability to obtain immigration benefits.
Case in Point, Julio Motta:
Mr. Motta came to this country legally in the 1980's from Guatemala. He applied for asylum and suspension of deportation and for special NACARA relief. He was denied asylum and suspension due to his lack of ''extreme hardship.'' He appealed the denials and his case was before the BIA. The BIA failed to answer his emergency petition to act on his NACARA motion. But, Mr. Motta was granted permission to remain in the country under Hurricane Mitch relief provisions. The BIA denied his appeal and Mr. Motta's case went to the deportation office. Mr. Motta voluntarily returned to Guatemala to protect his legal status, when the deportation officer hinted to Mr. Motta that he could be in trouble, even though he had an active NACARA application. After Mr. Motta arrived in Guatemala, INS sent him a notice stating that he had been deported. He had not been deported. Mr. Motta did not want to abandon his NACARA application and did so only because the deportation office hinted, but would not make an out-right ruling, that Mr. Motta should voluntarily leave the country. The INS has failed to answer Mr. Motta's request to be permitted to return to the United States.
3) INS workers have developed an insensitivity, which threatens to render INS incapable of properly administering regulations and laws concerning humanitarian relief and determinations of hardship.
Case in Point, Oscar Quinteros:
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Mr. Quinteros has been in the U.S. since the 1980's. He entered the United States from El Salvador without inspection, applied for asylum, and later, applied for suspension of deportation. All his years here, he has demonstrated responsibility and hard work; he has been an exemplary father, who is highly respected in his community.
Among the issues INS was supposed to consider at Mr. Quinteros' suspension hearing was a determination of ''extreme hardship.'' Two years ago Mr. Quinteros' wife and two of their young children tragically died in a drowning accident in while the family was picnicing near a Virginia reservoir. This tragedy brought Mr. Quinteros' Northern Virginia community together in grief and mourning. When this incident was cited as part of the ''extreme hardship'' to Mr. Quinteros and his only surviving child, the INS attorney, Sui Wong, stated that, since the other family members had died, she views the family hardship as diminished. Fewer people, she said, will suffer if Mr. Quinteros is deported. Only he and his surviving first-grader daughter will suffer from losing their home and their weekly visits to the graves of their lost family members.
4) INS officials are rude and disrespectful.
Case in Point: D. V.:
Ms V. is an 86 year old Holocaust survivor, the sole surviving member of her immediate family who came to this country as an asylee from the former Soviet Union. She was unable to learn English due to severe mental disabilities and applied for a disability waiver. She was notified of her appointment with an INS officer, who was identified by initial only. While at the Baltimore office of INS, she was treated rudely and her application for a medical waiveralthough perfectly legal and properly executedwas denigrated by the INS officer, who raised questions about medical procedures, which he could was not qualified to ask. This put her Ms. V. needless fear and caused her extreme emotional distress. During the hearing, Ms. V. overheardin the next cubicleanother naturalization applicant crying and pleading and suffering at the hands of an INS officer, who was screaming at them. Merely overhearing this exchange was a kind of torture to Ms. V.
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There is a large body of anecdotal evidence that Naturalization hearings cause major health problems in elderly applicants, particularly applicants for medical disability waivers.
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. Thank you, Mr. Hernandez.
STATEMENT OF MARGARITA MUZZALL
Ms. MUZZALL. Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, thank you for giving us the opportunity to speak to you today.
We have come today to express our concern and frustration with respect to the long, uncertain, and seemingly never-ending dealings and process of becoming a permanent resident.
When Jim and I met in 1996, I was on an F1 visa studying at George Mason University and he was working for the government.
We got married in January of '98 and soon after we returned from our honeymoon we began our ordeal of becoming a permanent resident.
Page 147 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In our written statement you can see the details of the long process that we have gone through, and I wanted to take this opportunity to relate to you how this has affected our personal life.
One of the first tangible effects of the INS inefficiency I experienced was last summer. Once I finished my degree at George Mason I began my job search. Shortly after, I began negotiations with one of the ''big six'' consulting firms, but since I could not give them any assurance as to when my permanent residency would be granted, the firm withdrew its offer.
The situation made me feel very hopeless. I had worked hard in school to become a good candidate for employment, but this was beyond my reach. I felt that I was trapped in an overwhelming maze.
I also wanted you to know that this did not only affect me, but to that firm also. Since the company could not hire the candidate it had found fit for that position, they still had to continue their hiring process.
But beyond the inconvenience of requesting forms and dealing with conflicting and erroneous information, obtaining the medical clearance and assembling the application package, one of the major hardships we have had to live with is uncertainty.
Uncertainty as to my ability to go home and see my family. The last time I saw my family was a year-and-a-half ago on my wedding. Since then, because of the INS's lack of response and information, I have not been able to tell my mother when I'll come to visit her.
Page 148 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I fear that if I leave the United States I will not be able to return, since I am no longer a student, the INS has many of my documents and, given our experience thus far, we have no confidence that the INS's data bases are current enough to know the status of my application.
Thus, I don't know if I'll be able to come home for Christmas this year, next year, or the year after that.
According to Jim's inquiries, the INS office in Arlington is processing forms from February 1998, but only naturalization forms, and therefore they might get to our type of application no sooner than February of 2000.
We also have to deal with uncertainty with respect to our decisions for the future. I did well in my undergraduate degree and recently obtained scores in the GMAT good enough to go to almost any business school in the country. But since we have no idea when my residency application will be processed, we cannot adequately make financial plans for this possibility.
It is a heavy burden to know that we will have to continue dealing with the INS for several more years. We want to obey the law, but the broken and inefficient way the INS functions makes it very difficult.
It makes it difficult because even when we follow instructions given by the INS, we cannot be sure that our application will be accepted.
Page 149 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC For instance, we can download forms from the INS Web Site, but they are of no use to us because the INS requires that the forms be in the same color paper they have made them.
If this was not enough, no part of the downloadable forms indicates these requirements, nor says what color they should be. Therefore, we are forced to take time away from work to go to a district office to obtain the forms, or wait more than 6 weeks to receive them in the mail.
If the process was complicated but made some sense, it would be more bearable, but the process doesn't make any sense. Even after reading several INS publications and pamphlets, I still don't know when I will be able to apply for my naturalization.
According to the information received, first I will have a conditional permanent residency for 2 years. Before those 2 years are up, I will have to file a petition to remove the conditional status. Otherwise, the INS will initiate a deportation process.
The thing is that there is no way of knowing if those 2 years, and the over year-and-a-half that has gone by since our wedding will count toward the 3- to 5-year requirement to apply for naturalization. The process has no logic to it, and it is inconsistent.
In the INS publication, A Guide To Naturalization, some customer service standards are outlined for both applicants and INS staff members.
We have read all the pertinent information. We have treated the INS representatives with dignity, and we have followed instructions, and we have provided all the information requested. We have done what is required of us.
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The guide also says that the applicant should expect the INS staff to be knowledgeable. Unfortunately, our experience has been the opposite. Each time we have gotten in touch with an INS representative, after many phone calls, we end up with very little general information and none specific to our application.
The applicant should expect the process to be fair, consistent, and timely. The notice of receipt of our application said it took 90 to 180 days to process them. It has been over a year since we sent them in and still have no answer.
The applicant should expect the information to be accurate and readily available. It has taken numerous phone calls, two inquiries by Congresswoman Morella, and one by Congressman Wolf's office for us to obtain only general information on the processing of our application. I don't think this fits within the ''readily available'' guidelines.
We are here because after over a year of dealing with the INS, we are frustrated, concerned about other people, and we hope that something can be done to make the INS work.
We both have access to sources of information and the ability to do research online, but what ifas is the case of a large portion of the applicantsour English wasn't very fluent, or if we had limited access to information?
Only because of Jim's persistence in getting answers is it that we have someand please note that I am saying ''some''idea of what is going on.
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We feel for all the other applicants that face this mountain of uncertainty and have no recourse to help them. We are counting on you to make the case for us so that the INS can be more efficient.
Millions of applicants and thousands of employees are counting on you to make their lives better.
Again, we thank you for this opportunity to talk to you.
[The prepared statement of Margarita and Jim Muzzall follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF MARGARITA AND JIM MUZZALL
Mr. Chairman, Members of the Subcommittee on Immigration and Claims, thank you for giving us the opportunity to describe to you our experiences in attempting to obtain permanent resident status through the INS. We are the Muzzall family, Jim and Margarita. We come to you as two people who have paid $335 dollars to the INS for a service that we have not received, and have no idea when we will.
In April of 1996, we met at a church dance. Margarita was a student on an F1 visa at George Mason University, and Jim was working for the government. A month later we started dating, and on January 2, 1998, we were married during the summer in her home country of Chile. As soon as we got back from our honeymoon and settled into married life, we began our ordeal of attempting to obtain permanent residency.
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Margarita spent nearly two full days searching through the phone books, making phone calls, being directed to another number, and then making more calls to find out what was required of us to apply for residency and to order the forms that we needed from the INS. The forms arrived about six weeks later, incomplete, but enough with which we could begin working. We worked a few months obtaining medical clearance for Margarita, getting the rest of the forms, and compiling all the data necessary to complete the forms.
On June 22, 1998, the INS received our forms for processing, telling us on the notice that we could expect a decision between 90 and 180 days later. Soon after, Margarita finished her degree in finance with honors, and began her job search. One of her first job offers was from a ''Big 6'' consulting firm, but was later turned down because we could not give them a definitive answer about her status. Later she found another good job at a bank, but we had already begun experiencing hard consequences of the INS's inefficiency.
About four months later, since we had not received any notice of action, Jim began trying to obtain information about the status of our application from the customer support number in St. Albans, Vermont. After trying, approximately 17 times, and after waiting, on average, about 8 minutes, he finally spoke with an agent who told him that the process was experiencing a backlog. The agent could not tell him where our application was in the process, and was not willing to describe the actual process. For us, the received information was of no value and could have been far more inexpensively placed on their web site, or left as a message on their help line.
Unsatisfied with the INS's answer, Jim asked Congresswoman Morella's office to inquire where our applications were in the process, and to ask if there were any provisions for speeding the applications through the process based on Jim's employment with the government. The INS did not respond to Congresswoman Morella's first request, but at the second request, they wrote back saying that they were processing applications from December 1997. It was December of 1998.
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We were frustrated and concerned. Margarita's permit for practical work training expired in May of 1999, and we were unsure of what our next step should be. If she did not receive her temporary permanent resident status, we did not know what her status would be. None of the agents on the help line could give us an answer. We were fearful that she would become an illegal alien, hurting our chances for obtaining her residency and potentially damaging Jim's career as well. Were it not for the assistance of a former INS associate director who Jim knew, we probably still would not know her status, and Margarita would have become an illegal alien, despite our best efforts to obey the laws.
The former associate director connected us with some people inside the INS who could answer our questions. They told us that Margarita could apply for an extension of her work authorization, and that we had to apply within about two weeks to be guaranteed that the application would be processed before her authorization expired. Margarita ordered the forms from the INS, but never received them. As a result, Jim had to take time from work to go to the INS in Arlington, Virginia, to obtain the forms. We are thankful, at least, that they processed her form within about a month, and that she has an authorization that lasts until May 2000.
In March of this year, we received notice that our original application was passed from St. Albans to Arlington for further processing. Jim called the number on the notice for the district office in Arlington, and, though he was unable to get any exact information about Margarita's application, the message said that applications like ours took several months to process. This made no sense to us. We had already been waiting nine months. Did this mean that we had to wait six more?
Page 154 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Since we had moved from Maryland to Virginia, we asked Congressman Wolf's office in June to inquire about our status. We learned from that inquiry that the INS in Arlington was processing forms from February of 1998, but they were only processing naturalization forms to alleviate that backlog. The kind staffer who made the inquiry for us ventured to say that they might get to our application in February of 2000, but she could not say for certain.
Now, again, we are in limbo. We have no way of knowing when our application will be processed, what the outcome will be, and what effects the delays will have on our next steps.
This process is very frustrating and damaging to our lives. Margarita has no idea when she will be able to go home to see her mother because we have no confidence that the INS databases are current enough to know her application status so that she could come back into the country if she left. Margarita has scored highly enough on the GMAT and has done well enough in school that she could go to almost any business school in the country. Since we have no idea when her application will be processed, however, we cannot adequately make financial plans for the possibility. We must both live with the burden that we have several more years of working in the broken, inefficient processes of the INS before we are finally through.
PROBLEMS WE HAVE EXPERIENCED
Let me give you a few examples of things we cannot make sense of, and then let us give you a few examples that we think would make the immigration process better for both applicants and INS. With our appearance here today, Mr. Chairman, we are hoping you will bring better service, efficiency, and clarity to the INS through HR 2528.
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First, we have made every effort to obey the law, but the INS system works against us. Information is inadequate, conflicting, incorrect, and sometimes difficult to understand, even for two fluent English speakers. Imagine how people that have a little trouble speaking English must feel. We've struggled for over a year and a half to follow the right procedures, but without personal intervention of several officials we would be absolutely lost. Shouldn't the INS be encouraging us to obey the law?
Second, though the INS has forms available for download from the Internet, we are hesitant to use them because of the seemingly illogical requirement of using the exact color of paper that the INS uses for forms. To complicate matters, they do not even tell you what color the form should be. In other words, though I can download a particular INS form from the Internet, I cannot really use it because the INS may consider the form invalid because the color of the paper is not exactly the same. Does this form over substance requirement truly serve any practical purpose? Even the IRS allows you to use plain white paper. The INS would probably say that it helps to prevent fraud, but I would posit that it is only an unfair burden on the public.
I am not sure of INS's particular purpose in requiring colored forms, but I am sure of its effects. One, we have to wait, on average, a month and a half to receive an INS form if we call their central forms number; and two, Margarita or Jim must unnecessarily take time from work to go get the form from a district office. We have heard that people stand in line at 7:00 in the morning to receive forms and information, and sometimes don't get anything until 3 or 4 hours later. You can't even go to a self-serve line to pick up forms. One must wait in a line while one person gives the forms to you.
Page 156 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Third, the whole battery of forms require large amounts of duplicate data entry. For instance, on almost every form, one must supply name, address, each person's country of origin, etc. For example, we recently had to file another I765 employment authorization form because of the delays in my wife's permanent residence application. On that form, they requested items like her A#, address, where filed, if last I765 application was granted, etc., and finally, why she was reapplying. They also asked for photocopies of several documents that we have already submitted. A simple analysis of the form data will show that they only asked for one new item of information: why she wanted another extension. For that piece of data, and to make a decision on it, the fee was $100.
Why couldn't the INS simply use her A# to track her progress within their own system? Because they can't, I am forced to one of three conclusions: 1) they don't efficiently use their identifier numbers to store application information as any database could; or 2) they have little trust between units, and therefore won't share data, costing the applicant time and money; or 3) they are using a very outdated paper tracking process. There are many more examples, but I mention only typical ones for brevity. This problem of duplicate data entry, not to mention the large number of forms needed for the process of naturalization of a relative, seem to violate the spirit, if not the letter, of the Paperwork Reduction Act.
Fourth, the processing times noted on their receipts are false, and the INS must know that they are. The processing times on one voice response system is misleading, if not downright false. One system routes us to a different number for information than the one on our receipt. To the best of our knowledge, no way currently exists of getting status information by phone.
Page 157 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Finally, the INS has more than doubled their fees for several of the applications to help overcome backlogs and to match application fees with processing costs. I read recently, though, in Government Executive where INS was given a D for financial management. Why should it cost applicants more, even though services are getting worse? If you had given someone $235 over a year ago to provide you a service that you never received; were forced to pay another $100 just to keep the hope of receiving the service alive because they were so slow; were given misleading, false information, or at times denied information about the status of that service, wouldn't you think that the business was broken?
Mr. Chairman, if the INS were a business, we would have already reported them to the Better Business Bureau, and would have attempted to charge them with fraud. Unfortunately, they are not, and we feel powerless against them.
SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPROVEMENT
Mr. Chairman, I know that in reading our statement, you must think that we are angry, and that we have a lot of complaints. Perhaps you are right. We are frustrated, and we have had to struggle through several issues with the INS. Yet, we are hopeful that something can be done. As people who have firsthand experience with the problems in the INS, we would like to make some suggestions that might make the INS better.
First, make the INS a customer-focused service organization. It takes hours to get forms at the district office here in Arlington, and many of the answers you get are conflicting, or inaccurate. I have even heard that the information on some of the forms is flatly incorrect. Perhaps distancing the enforcement side from the immigration side will aid the creation of a more customer friendly culture. I think that the Department of Motor Vehicles in Northern Virginia is a good example to follow for customer service.
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Second, give the money to the INS to upgrade its technology, but tie the money to successful compliance with the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993 and the Clinger-Cohen Act of 1995. Force them to write strategic plans for the implementation of integrated databases and customer-focused process that are written in measurable, outcome-oriented language. Further, force them to reengineer their processes before purchasing new technology as the Clinger-Cohen Act requires. Make them show their expected return on investment for technology as Senator Cohen envisioned. Doing this will be a profitable exercise for making the INS act like a good business, will aid Congress in tracking their performance in providing services to prospective immigrants, and, in the long run, should lead to cheaper and more efficient services to the public.
Third, make the immigration process more visible to the public. Have the INS post what information they can on how the different processes work. Require the INS to be able to tell someone where they are in the process. Make this information available to all offices. You can walk into any Social Security Administration office, and, by giving them your Social Security Number, you can get information about your benefits. Why can't the INS do the same?
We have no idea if our full permanent residency will be granted within two years of our marriage, or whether the waiting period will start after our application is approved. Moreover, we have no idea how long the waits will be for being becoming a true permanent resident and becoming a citizen. Applicants who have paid a large amount of money for a service deserve to at least know what to expect.
Fourth, require the INS to immediately update their information to reflect the true status of their backlog. Why should any government agency be allowed to knowingly post incorrect information with impunity?
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Fifth, give applicants some recourse for grievances, or give them some way to rationally work out problems. We had to pay another $100 because the INS has a backlog, and may have to pay more. Why should we pay for their inefficiency? We did everything required by the law, but they have not delivered. Could there not be a way to waive fees if the fault is the INS's?
Finally, changing the laws will mean nothing if the agency leadership cannot or will not carry them out. Almost every article or report we have read about the INS has talked about the lack of accountability of INS managers, or the inability of managers to get things done. Please place people in charge of the organization who have a track record of improving services to the public and who are ''can do!'' people. The problems that the INS faces are immense and only brave, courageous people will be able to transform this organization.
In closing, we hope that our statement and appearance here today will be of use to you and your Committee as you try to assess the true state of affairs at the INS, and as you try to figure out new ways of making the organization better. We have only been able to make progress in this because of hard work and persistence. Many less fortunate applicants, who perhaps do not have a perfect grasp of the language, or who do not know that they can contact a Congressperson, probably feel fairly hopeless.
We are counting on you to make the case for us that the INS can be more efficient. Millions of applicants and thousands of employees are counting on you to make their lives better.
The statements that Jim makes are his own. In no way do they represent an official position of the U.S. Government, nor does his testimony have anything to do with his official duties.
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Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. Thank you, Ms. Muzzall.
STATEMENT OF JEAN CAMPBELL, DISTRICT DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF HON. DICK ARMEY, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF TEXAS
Ms. CAMPBELL. Thank you. I want to thank the chairman and the members of the subcommittee for allowing me to come this morning and share the concerns of District Directors across the country.
I have been in the workforce for 43 years, and 15 of these years were District Director for Congressman Armey. My major responsibility there is in oversight of casework, Congressional inquiries.
It is important for you to know that, regardless of which agency we are dealing with, a case is not initiated by Congressman Armey unless the person can show that the agency has not responded to their request, or the agency has not been timely in their response. Also, we do not ask that anyone's application be expedited or given preferential treatment without just cause.
Although our office has experienced a 30 percent increase in caseload, that does not reflect the true increase of work that has been brought on by this agency's problems.
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Congressional staff in our office are routinely on the phone explaining processing times, forms, requirements, et cetera, to people who cannot get through to the office.
The Agency is so inaccessible that the general analysis of a recent survey conducted by Take Charge Consultants done on behalf of the Texas Service Center stated:
Just about every time a call is made to speak to a service center adjudicating officer, there is none available. Other employees who try to help do not return calls, or do not give callers accurate information. The public cannot get through.
There are two key areas of concern before you today, Mr. Chairman. service and enforcement.
The current service crisis is partially brought on because the INS decided to cease all production of employment cards for over 6 months until machines with new technology were operational.
Yet people were filing for these cards for the first time, and people were renewing the cards they already held. I am told that agency personnel, once the machines were operational, produced 40,000 cards and threw them away because they didn't pass the integrity test.
These 40,000 people have files with the INS that say they have an employment authorization card, and they have not gotten that card, and they are coming to your office and asking for you to solve the problem.
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People needing renewals were told to go to the Dallas District Office and have their passports stamped. Sounds simple, except that this created enormous lines and people began to line up as early as one 1 in the morning only to be told at 6:30 in the morning that they couldn't get in because the line was already too long.
The situation has gotten worse, and the time now that people are lining up is as early as 5:30 and 6 the day before, so that they can hopefully get in the next morning.
These people wait in line without the benefit of restrooms or protection from the elements, not to mention a lack of security in an area that needs it at that time of morning.
Attachment one to my written statement is a sample letter regarding this.
They do this because that card is essential to their being able to work and earn a living. We have worked many cases for people who were fearful of losing their jobs because the agency had not renewed their card.
Others who were first-time applicants had to go on community welfare because they couldn't get the card.
The person holding an expired card could not change jobs. There was no job mobility for them. And this has happened to many people.
Page 163 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Allow me to read you just a brief excerpt from the Monday morning's Dallas Morning News. This is regarding Mr. and Mrs. Cruz. Mr. Cruz has been a captain at the Mansion Restaurants. He has been in the United States for 14 years.
It took him from 1985 to 1990 to get a green card, an employment authorization card. In 1996, he passed the naturalization test and was told he would be sworn in within 6 months. Nothing has happened yetand it is 1999.
His wife, Lucia, has been in the United States since 1986 and she has permission to work but no green card. Therefore, she doesn't dare travel to Mexico to see her family for fear she won't be let back in the United States.
Since they are not citizens, only taxpayers, the Cruzes have to pay three times the regular fee for their daughter to attend the local community college.
Lost files and fingerprints expiring or being lost is another serious problem in the service area for this agency. Because people have had their application for naturalization approved and are unable to complete the process of the swearing-in ceremony, their fingerprints expire routinely.
This problem first surfaced when several hundred thousand people were naturalized in mass ceremonies without the required background checks and fingerprint clearance and the agency had to backtrack.
The problem continues today because of the lag time between the approval and the swearing-in ceremony. We have had people who have submitted their fingerprints as many as four times before the agency got the tape to the FBI correctly so that their process could be completed.
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This cost the U.S. taxpayer $25 every time it happens.
I have given written testimony about the way the agency ignores the Family Reunification Act. These agency delays and errors can be a matter of life and death.
We have worked cases for Chinese dissidents who came from that country and they participated in the Tianamen Square protests. They were here on Visitor Visas and had applied for permanent residence status and naturalization.
Passports were expiring and they faced the probability that they would have to return to Communist China for renewal of their documents.
It was understood they would be put in prison.
One young woman we worked with had already served 2 years' prison time at the age of 16, and 1 year under house arrest.
She had waited well beyond the 550 days the agency told her it would take to process. Without a Congressional inquiry she would have had to go back.
This agency is unresponsive on every front, and an Office of Special Counsel inquiry we are currently handling on behalf of an agent who testified before this subcommittee reflects that.
Page 165 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC That case is currently elevated to the Office of Special Counsel v. Attorney General Reno because INS failed to respond timely to OSC's report for prohibited personnel practices requesting voluntary corrective action.
The harassment of this agent continues today, even though he has had an exemplary record throughout his employment.
Congressional staff have told us how they wait 6 months or more for a response from the Commissioner, and indeed we are awaiting a response to an April 21st letter by the North Texas Delegation.
Many of our cases with the Dallas District Office of INS go back as far as 1997 and 1998. This is when the case was opened, not when the application was filed. And I have written a list of suggestions I think would help the agency to improve their service. Hopefully they will pay attention to those.
While the agency complains that they are behind and can't get overtime to catch up, the situation has created an environment where Congressional staff are under enormous pressure themselves. Our staff comes in at 7 a.m., leaves at 7:30 p.m., and at least two nights a week is working past 10 p.m. And we only have 30 percent of our casework is INS.
Other Congressional offices have told us that they have a burden of 50 percent or more of their entire casework is related to INS problems. These are the service-related issues.
Page 166 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Enforcement, however, is an area of national security. Just recently the entire country was afraid to go to sleep, especially if they lived near the railroad tracks. And why? Because INS had released a serial killer not once, but numerous times.
Americans expect Congress to take action such as they did in recent legislation to reduce the criminal element in our society.
The committee is encouraged to take whatever legislative action necessary to bring about the reorganization that will simplify the INS and make Congressional oversight a routine matter.
When this happens, I am convinced you will find dedicated employees within the agency who want it to work the way it was intended, and who are committed to doing what they can to accomplish the agency's mission.
I come here not to complain, but to tell you that people on both sides of this issue, Congressional staff and agency staff in the local offices, are begging for help.
We are drowning in the backlog.
Again, thank you for allowing me this opportunity, and hopefully the input will help you make change.
[The prepared statement of Jean Campbell follows:]
Page 167 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCPREPARED STATEMENT OF JEAN CAMPBELL, DISTRICT DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF HON. DICK ARMEY, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF TEXAS
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee, thank you for allowing me the opportunity to share my concerns, and the concerns of many District Directors across the country, regarding the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).
I have been in the workforce observing various management teams for 43 years. For 25 of those years, I have been in positions of management. Ten years were spent in the private sector and the past 15 years have been with Congressman Dick Armey as District Director with my major responsibility being oversight of Congressional Inquiries on behalf of the people in the 26th District of Texas.
It is important for you to know that regardless of which agency we are working with, a case is not initiated by Congressman Armey unless the person can show that the agency has not responded to their request or that the agency has not responded in a timely manner. Also, we do not ask that anyone's application be given preferential treatment or expedited without cause.
Although our office has experienced a 30% increase in casework over the past nine months, all of which is attributed to INS, this does not reflect the true increase in work that has been brought on by that agency's problems. The agency is inaccessible to the general public. Therefore, Congressional staff are routinely on the phone explaining the processing times, the forms, the requirements, etc. to people who cannot get through to the agency.
Page 168 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC These people try to call the agency but the phone is always busy or they cannot talk to a person who can answer their question. The general analysis for a recent survey conducted by Takecharge Consultants for the Texas Service Center stated,
Just about every time a call is made to speak to a Service Center Adjudicating Officer, there is none available. Other employees who have tried to help normally do not return calls with accurate information. [The] Public cannot get through.
There are two key areas of concern before you today, service and enforcement. The current crisis was partially brought on when the INS decided to cease all production of employment cards for over six months until machines with new technology were operational. Yet people were filing for these cards for the first time and people who had the cards were needing renewals. I'm told by agency personnel that once the machines were operational, 40,000 cards were produced and thrown away because they did not pass the integrity test. These 40,000 people have files in the INS system that says they have an Employment Authorization Card. They are coming into your district office to solve this problem.
People needing renewals were told to go to the Dallas District Office and get their passport stamped. Sounds simple. However, this created serious crowds at that office and people would line up as early as 1:00 a.m. only to be told at 6:30 a.m. that the agency could not handle everyone already in the line and they would have to come back another day. This situation has gotten worse: It's my understanding that people are now told at 4:00 a.m. they will have to come back another day.
These people wait in line without benefit of restrooms or protection from the elements, not to mention the lack of security at that time of morning (see attachment 1). They do this because the card is essential to their being able to work and earn a living for their family.
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We have worked many cases for people who were fearful of losing their jobs because of the agency had not renewed their card. Others, who were first time applicants, had to go on community welfare because they couldn't work without the card. The situation was so critical that at one point the Dallas District Director met with local immigration attorneys and informed them the agency would not pursue employers if an employee was working with an expired card. Still, the person holding an expired card could not change jobs. If a better job became available, they were unable to take advantage of that opportunity.
The second problem area involves the expiration or loss of fingerprints. As a result, people who have had their Application for Naturalization approved are unable to complete the process with a swearing in ceremony. The problem first surfaced when 700,000 people were naturalized in mass ceremonies without having the required background checks and finger print clearance. The problem continues because of the lag time between approval and the swearing in ceremony. Even today, people have their interview for naturalization and get a notice of approval only to have their fingerprints expire while they are waiting for the swearing in ceremony.
It is not uncommon to work cases for people whose fingerprints were on a tape sent by INS to FBI and for some reason the tape was returned to INS without being processed. These applications seem to go into a land of limbo and it is very difficult to get them back on track with the agency. We've had people who submitted their fingerprints as many as four times before the agency got the tape to the FBI correctly so their process could be completed. In addition to the inconvenience involved this inefficiency is costing the taxpayers $25 every time a finger print has to be re-submitted.
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Even though the agency processing schedule shows they are working Applications for Naturalization in 550 to 730 days, the actual swearing in ceremony might be another year away for the approved applicant. This can prevent the applicant from being able to travel abroad, which is often required by their job, and delays reunification with family members.
In fact, the agency ignores the spirit of the Family Unification Act because they routinely process I29F Application for Fiancé Visa instantly and yet the current processing time for a family member is 245 to 575 days. Also, when someone enters the U.S. on an H1 Visa they can bring their family. Once here, their employer applies for the I140, Immigrant Worker Adjustment of Status for Permanent Resident and the employee, with their family, remains in the U.S. while the application is processed. Not so for all other immigrants. They are separated from their families.
We have worked cases for Chinese dissidents who participated in the Tiananmen Square protests. They were here on Visitor Visas. Some had applied for Permanent Resident Status and others for Naturalization. Their passports were expiring and they faced the very real possibility of having to return to Communist China for renewal of their documents. It was understood they would have been jailed upon return to their country. One woman had already served two years in prison at the age of 16 and one year under house arrest. They had already waited well beyond the 550 days processing time for the agency to have taken action on their application. Without a Congressional Inquiry, they would have never received the adjustment in time.
Page 171 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC A prime example of the agency's unresponsiveness is an Office of Special Counsel (OSC) inquiry we are handling. The case involves an INS whistle blower who has testified before this Subcommittee in the past. The current status of that inquiry is that it has been elevated to OSC vs. Attorney General Reno because INS failed to respond timely to the OSC Report of Prohibited Personnel Practices requesting voluntary corrective action.
Other congressional staff have told how they have waited six months or more for a response from the Commissioner. Our own experience was to join the North Texas Delegation in sending a letter to Commissioner Meissner on April 21, 1999 expressing concerns of the various congressional offices. (see attachment 2) We still do not have a response to that correspondence.
Many of our cases with the Dallas District Office of INS go as far back as 1997 and early 1998. These are not the dates the application were made; these are the dates Congressman Armey contacted the agency and requested the normal ''every review and consideration.'' A sample of these is attached for your review. (see attachment 3) The problems are repetitive, which tells me INS is not taking action to alleviate the situation.
Based on the cases coming into our office, I consider the following to be major concerns that must be addressed:
Make family reunification a priority.
Finger prints having to be repeated (costs taxpayer $25 each time)
Page 172 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Improve communication between the Service Centers and the District Offices to facilitate location of files.
The number of files lost is increasing and is unacceptable. Many times the file contains original documents that cannot be replaced.
Coordinate the expiration date on the various forms that must be filed together, such as the I485, which is taking 550 days to process, and the I765, which expires every 12 months yet is required to be filed with the I485. Applicants are required to refile and pay the $100 fee two, sometimes three times for the I765. This was brought to the attention of the Dallas District Director and he negated the fees on I765 where the agency had not timely processed the I485 only to be overturned by INS in Washington.
Centralization causes the agency to be unable to address problem applications where INS has dropped the ball. Often, we are told the congressional liaison can't pull a file to get the situation resolved because Washington has not authorized release of that file. Remember, this is the central file that shows 40,000 people have ''green cards'', yet those cards were destroyed by INS.
While the agency complains that they are behind and can't get overtime to catch up, this situation has created an environment where congressional staff are under enormous pressure just to stay current with the requests that come into the Member's district office. It is not uncommon for staff to start the day at 7:00 a.m. and still be working at 7:30 p.m. Nearly every week it requires one or two nights of working past 10:00 p.m. Other congressional offices have an even larger burden. Some are reporting that 50 percent, and more, of their entire casework load is INS related. These are Service related issues.
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Enforcement however s an area of Natioanl security. Just recently the entire country was afraid to go to sleep especially if they lived near a RR track. Why? Because the INS had released a serial killer not once, but numerous times.
The Committee is encouraged to take whatever legislative action necessary to bring about a reorganization that will simplify the INS and make congressional oversight a routine matter.
When this happens I am convinced you will find dedicated employees within the INS who want it to work the way it was intended and who are committed to doing what they can to accomplish the agency's mission.
Our office will continue to work with the local agency personnel to do what we can to alleviate the situation. I come here today not to complain but to tell you that people on both sides of this issue, congressional staff and agency staff in the local offices, are begging for help. We are drowning in the backlog.
Again, thank you for allowing me this opportunity. Hopefully, this input will prove to be of some assistance to you in forming the solution.
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Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. Thank you, Ms. Campbell.
STATEMENT OF ELIZABETH VUNA, DIRECTOR OF CONSTITUENT SERVICES, OFFICE OF HON. STEPHEN HORN, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA
Ms. VUNA. Mr. Chairman, members of the subcommittee, I appreciate the opportunity to add my comments to the subcommittee's deliberations on H.R. 2528, a bill that would establish the bureau of immigration services and the bureau of immigration and enforcement within the Department of Justice.
This legislation addresses a very important question. Can the Immigration and Naturalization Service successfully restructure itself? Or should Congress intervene and legislatively mandate the restructuring of this agency into two distinctive, separate bureaus under the Department of Justice.
I am convinced by the history of this agency's performance that it cannot successfully implement change without a Congressional mandate.
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Ten years ago in an attempt to resolve constituent-related problems with the INS, a Congressional Working Group was established in Southern California.
The bipartisan working group was comprised of senior staffers from Southern California Congressional offices, management staff from the Los Angeles District office, with occasional participation from regional and national headquarters.
Ten years ago, the primary concern was how to process a successful Congressional inquiry to the INS. I recall the complaints regarding the lack of response to the public, the lengthy processing delays of naturalization petitions10 years ago, it took 24 months.
Today the issues have multiplied and the Congressional inquiries have increased. And although the Working Group has made significant progress with the Congressional Liaison Unit at the Los Angeles INS office within the last 2 years, the public demands that the INS be held accountable for its performance.
Our constituents complain about the low level of service and the manner in which they are treated by INS personnel. This agency routinely loses alien files and petitions and, as a result, the constituent suffers.
They may suffer delay of family unification, loss of job opportunity, loss of educational opportunity, and in some cases financial ruin.
Page 176 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The INS publication ''Communique,'' Volume 21, it indicates that ''This agency is reliant on paper case files with 25 million A-files located in 80 offices across the Nation. As of January 1998, there were 76,884 lost alien files service-wide.''
This agency relies heavily on this data in order to make decisions on the applications they adjudicate.
If they have greater data integrity and reliable records information, the bureau of immigration services and the bureau of enforcement will have greater success in accomplishing their missions.
Our district office has dealt with hundreds of cases in which the INS failed to provide accurate and timely information to the public and also to Congress.
Today it is apparent that the difficulty that our district office experiences is directly related to the foundational structure of this agency. It has conflicting priorities. It has a weak infrastructure.
The information in the data systems are not accurate. They are not up-to-date. If an individual goes into the agency to have their petition adjudicated, there is no assurance that all of their information has been merged into their alien file.
There is no assurance when we request information from this agency that the information they provide is accurate.
Page 177 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We have one constituent that has an income of over $70,000 a year who was referred to the investigation unit. They were checking to see whether or not he was on welfare. This was based on inaccurate information they were receiving out of their computer system.
The INS is reactive. It focuses the majority of its resources on the current backlog. Today that backlog is naturalization. Tomorrow it will be adjustment-of-status cases.
If you look at the processing time frames published by the INS and distributed to AILA, it indicates that currently the processing time for adjustment-of-status is 22 months in the Los Angeles area, but what they do not tell you is that is only until the first interview. They do not tell you that it could be pending with this agency an additional 2 years.
That means the individual, the permanent resident, will have to renew their work authorization several times because the agency is not able to promptly adjudicate their petition. But they do not disseminate that information to the public, and they do not disseminate that information to this Body.
As an example of one of our constituents, some of the problems they have experienced with the INS. One of our constituents asked to have her alien registration card corrected because the agency made an agency error. They had the wrong name on her alien registration card. Their mistake. They placed her mother's name on the card.
She was advised that she would need to file a new application with the appropriate fee at the Los Angeles District Office.
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She complied. She went to that office and, knowing that she would have to get there early, she took a U.S. citizen friend with her.
Her friend reported to me that they arrived at approximately 4 in the morning. There were 1000 people in line. When it was their turn, they found out that there were only 200 tickets available for individuals with problems similar to hers, and so she had to go home and the next day return even earlier.
Another example of some of the complaints that we receive in our District Office are sometimes from agency personnel.
One detention officer from the San Pedro Detention facility asked why the INS had hired a non-citizen to perform the duties of a law enforcement officer at that detention facility.
Another example is the family that suffered the loss of their home and were separated for over a year because of inaccurate information they received from the agency.
The constituent had an asylum case. Her and her husband, a U.S. citizen, went to the asylum office and asked that that case be closed because the U.S. citizen spouse had filed a petition for residency.
The asylum officer indicated, fine, no problem. The case will be closed. If you receive any additional notices from the agency, please disregard it because there is no further action required.
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So when the notice from the Immigration Judge came asking her to appear for the asylum case, they believed it was another situation of duplication of effort so they disregarded the notice.
As a result, she was automatically referred into deportation. Now the alien voluntarily departedbecause she knew it was in her best interest to do soin order to pursue the adjudication of her petition abroad.
However, the INS was not successful in adjudicating her petition locally. In fact, they lost her entire file. The spouse had to resubmit the entire packet of information, all of the petitions she had previously filed, to the agency.
And even after all that information was provided to the agency, even after they understood that this family was separated, it took over a year for the agency to contact the post and advise them that all the petitions had been approved and she is ready to come back.
They lost their homebecause they went from a two-income family to a one-income family.
Now please keep in mind, this is after Congressional inquiries, after communicating the need to intervene and try to rectify a wrong that had been committed by the agency.
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. Ms. Vuna, I hate to interrupt you because the horror stories are getting worse[Laughter.]
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Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS: [continuing]. But we need to move on in order to finish our testimony.
Ms. VUNA. Certainly.
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. But thank you very much for yours.
[The prepared statement of of Elizabeth Vuna follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF ELIZABETH VUNA, DIRECTOR OF CONSTITUENT SERVICES, OFFICE OF HON. STEPHEN HORN, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA
Mr. Chairman, Members of the Subcommittee:
I appreciate this opportunity to add my comments to the subcommittee's deliberations on H.R. 2528, a bill that would establish the Bureau of Immigration Services and the Bureau of Immigration Enforcement within the Department of Justice.
This legislation addresses a very important question. Can the Immigration and Naturalization Service successfully restructure itself? Or, should Congress intervene and legislatively mandate the restructuring of this agency into two distinctly separate bureaus under the Department of Justice? I am convinced by the history of this agency's performance that it cannot successfully implement change without a Congressional mandate.
Page 181 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ten years ago, in an attempt to resolve constituent-related problems with the Immigration and Naturalization Service, a Congressional Working Group was established in Southern California. The bipartisan working group was comprised of senior staffers from Southern California Congressional offices and management staff from the INS Los Angeles District office, with occasional participation from the INS Regional and National Headquarters. The primary concern at that time was how to process a successful ''congressional inquiry'' to the INS. I recall the complaints regarding the lack of response to the public, and lengthy processing delays of naturalization petitions. Today, the issues have multiplied, and the Congressional inquires have increased. Although the working group has made significant progress with the Congressional Liaison Unit at the Los Angeles INS district office within the last two years, the public demands that the INS be held accountable for its performance.
For the most part, constituents who request assistance from their U.S. Representative have already attempted to resolve their problems with the INS without success. Our constituents complain about the low level of service and the manner in which they are treated by INS personnel. This agency routinely loses alien files and petitions, and as a result, the constituent suffers. They may suffer delayed family unification, loss of job opportunities, loss of educational opportunities, and, in some cases, financial ruin.
I have seen INS Inspectors detailed to the Examinations Unit to preform clerical duties, and stacks of complaints regarding alleged illegal activities of alleged undocumented aliens left without action.
The INS publication Communique, Volume 21, Number 4, April 1998 (copy attached) states, ''This agency is reliant on paper case files, with 25 million A-Files located in 80 offices across the nation. As of January, 1998, there were 76,884 lost alien files service-wide.'' (p. 12) The INS relies heavily on the data contained in A-Files to perform their enforcement and service duties. If they have greater data integrity and reliable records information, the Bureau of Immigration Services and the Bureau of Enforcement will have greater success in accomplishing their missions.
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If separated into two bureaus, the INS will no longer be able to pull valuable human resources and funding from the enforcement side of the agency. They would be able to place an emphasis on customer service and record management, which will not only enhance the quality of service to the public, but also enhance enforcement efforts.
Our district office has dealt with hundreds of cases in which the INS failed to provide accurate and timely information to the public and to Congress. Today it is apparent that the difficulty our district office experiences is directly related to the foundational structure of this agency. It has conflicting priorities, and a weak infrastructure. The INS is reactive. It focuses the majority of its resources on the current backlog. Today, the backlog is naturalization; tomorrow it will be adjustment of status cases.
As an example, one of our constituents asked the INS to correct the INS error on her alien registration card. The instruction she received from the INS was to file a new application with the appropriate filing fee, in person at the Los Angeles INS District office, Room 1000. Knowing that she would have to arrive early, her U.S. citizen friend accompanied her at 4:00 o'clock in the morning. Unfortunately, she did not arrive early enough. By 8:00 a.m. she was told she was too late: Only 200 people out of the 1,000 who were waiting in line to resolve issues similar to hers received a ticket that day. She had to return the next day at 2:00 a.m. and stand in line.
Another example is the complaint made by a detention officer from the San Pedro detention facility. Why, he asked, has the INS hired a non-citizen to perform the duties of a federal law enforcement officer?
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A particularly egregious example is the family that suffered the loss of their home and was separated for more than a year because of incorrect information they received from an asylum officer. This constituent asked the asylum office to close out her case for asylum, since her spouse, a U.S. citizen, had petitioned her for residency. The husband and wife were assured by the asylum officer that the case would be closed, and they would not have to respond to any further notices. Consequently, when they received the notice to appear before an Immigration Judge for consideration of the asylum case, it was disregarded. The result was an order for deportation due to her failure to appear. The alien voluntarily departed the United States in order to pursue the adjudication of her residency petition abroad. While she was waiting for her case to be processed, the INS lost her file. Then after the spouse provided a complete copy of her file, it took the INS a year to successfully cable the approval notice to the post abroad.
Today, the outstanding issues with the INS are:
Poor service to the public.
Lack of cultural sensitivity towards immigrants
The need for greater professionalism and training within the agency.
Inconsistent application of the law.
Page 184 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Inaccurate and incomplete information disseminated to the public by agency personnel.
Lack of public information on immigration benefits, requirements, and processing procedures in laymen's terms.
Excessive processing delays in the adjudication of applications and petitions filed for benefits under the Immigration and Naturalization Act.
Poor agency management structure evidenced by a weak chain of command.
Lack of accountability and cohesion between district, field, service center, regional, and national headquarters.
Poor records management
The selective processing of petitions by the California Service Center.(see footnote 28)
Lack of intra- and interagency communication.
Labor Union contracts which impede the agency from fulfilling its directive.
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The need for enhanced enforcement efforts
Ineffective or inexperienced leadership
Complacency in regard to policies and procedures
Inconsistent procedures and record-keeping relating to contact with and maintenance of detainees.
Lack of disciplinary action or follow-up with regard to specific violations of Service policy or procedure.
Mr. Chairman, I would like to conclude my remarks by again thanking you and the members of the Subcommittee for this opportunity. Individuals who interact with the federal government should be treated with dignity and respect. The public should be able to access accurate information so that they may comply with the law. Their petitions for benefits and relief should be processed in a timely, efficient manner, and their experience should be a positive one.
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. Ms. Mancilla.
STATEMENT OF BEATRIZ MANCILLA, DISTRICT REPRESENTATIVE, OFFICE OF HON. PETER HOEKSTRA, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF MICHIGAN
Page 186 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. MANCILLA. Mr. Chairman and members of this Subcommittee on Immigration and Claims of the House Judiciary Committee:
Thank you for the opportunity to present to you my experiences as a Congressional District Immigration Caseworker.
My name is Beatriz Mancilla. I work for Congressman Pete Hoekstra in Holland, Michigan. I have worked with the practical side of immigration policy and the Immigration and Naturalization Service for nearly 2 years.
During the past 21 months, I have encountered numerous frustrations experienced by constituentssome would call them customersin their dealings with INS.
In order to gain a firmer grasp of these frustrations, I conducted an internal survey of more than 200 District Congressional caseworkers across the Nation.
I received responses from more than 55 percent of those surveyed. After reviewing the survey, I noticed many similar problems occurred quite frequently, no matter which field office was the main contact.
I also noticed an intense frustration with the bureaucratic agency which has not learned the basics in customer service.
The results of the survey on the INS service were featured in a special edition of the Tale of Two Visions, a monthly report contrasting the bureaucratic vision and the opportunity vision produced by our office.
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You can find these results on pages 2 and 3, which are to my left.
Ms. MANCILLA. The major frustration felt among immigration caseworkers is that Congressional offices have become a necessary step in obtaining immigration assistance.
Constituents are forced to contact a Congressional office for assistance simply to get basic service because they exhaust all avenues in attempting contact with INS, but receive no response to their inquiry.
Constituents usually attempt to obtain the status of their application that was filed. In all cases, the processing time that INS indicated to them has expired. Would it not make sense that INS change the processing times indicated on the receipt letter, or simply respond to the constituent's inquiry?
Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, I ask you this. Would you receive a constituent's letter, tell them you will respond within 30 days, then put it aside and not answer for a year or two?
This is poor customer service, and it is unacceptable for the taxpaying public.
Page 188 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Why has INS sheltered itself from the public, treated new applicants with poor customer service to the point that INS has a reputation of being nearly impossible to work with?
An example of service that has caused frustration is when Congressional caseworkers like myself call or write their assigned INS office.
It often takes 45 days or longer to receive any kind of response. For example, I made an inquiry to the Los Angeles District Office on January 23, 1998, regarding a legalization case.
On March 26th, 60 days later, I received the following response that said, in part:
''Due to the large volume of inquiries pending and the need to serve other Congressional or Senatorial offices as well, this inquiry will be researched and responded to on a case by case basis. It is our goal to respond to inquiries in a timely manner.''
As of Today, July 29, 1999one year and 4 months after making the inquiryI have not received any further updates on this case.
This is not timely.
This is not acceptable.
Page 189 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Unfortunately, the applicants lost all hope after working with so many attorneys who took their hard-earned money. They had hopes that our office would be able to at least obtain the status of their pending applications.
The family stopped by 2 weeks ago and said goodbye to me, and that they appreciated all our efforts but they felt that 9 years of not knowing what immigration benefits they qualified for was enough.
If this is how the American Government treats those who have complied with all the regulations, they wanted no part of it. The family now resides in Mexico.
Throughout my experiences with the INS, I have established great relationships with individual Congressional liaisons nationwide who believe in serving the public and correcting the errors that have been brought to their attention. However, there is a need for a consensus nationwide with all INS offices or else the problems within he agency will continue.
Ultimately, the INS must be held accountable for its leadership and management.
I want to thank you for this opportunity to air these concerns.
In conclusion, on page 6 of the Tale of Two Visions, you will notice suggestions for service improvements at INS provided by fellow caseworkers who took part in this survey. I hope you find these suggestions helpful. I also hope that you continue to work with District immigration case workers since, after all, we are the ones who work with the INS and your constituents.
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[The prepared statement of Beatriz Mancilla follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF BEATRIZ MANCILLA, DISTRICT REPRESENTATIVE, OFFICE OF HON. PETER HOEKSTRA, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF MICHIGAN
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee on Immigration and Claims of the House Judiciary Committee:
Thank you for the opportunity to present to you my experiences as a Congressional District Immigration Caseworker. My name is Beatriz Mancilla. I work for Congressman Pete Hoekstra in Holland, Michigan. I have worked with the practical side of immigration policy and the Immigration and Naturalization Service for nearly two years. My previous job in a travel agency offered the daily opportunity to deal with customers. In a travel agency customer service is Job Number One.
During the past 21 months, I have encountered numerous frustrations experienced by constituentssome would call them customersin their dealings with the INS. In order to gain a firmer grasp of these frustrations, I conducted an internal survey of more than 200 congressional district caseworkers across the nation. I received responses from more than 55 percent of those surveyed. After reviewing the surveys, I noticed many similar problems occurred quite frequently, no matter which field office was the main contact. I also noticed an intense frustration with a bureaucratic agency which has not learned the basics in customer service.
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These are the questions asked on the survey:
1. As a caseworker, how many different Immigration and Naturalization Service offices do you call, visit, or write?
2. What is the time frame of a normal reply to a Congressional inquiry from an Immigration and Naturalization Service office?
3. Do you find that the Immigration and Naturalization Service offices you deal with seem to be understaffed?
4. Do you receive complaints regarding the Immigration and Naturalization Service 800 number? If so, are constituents complaining that they cannot get through or that they are given conflicting information each time they call?
5. Do your local Immigration and Naturalization Service office personnel find it necessary to call a regional or national office because they are unable to affect change at a local level?
Finally, I asked for additional comments/examples of either inefficiency or outstanding service by INS that the respondent wanted to highlight.
The results of the survey on INS service were featured in a Special Edition of the Tale of Two Visions, a monthly report contrasting the bureaucratic vision and the opportunity vision produced by our office. You can find the results on pages 2 and 3.
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The major frustration felt among Immigration Caseworkers is that Congressional offices have become a necessary step in obtaining Immigration assistance. Constituents are forced to contact a Congressional office for assistance simply to get basic service because they exhaust all avenues in attempting contact with INS but receive no response to their inquiry. Constituents usually attempt to obtain the status of their application that was filed. In all cases, the processing time that INS indicated to them has expired. Would it not make sense that INS changes the processing times indicated on the receipt letter or simply respond to the applicant's inquiry?
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee, I ask you this: Would you receive a constituent's letter, tell them you will respond within 30 days, then put it aside for a year or two? This is poor customer service and it is unacceptable for the tax-paying public. The president has stated that this nation is made up of immigrants and new immigrants deserve the benefits due to them. If that is the case, then why has INS sheltered itself from the public, treated new applicants with poor customer service to the point that now INS has the reputation of being nearly impossible to work with? When constituents come into our District Congressional Office, I greet them with a ''Hi, may I help you?'' But when you enter and INS District Office, it is, ''Take a number and wait in line. Next!''
Another example of service that has caused frustration is when congressional caseworkers like myself call or write their assigned INS office, it often takes 45 days or longer to receive any kind of response. For example, I made an inquiry to the Los Angeles District Office on January 23, 1998, regarding a Legalization Case. On March 26, 1998, (60 days later) I received the following response:
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''This letter is to acknowledge receipt of your inquiry concerning the above named constituent. Please be assured that this inquiry will receive due consideration by this office to provide you with the necessary response.
''Due to the large volume of inquiries pending and the need to serve other Congressional/Senatorial offices as well, this inquiry will be researched and responded to on a case by case basis. It is our goal to respond to inquiries in a timely manner.
''We will keep you informed of any unusual circumstances that may cause a delay in the expeditious processing of your inquiry.''
''Please refrain from submitting duplicate inquiries, as they tend to hinder the process. Your cooperation is appreciated.''
As of today, July 29, 1999one year and four months after making the inquiryI have not received any further updates on this case. This is not timely. This is not acceptable. Unfortunately, the applicants lost all hope after working with so many attorneys who took their hard-earned money. They had hopes that our office would be able to at least obtain the status of their pending applications. The family stopped by two weeks ago and said goodbye to me and that they appreciated all our efforts, but they felt that after nine years of not knowing what immigration benefits they qualified for was enough. If this is how the American government treated those who have complied with all their regulations, they wanted no part of it. The family now resides in Mexico. There are many other cases and examples that I could bring to your attention to prove the inefficiencies of INS, but unfortunately my time is limited today. Ultimately, INS must be held accountable for their actions.
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In the past, INS stated that the backlog of naturalization cases was going to decrease, but in fact they have increased. Backlogs are being created every day not only in naturalization applications but alien relative petitions, replacements of naturalization certificates, adjustment of status applications and replacements of arrival/departure cards. It is unjust and unacceptable that these types of petitions are taking more than a year to process.
The information on the INS forms is outdated, the filing fees have increased and the filing addresses have changed. Due to this fact, constituents file their applications, then have it returned to them because the fee was incorrect or the application was mailed to the incorrect address.
Throughout my experiences with the INS, I have established great relationships with individual Congressional liaisons nationwide who believe in serving the public and correcting the errors that have been brought to their attention. However, there is a need for a consensus nationwide with all INS offices or else the problems within the agency will continue.
Ultimately, the INS must be held accountable for its leadership and management. I want to thank you for this opportunity to air these concerns. In conclusion, on page 6 of the Tale of Two Visions you will notice suggestions for service improvements at INS provided by fellow caseworkers who took part in the survey. I hope you find these suggestions helpful. I also hope that you continue to work with District Immigration Caseworkers, since after all we are the ones who work with the INS and your constituents.
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. Thank you, Ms. Mancilla.
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Mr. Wood. And make sure you get the microphone in front of you before you start.
STATEMENT OF JOHN WOOD, CONSTITUENT LIAISON, OFFICE OF HON. BOB CLEMENT, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF TENNESSEE
Mr. WOOD. Mr. Chairman, members of the subcommittee, thank you for giving me the opportunity to testify before you today.
My name is John Wood and I have worked as an immigration caseworker for Congressman Bob Clement in Nashville, Tennessee, for 11.5 years.
Let me begin by saying that Congressman Clement represents Tennessee's 5th Congressional District.
When I began doing casework for Congressman Clement in 1988, Tennessee's 5th Congressional District had an immigration population of approximately 10,000. Census estimates now put that figure at closer to 82,000.
From 1990 to 1997 alone, the Hispanic population has grown 61% in the Nashville area. In 1988, about 20% of my casework load was immigration related. Now it is over 60%.
Page 196 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I carry an average of about 70 walk-ins a month who have immigration problems, and my casework load is around 150 for immigration.
Tennessee has only one INS office in west Tennessee, in Memphis, but 46% of Memphis' cases come from middle and east Tennessee, in part because Nashville has no INS office, many immigrants are trying to get their casework processed and come to our office because they think basically that we are a de facto INS office.
Most of the people who come to me usually have a petition pending. Commonly it is for permanent residency or naturalization. I also handle international adoptions and refugee-asylee cases, provide general information, and provide forms.
In my 11.5 years that I have worked for the Immigration Service, I have seen a lot of weaknesses in the system that need to be corrected.
Let me preface those remarks by saying that most of the people I work with at the Congressional liaison level for the INS are professional, they're courteous, and friendly. I think the problem often arises with the average person who is trying to get information from the INS.
The feedback I get is that the INS is often inaccessible to the public. One of the biggest problems with INS is its complexity. Constituents often call me because they have been unable to reach an INS office.
They call, and they are constantly getting recording after recording, and they never get to talk to an individual.
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The petition process is lengthy. Naturalization applications, applications for permanent residency, and applications for replacement of a certificate for naturalization can take 2 years.
I want to say here real quickly a quick story. I had a lady who was going to apply for a passport. She had her naturalization certificate. She got naturalized two or 3 years ago.
She brought it in and told me that the Passport Service would not accept it because the Immigration Service had missed her birth date by 20 years. I told her she did not look like a 12-year-old child. [Laughter.]
Mr. WOOD. She did an N565, which is a replacement certificate request. The Immigration Service told her it would take 2 years for that request to be granted, even though they were the ones that made the mistake on her certificate.
I have encountered several situations where the INS gives out incorrect information. In one case they told a lady who had applied for a permanent residency and adjustment of status that it would be okay for her to go to Canada for 2 days on a business trip. But when when she came back through the port of entry in Buffalo, she was told that because she had abandoned her I485, Adjustment of Status, it would take over a year for her to return.
In the meantime, her American-citizen husband was here in the United States with her two children. What does she do?
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Although the INS's Mission Statement says that their employees are to treat their customers with respect, courtesy, and professionalism, many times people tell me that that is not the case when they go to an INS office.
Congressman Clement is a co-sponsor of H.R. 2528. He believes that this is a step in the right direction to get the resources and the manpower to the places where they are needed the most.
People that want to be in enforcement need to be in enforcement. They don't need to be in service, and vice versa.
More staff needs to be hired to process these cases timely. We were told back in January that when the fee for an N400 Naturalization Application went from $95 to $225 that they were going to take that extra money and hire more INS officers to process the applications, but that has not happened yet.
The current district and regional structure, which has been in place since the 1950's, should be reorganized to reflect the current needs and dynamics of our immigration population.
I firmly believe that INS offices need to follow the immigrant population. My boss is working, and will continue to work, to bring an INS office to Nashville.
We believe that the numbers justify this. We also believe that this is the same case in a lot of other parts of the country where there are not INS offices located for large numbers of constituents.
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Furthermore, the forms need to be simplified. It should not take an INS attorney to fill out an INS form.
In conclusion, let me thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today. I think that the bottom line is this. Congressman Clement and I are committed to helping the legal immigrant community. At the same time, he is equally committed to bring the necessary reforms to the INS which will improve efficiency in customer service.
Again let me thank you for having this opportunity to testify before the committee, and I will be happy to answer any questions that you have.
[The prepared statement of John Wood follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF JOHN WOOD, CONSTITUENT LIAISON, OFFICE OF HON. BOB CLEMENT, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF TENNESSEE
Mr. Chairman, members of the Subcommittee, thank you for giving me the opportunity to testify before you today. My name is John Wood and I have worked as an immigration caseworker for Congressman Bob Clement in Nashville, Tennessee for 11.5 years.
Let me begin by saying that Congressman Clement represents Tennessee's 5th Congressional district. Mr. Clement regularly assists Tennesseans and legal immigrants with their immigration cases. Our office has always worked with those legal immigrants who are seeking to obtain permanent residency here or who are seeking to be naturalized. Just as it is my job to serve those Mr. Clement serves, I believe that it is the job of the INS to serve the immigrant community.
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When I first began doing immigration casework for Congressman Clement in 1988, Tennessee's 5th Congressional District had an immigrant population of approximately 10,000. Census estimates now put that figure at about 82,000. From 1990 to 1997 the Hispanic population alone has grown 61% in the Metro-Nashville area. In 1988, I would estimate that 20% of my casework load involved immigration issues. That figure is now over 60%. I currently average 70 walk-ins per month and practically all of them involve immigration issues. In addition to the walk-ins, I carry an immigration caseload of approximately 150 at any given time.
Tennessee has only one INS office in Memphis to serve the entire state. Moreover, 46% of the INS cases processed by Memphis come from middle and east Tennessee. In part because Nashville has no INS office, for many immigrants trying to get their paperwork processed, Congressman Clement's office has become a de facto INS office.
Most of the people who come to see me have some kind of petition pending with INS. The most common petition is a permanent residency or naturalization application. I also handle international adoption and refugee assylee cases. People also contact me to obtain general information about the INS and the necessary forms they need.
As my counterparts in other offices know, to be an effective immigration caseworker, extensive patience and knowledge of the INS is essential. I feel that the 11 years I have spent handling INS casework has given me considerable experience in immigration issues and has allowed me to identify weaknesses with the current system.
Let me preface my remarks by saying that I work with people in the congressional liaison office on a daily basis and I have nothing but the highest marks for them. They are usually very professional, courteous and friendly. I think that often the problem arises when the general public tries to get assistance from the INS.
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However, the feedback I get from the public is that the INS is often inaccessible to the public. One of the biggest problems with the INS is its complexity. Constituents often call me because they have been unable to reach the INS by phone. They often run into recording after recording and are not able to speak to an individual.
The petition process is lengthy. Naturalization applications, applications for adjustment of status for permanent residence and applications for replacement of certificate each can take up to two years to process. This is simply unnecessary.
Furthermore, the cost for naturalization increased this year from $95 to $225. The extra money was to be used to hire additional staff to decrease the process time. However, I have not yet seen this happen. A constituent who had received her naturalization 2 months prior, came to me because she realized that the date of her naturalization certificate was off by 20 years. When she attempted to apply for a passport, she was denied because the date of her naturalization was incorrect. Although it was their error, the INS told her she had to apply for a replacement certificate which would take two years. In the meantime, she was not able to obtain a passport.
I have encountered several instances of the INS providing inaccurate information to the public.
The INS has lost or misplaced the files of numerous constituents. This often forces them to begin the time-consuming process again.
Page 202 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Although in their mission statement it says that INS employees should treat their customers with respect, courtesy and professionalism, I repeatedly hear from constituents that they don't always do this.
I know that you wanted to hear my personal experiences as an immigration caseworker. However, I have also talked with Congressman Clement about H.R. 2528, of which he is an original cosponsor. I feel it is a step in the right direction in that it puts people and resources into areas where they can do the most good.
Clearly reforms are needed.
More staff must be hired to process cases in a timely and efficient manner.
The current district and regional structure, which has been in place since the 1950's, should be reorganized to better reflect the current needs and dynamics of our immigrant population. I firmly believe that INS offices need to follow the immigrant population. My boss is working, and will continue to work, to bring an INS office to Nashville. We believe that the numbers justify this. And we also believe that we are not alone. There are many other communities which are currently underserved by the INS.
Furthermore, forms should be simplified. The current forms virtually require an attorney's assistance to be completely and correctly filled out.
In conclusion, thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today. I think the bottom line is this: Congressman Clement and I are committed to helping our legal immigrant community. At the same time, he is equally committed to bringing necessary reforms to the INS to improve efficiency and customer service.
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Again, thank you for providing me the opportunity to testify today before the subcommittee. I will certainly be happy to answer any questions you may have.
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. Thank you, Mr. Wood.
Let me thank you all for being willing to share your personal experiences and problems with the INS which, unfortunately, are all too typical.
I do not have any questions, so I am going to yield my time to the gentleman from Indiana, Mr. Pease.
Mr. PEASE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I have no questions, either. I do have a couple of observations:
Listening to the staffers is like sitting in a staff meeting in my office. I feel very badly for you and your colleagues, including those in my office who struggle and try to make this work. I appreciate the time that you spend and the energy that you put into it.
To the extent that it is our fault for not getting it fixed, then I offer my apologies. And to those who are trying to become American citizens legallyMr. Hernandez and Mrs. MuzzallI apologize for the troubles you have had. I appreciate the fact that you took the time to share them with us.
Page 204 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. Thank you, Mr. Pease.
Ms. Jackson Lee.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Let me also add my appreciation to all of you for a very instructive testimony. To those of you who are in the process, Mr. and Mrs. Muzzall, I was not in here for your testimony but I have read your testimony and I am quite familiar with both your story and many, many others who face these uphill battles.
It is our obligation to not only talk about restructuring but I think to talk about what we heard earlier this morning about management systems. I call it one hand knowing what the other hand is doing.
I have a gentleman who for 3 years has followed every rule he could follow, and they lost his fingerprints. What a disappointment in trying to do your very best.
And I think the other thing, as I read your testimony, Ms. Muzzall, the fact that you were looking around for where you get your papers, so you had to be the one that was sort of being the Sherlock Holms and trying to find which place do I go to pick up paperwork, we've got to be able to do a better job at that.
Then I also appreciate Ms. Mancilla, if I have pronounced her name almost correctly, her survey of the caseworkers. We appreciate the work that you all do inside our offices, and I appreciate your balance in nothing some of the good INS employees. We need to make that known, as well.
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I would only hope that as we process this testimony that we would be able to carefully scrutinize really the service area where people are really trying to do the right thing.
I might add, as I close, to bring the attention to many of the caseworkers here, and we may be talking with you, I am sure you have amongst the many cases the group of individuals who have slipped through the cracks from the 1986 amnesty process and are in a loophole right now because doors were closed on them trying to file for legal status, and the amnesty door closed because of a misinterpretation.
I have the Legal Amnesty Restoration Act to sort of get those people out of limbo, some 350,000, who are likewise taxpaying individuals and who are paying high fees and may be tomorrow departed and families broken up.
So we thank you for your insight, and I am sorry you put your name on the witness list because you may be getting phone calls from Members of Congress saying what do you think about this, or would this answer your concern, but certainly your testimony has been extremely helpful.
Mr. Chairman, as I close let me ask unanimous consent to submit the statement of our colleague, U.S. Representative Luis Gutierrez on H.R. 2528.
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. Without objection, we will make that statement a part of the record.
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[The prepared statement of Luis Gutierrez follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF HON. LUIS V. GUTIERREZ, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF ILLINOIS
For many years, I have pointed out that the Immigration and Naturalization Service must dedicate itself to improving the manner in which it addresses the needs of people who require, deserve and pay forin the form of both fees and taxesthe services that the agency is charged with fulfilling.
As the Chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus' Task Force on Immigration, I have called for a speedy resolution of the intolerable backlog affecting those who have awaited action on their applications for U.S. citizenship.
I have fought to solicit promises of better service from the INS, compelling the agency to redouble its efforts to assist immigrants rather than simply double the fees which it imposes on its customers.
And as the representative of one of the nation's most diverse Congressional districts, I have assisted thousands of people in the Chicago-area who have experienced ongoing frustration in their dealings with the INS.
However, there is a right way and a wrong way to compel the INS to improve its work. H.R. 2528, the legislation proposed by Reps. Smith, Rogers and Reyes, clearly represents the wrong way.
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The INS should be dramatically improved and reformed, but in a way that results in greater efficiency. The legislation under discussion today would, I believe, lead to the opposite scenario: considerably more bureaucracy coupled with a lack of adequate funding streams. If enacted, H.R. 2528 would add to the frustration and maltreatment that so many immigrants face today when dealing with the INS.
I believe that dividing and dismantling the INS will primarily result in a diminishment of the relative importance attached to issues affecting the immigrant community and would erode the attention that these matters receive from members of the legislative and executive branches. It will also lead to an unfortunate competition for resources which, I fear, would threaten our ability to fulfill the true needs of America's immigrant population.
I have argued that aggressive steps should be taken to transform the culture within the INS. Personnel appointed to leadership positions within the agency should place as high a priority on carrying out the service-oriented role of the INS as is currently placed on its enforcement duties.
Make no mistake: advocates for immigrants' rights do not support the status quo. We have, in fact, led the call for substantial, immediate and innovative reforms of the INSoften to the chagrin of the agency.
However, we also recognize that H.R. 2528, while changing the structure of the system, would actually reinforce the status quo. As is the case today, immigrants would confront an array of problems, and wouldif the agency were altered in the way proponents of H.R. 2528 envisionhave access to fewer opportunities for redress of their grievances.
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I strongly oppose the bill offered by Reps. Rogers, Smith and Reyes. I urge my House colleagues to work instead to arrive at a legislative vehicle that willfirst and foremostimprove services to immigrants while achieving greater efficiency, controlling costs, and maintaining the integrity of our nation's immigration laws.
1 have had the honor to work with Silvestre Reyes on a number of issues within the Hispanic Caucus and on the House floor. I value his dedication and hard work and I appreciate his commitment to serving his constituents. Although we differ in our approach to this particular issue, I look forward to many further opportunities to join Rep. Reyes in fighting for the goals that we share that will protect and enhance the well-being of immigrants and all working families across the United States.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Thank you.
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. Thank you, Ms. Jackson Lee.
Thank you all again for your great testimony today.
We will now go to our third panel, and we welcome two colleagues, the Honorable Hal Rogers who is a Representative in Congress from the State of Kentucky; and the Honorable Silvestre Reyes, a Representative in Congress from the State of Texas.
Page 209 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Let me further introduce them by saying that Hal Rogers is chairman of the relevant Appropriations Subcommittee that has jurisdiction over the subject of immigration, and that Silvestre Reyes is the only Member of Congress who has ever served as a Border Patrol Chief.
They both bring unique perspectives and, as two original co-sponsors of the bill, they have the added perspective of a determination that has now spanned over a year to reorganize the INS.
Mr. Rogers, we will begin with you, if we may.
STATEMENT OF HON. HAROLD ROGERS, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF KENTUCKY
Mr. ROGERS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thanks for holding this hearing on this very important issue. To you and to the other members of the subcommittee we are indebted for taking the initiative.
We are pleased to join our friend, Sylvestre Reyes, who has been a valuable asset to all of us in understanding INS, particularly the Border Patrol. He brings the unique perspective that the chairman has mentioned, and we are delighted to have him as a co-sponsor and a co-writer of this bill, along with you, Mr. Chairman.
As you note, we have combined our efforts this year to mandate a critically needed restructuring of the responsibilities now under the purview of the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
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Our common concern is that, after unprecedented funding increases to this agency, repeated internal reorganizations, and repeated failures in every key INS mission, only a clear and total separation of this agency's enforcement and services missions offers any hope to repair the crippled system that we see today.
I say this after having served on the Subcommittee on Appropriations that funds the INS for 16 years. I have been watching, and pleading, and hoping, and funding, and praying that something good would happen.
We have seen repeated reorganizations from within, all with hope, all with promise, to be dashed as soon as they were put into effect.
The result of all of these efforts is H.R. 2528, the Immigration Reorganization and Improvement Act, which was introduced 2 weeks ago.
Today there are 88 co-sponsors, including 6 members of this subcommittee. It is a bipartisan bill with supporters from both sides of the aisle, almost half and half in their endorsement and co-sponsorship of the act.
It is a balanced bill aimed at improving both the processing of immigration benefits and the enforcement of our laws against illegal immigration.
It is aimed at no one. Certainly not at the Commissioner. She is a wonderful person. I don't think anybody can manage this agency, including her, and I am sad to say that. But this has nothing to do with Doris Meissner, for whom I have a great deal of respect and admiration.
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That is the reason that this bill, if it becomes law, would not take effect until the next administration, whether Republican or Democrat. So assumedly there would be two new Directors of what we hope are the two bureaus that replace INS, at the beginning of the next administration.
I am here to tell you that nothing short of this bill will resolve the intractable problems that INS faces. After overseeing this agency for the 16 years that I have served on the subcommittee, I have concluded, reluctantly, that this agency is incapable of functioning in its present form, or under the variously revamped forms that we have understood are being attempted.
By now, all of us are all too familiar with the long list of major INS failures. You have heard some, I understand, this morning, and I won't take time to repeat them all. Suffice it to say that the regulation of non-citizens entering the U.S. is failing, and the processing of immigration applications is failing.
That is after my subcommittee, as you well know Mr. Chairman, doubled the agency's budget in just 4 years. The INS budget is now over $4 billion. When I first came on the subcommittee that oversees INS, I think the budget was $800 million. Now it is $4 billion.
On top of its mission failures are longstanding financial management issues which have never been solved. In fact, they are becoming worse and should be fresh in our memories.
Page 212 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC As recently as this January they told Congress that they did not have the needed detention space to hold criminal aliens when they were mandated to keep behind bars until they could be deported. The reason? Lack of money.
That is after INS refused to request monies for four straight years for that purpose.
We have been providing INS with major increases year to year for naturalization. Last year we received assurances that the backlog would be reduced to specific levels. Give us the money, INS said, and we will process a million-and-a-half applications in a year.
We gave them the money, and the goal was immediately revised down to 1.2 million applications. Who knows how many applications will be processed this year?
From 1995 to 1997, INS spent $800 million on automation improvements that the Inspector General says were mismanaged and will not perform as intended.
We pumped $85 million into the IDENT fingerprint system, which we now know allowed a mass murderer to slip right through the Border Patrol's fingers up to 8 times, the last time on the eve of his being placed on the 10 Most Wanted List by the FBI.
My point is that money is not the answer. We invest untold millions into this agency, and we do not have much to show for it.
Page 213 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In fact, these problems cannot be fixed with resources because they are the product of the total conflict between the missions of the INS that the Congress placed upon it. And the consensus is growing within the Congress, and even within the administration, that the core INS missions of enforcement and services have to be separated.
I just do not believe the issue of separation of these missions is an open question anymore for those who see the problems and want to try to solve them.
I believe the Commissioner herself and the Attorney General agree with that. I think they aim as we do for separate and clear chains of command for each INS mission.
I think they strive, as do we, for clear roles and responsibilities implemented and enforced by experienced, focused managers.
I think they want to secure our borders and to end the nearly 2-year wait for citizenship application.
At issue before your subcommittee, Mr. Chairman, is whether, absent a legislative mandate, those goals will ever be met. I am convinced they cannot be.
And so how many months and years, after pouring billions of dollars more into the existing structure, are we willing to bet on the come that there will be true reform, effective enforcement, and significant improvements in services to our constituents?
In light of the money we have provided and the promises to date, what has prevented INS from reaching these basic goals already?
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First, I think it is naive for Members of Congress to believe that the INS can dramatically reform itself. It has tried all these years. With all due respect to its current leadership, the entrenched bureaucracy will wrestle any reform to the ground, as it has in the past.
Second, I think it is too much to expect the agency to push through major meaningful restructuring while it is desperately digging out from under its massive, conflicting daily responsibilities. The sheer weight of its daily chores is overwhelming enough.
So I think we are kidding ourselves if we let this agency attempt to mend itself. Despite its best intentions, effective reform will never come to pass unless Congress firmly and quickly steps in.
We believe that effective reform means establishing one agency exclusively dedicated to enforcement, and one agency exclusively dedicated to providing fair and timely benefits to the public. That is the basis for this bill.
We would replace the INS with two separate bureaus within the Department of Justice, one for enforcement, one for immigration benefits.
Each would be led by a director with at least 10 years' experience in law enforcement and benefits' administration, respectively, who would report to the Attorney General or her designee.
Page 215 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And each bureau would be served by chief financial officers who would ensure proper financial planning and controls.
We recognize in writing this bill, Mr. Chairman, that there are resources shared by enforcement and benefits which will continue to require coordination, and we intend for the Attorney General and her Justice Management Division to provide for that.
We also submit that the clean separation of these two basic activities is not, as some have said, a pretext for denying adequate funds for either benefits or enforcement. In my view, these functions are equally critical to the fair and effective performance of our immigration system, and I remain committed to adequate funding for both as we have in the past.
In the Appropriations bill, for example, that we are marking up tomorrow in the Full Appropriations Committee, we have included $100 million for 1000 new Border Patrol Agents, $124 million to continue reducing the massive backlog in naturalization applicationsthat is the amount requested; and $200 million to expand detention space to hold criminal aliens that we cannot deport.
In addition, for 2 years we have been providing direct appropriations for equipment improvements needed for the adjudication of benefitseven though these costs are supposed to be funded entirely by fees.
So lest there be any doubt, we are spending what it takes to provide these services.
Page 216 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Let me close, Mr. Chairman, by thanking you and the members of your subcommittee for your work on this issue. Last year you approved a very similar bill that we introduced to separate the core functions of INS.
Had it not been for the pressing matters facing the Judiciary Committee last year, I believe the committee and the House would have been able to consider that measure. But as it happened, it did not. Perhaps that's best, because I think this bill is a big improvement over last year's version.
So I hope we can make even more progress this year, and I hope we can pass the bill, Mr. Chairman, and help an agency that I thinkI won't say is the worst managed agency in the Federal Government, but that is the most unmanageable agency in the Federal Government.
They need our help. I thank you for your help.
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. Thank you, Mr. Rogers.
STATEMENT OF HON. SILVESTRE REYES, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF TEXAS
Mr. REYES. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I again apologize for being a few minutes late.
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I want to thank you for holding this hearing and tell you that I am proud to have played a role in drafting this bill with Chairman Rogers and yourself, working with my colleagues to make this a bipartisan effort to reform an agency that I feel is overwhelmed and often times conflicted.
It is true that Congress bears some of the responsibility for the current state of the INS, but the simple fact is that INS is badly broken and struggles with a lack of accountability.
The Immigration Reorganization and Improvement Act will provide accountability to an immigration system that is beyond repair.
It has become clear that just pouring money into this agency is no longer simply the answer. The INS budget has tripled since 1992, and they are, from my perspective, the envy of all other Federal agencies.
They have grown to, as Chairman Rogers has stated, over a $ billion agency. Yet, today a projected $300 million shortfall in FY 1999 is undermining their ability to effectively perform any of their basic missions.
The question is. How does a $4 billion agency mismanage the budget so badly that they have a $300 million shortfall?
While Congress has been cutting back and trimming the size of the Federal Government, this agency has continued to grow and grow.
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Why then is this agency in such disrepair?
Why are they unable to hire the 1000 additional Border Patrol agents mandated by law in 1996?
Why did this administration come to Congress with a budget that included no funding for additional Border Patrol agents?
Why is the naturalization backlog backed up to almost 2 million people with a wait of over 2 years?
Why have they raised naturalization fees from $95 to $225 without a corresponding increase in service?
And finally, why did they release a serial killer on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted List?
I think these are important questions that need answers. In my opinion, INS is an agency that is asked to perform conflicting missions. They are asked to provide prompt, reliable, and courteous service to our Nation's immigrants, and also enforce our immigration laws.
What ends up happening is that they bounce from priority to priority, putting out fires as they occur or as they create them.
Page 219 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC One year the priority is naturalization. The next year it may be Border enforcement. And then it is yet reducing a backlog. This is an unacceptable way to run any agency, much less one that has a responsibility and the obligation of providing our Nation with its first line of defense and deciding who receives the privilege of citizenship.
I have given this agency the benefit of the doubt more often than not. I have supported and worked with my former colleagues on a number of issues that are important to the INS and to the communities served by this agency.
However, at some point good faith and promises no longer suffice, and we must take decisive action to move forward and demand substantive change.
In the last Congress, I introduced similar legislation to reform INS. I believe it served as a catalyst for change and challenged the INS to come up with a plausible framework for substantive change.
Two-and-a-half years later, Mr. Chairman, I have seen drafts and proposals but nothing, not one thing, that leads me to believe that this agency is serious about fundamental change.
I will not support a plan, or any plan that simply shuffles boxes and creates more bureaucracy at the upper levels. I believe that our legislation makes the changes that are necessary to make this broken agency work.
We have created two separate bureaus within the Department of Justice, each led by a Presidentially appointed director who will be accountable and responsible for a much more focused mission.
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We have created chief financial officers to ensure the funds within each bureau are spent in compliance with law, policy, and Congressional intent.
No longer will it be acceptable to have hundreds of millions of dollars taken from the examination fees account and used for other purposes, which unfortunately has become all too common in this large and unwieldy agency.
Our legislation provides the broad framework for a national immigration system that will have a clear chain of command, clear delineation of authority, and clear accountability and responsibility.
We do not want to micro manage in this bill and tie the hands of those very people that we are trying to help. Rather, our bill mandates that within 120 days of enactment the Attorney General must report on the proposed division of funds between the new bureaus, the proposed division of personnel and a detailed implementation plan to carry out this act.
This is where much of the heavy lifting will be done.
The Attorney General is to submit to the House and Senate Appropriations and Judiciary Committees a detailed plan to carry out this act.
The plan should include details concerning the separation of the bureaus and address the issue of chain of command, shared services, procedures, and interaction between the two bureaus. Fraud detection and investigation, the establishment of a transition team, and any kind of issue pertaining to an organization structure.
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It is my hope that those with vested interests in immigration services and benefits will work closely with the administration on the details of the plan and make the act work for those that they work with day in and day out and on a daily basis.
Our legislation, Mr. Chairman, also states that the Attorney General is to provide for an appropriate allocation or coordination, or maybe both, of the resources involved in supporting shared support functions, including information, resources management, records, and forms management.
We have asked the Attorney General, through the Justice Department's Management Division, to maintain oversight and control over the shared computer data bases and systems and records management. Both Bureaus will have access to these data bases and record keeping capability.
While the INS is not effectively using it, the technology does exist to make this system work. This, Mr. Chairman, is not rocket science. The technology is available, and with all the advances in computers and data bases I know that this situation can be improved and this system can be developed.
There are models out there that have proven that this will work, and will work very effectively. What is needed is the will and desire to come up with a plan that will achieve these goals. I believe that the FBI is a model agency in terms of providing an effective administration of records and data systems and a sharing of a data base with local and State agencies.
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Coincidentally enough, the FBI is also under the Department of Justice. It has also been my experience, and the experience of my former colleagues, that when working in law enforcement task forces like High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force and Antiterrorism Units, one of the basic issues that inevitably comes up is. Why don't we have a centralized data base that can provide information for everyone, for all the agencies involved? I believe that this is one possible way to get us on this path.
The data base that is developed will provide law enforcement information and the status of naturalization applications and other visa applications, and provide one central resource. This can and will work.
Our legislation will elevate immigration to a new level and make policymakers at the highest levels focus their attention on immigration.
I, for one, do not buy the argument put forth by some that the Attorney General or her delegate just simply does not have the time to focus on immigration policy. By elevating our national Immigration Service, they will have to make the time to take these agencies and make them work.
Our Nation's immigrants, I believe, deserve much better than they are receiving today. It is unacceptable that we continue to ask law abiding members of our communities to wait more than 2 years in a backlog of almost 2 million people for their naturalization applications to be processed. And, Mr. Chairman, to add insult to injury, we more than doubled the fee on them very recently.
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We must now act to improve our immigration system. The status quo is simply unacceptable, and I believe that this is the best vehicle for this change.
The fact that this is the only substantive proposal out there should not take away from the fact that it gets to the root of the problem and makes the necessary changes.
We, as the chairman has stated, have 88 co-sponsors on this bill from 25 States and two Territories. This I think reflects the tremendous support from Members who want more for their constituents and are ready to make the tough decisions to get our national immigration system working again.
I look forward to working with you and members of this subcommittee and all of my colleagues to move forward with this legislation. The Immigration Reorganization and Improvement Act is long overdue.
I want to thank you again, Mr. Chairman, and Ranking Member Jackson Lee, for holding this hearing. I think this is a very important issue that we all need to focus on.
Now I would be happy to answer any questions you might have.
[The prepared statement of Silvestre Reyes follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF HON. SILVESTRE REYES, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF TEXAS
Page 224 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Thank you Chairman Smith, Ranking Member Jackson-Lee, and members of the subcommittee for allowing me to testify this morning on this important piece of legislation. I am proud to have played a role in drafting this bill with Chairman Rogers and you, Chairman Smith, and working with my colleagues to make this a bipartisan effort to reform an agency that is overwhelmed and conflicted.
While it is true that Congress bears some of the responsibility for the current state of the INS, the simple fact is that the INS is badly broken and struggles with a lack of accountability. The Immigration Reorganization and Improvement Act will provide accountability to an immigration system that is beyond repair. It has become clear that just pouring money to this agency is no longer the answer. The INS budget has tripled since 1992. They are the envy of all other federal agencies . . . they have grown to a $4 billion agency. Yet, a $300 million shortfall in FY99 is undermining their ability to effectively perform any of their missions. How does a $4 billion agency mismanage their budget so badly that they have a $300 million shortfall? While Congress has been cutting back and trimming the size of the federal government, this agency has continued to grow.
Why, then, is this agency in such disrepair? Why are they unable to hire the 1,000 additional Border Patrol agents mandated by law in 1996? Why did this Administration come to Congress with a budget that includes no funding for additional Border Patrol agents? Why is the naturalization backlog at almost 2 million people with a wait of two years? Why have they raised naturalization fees from $95 to $225 without a corresponding increase in service? Why did they release a serial killer on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted List?
The reason is simple. They are an agency that is asked to perform conflicting missions . . . provide prompt and courteous service to our nation's immigrants and enforce our immigration laws. What ends up happening is that they bounce from priority to priority, putting out fires as they occur or as they create them. One year the priority is naturalization. The next year it may be border enforcement. Then it is reducing a backlog. This is an unacceptable way to run any agency, much less one that has the responsibility of providing our nation with its first line of defense and deciding who receives the privilege of citizenship.
Page 225 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
I have given this agency the benefit of the doubt more often than not. I have supported and worked with my former colleagues on a number of issues that are important to the INS and the communities served by this agency. However, at some point, good faith and promises no longer suffice and we must make the decision to move forward and demand substantive change. Last year, I introduced similar legislation to reform the INS. I believe it served as a catalyst for change and challenged the INS to come up with a plausible framework for change. Two and a half years later, I have seen drafts and proposals but nothing, not one thing, that leads me to believe that this agency is serious about fundamental change. I will not support a plan, any plan, that simply shuffles boxes and creates more bureaucracy at the top levels.
I believe that our legislation makes the changes that are necessary to make this broken agency work. We have created two separate bureaus within the Department of Justice, each led by a Presidentially appointed Director who will be accountable and responsible for a much more focused mission. We have created Chief Financial Officers to ensure that funds within each bureau are spent in compliance with law, policy and congressional intent. No longer will it be acceptable to have hundreds of millions taken from the Exams Fee Account and used for other purposes, which has become all too common.
Our legislation provides the broad framework for a national immigration system that will have clear chains of command, clear delineation of authority, accountability and responsibility. We did not want to micro-manage in this bill and tie the hands of those we are trying to help. Rather, our bill mandates that within 120 days of enactment, the Attorney General must report on the proposed division of funds between the new Bureaus, proposed division of personnel, and a detailed implementation plan to carry out this Act. This is where much of the heavy lifting will be done. The Attorney General is to submit to the House and Senate Appropriation and Judiciary Committee's a detailed plan to carry out this Act. The plan should include details concerning the separation of the Bureaus and address the issue of chain of command, shared services, procedures for interaction between the two Bureaus, fraud detection and investigation, establishment of a transition team, and organizational structure. It is my hope that those with vested interests in immigration services and benefits will work closely with the Administration on the details of the plan and make this Act work for those they work with and work for on a daily basis.
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Our legislation also states that the Attorney General is to provide for an appropriate allocation, or coordination, or both, of resources involved in supporting shared support functions, including information resources management and records and forms management. We have asked the Attorney General, through the Justice Management Division, to maintain oversight and control over the shared computer databases and systems and records management. Both Bureaus will have access to these databases and records. While the INS is not effectively using it, the technology does exist to make this system work. This is not rocket-science. The technology is available and with all the advances in computers and databases, we can develop this system. There are models out there that have proven this will work and work effectively. What is needed is the will and desire to come up with a plan that will achieve those goals.
The FBI is a model agency in terms of providing an effective administration of records and data systems and sharing a database with local and state agencies. Coincidently enough, the FBI is under the Department of Justice. It has long been my experience and the experience of my colleagues that when working in Law Enforcement Task Forces like HIDTA's and Anti-Terrorism units, one of the issues that inevitably comes up is, Why don't we have a centralized database that can provide information for everyone? This is one possible way to get us on that path. The database that is developed will provide law enforcement information and the status of naturalization applications and other visa applications. This can and will work.
Our legislation will elevate immigration to a new level and make policy makers at the highest levels focus their attention on immigration. I don't buy the argument put forth by some that the Attorney General or her delegate do not have the time to focus on immigration policy. By elevating our national immigration service, they will have to make the time and make this work. Our nation's immigrants deserve better. It is unacceptable that we continue to ask law-abiding members of our communities to wait more than two years in a backlog of almost 2 million people for their naturalization applications to be processed. To add insult to injury, we more than doubled the fee on them.
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We must act now to improve our immigration system. The status quo is unacceptable and I believe this is the best vehicle for change. The fact that this is the only substantive proposal out there should not take away from the fact that it gets to the root of the problem and makes the necessary changes. We have 88 cosponsors on this bill from 25 states and 2 territories, reflecting tremendous support from members that want more for their constituents and are ready to make the tough decisions to get our national immigration system working.
I look forward to working with this subcommittee and all of my colleagues to move forward with this legislation. The Immigration Reorganization and Improvement Act is long overdue and I thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding a hearing on this important legislation. I would be happy to answer any questions that the subcommittee may have. Thank you.
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. Thank you, Mr. Reyes, and thank you both for your testimony.
Mr. Rogers, a minute ago you had some good news for us. You announced the $100 million and other millions of dollars for a number of good reasons, including the first hundred million for 1000 new Border Patrol Agents.
It is my understanding that the Senate is likewise going to be able to budget that money.
My question is. Have you heard anything from the White House to indicate that they are amending their budget, or that they are going to request any additional funds for new Border Patrol Agents?
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Mr. ROGERS. No, I have not. Their budget request as you noted did not request any new agents for fiscal year 2000.
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. You have not heard of any change in their position yet?
Mr. ROGERS. No. In fact, they have not hired the agents that we provided money for during the current year. We provided money during the current year for 1000 new agents and they have not hired those.
They have not hired the agents that we funded for the current fiscal year. So I don't know what else we can do. We provide the money and it just does not happen. This is another example of this agency just simply not being responsive to anyone.
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. Also a minute ago, Mr. Rogers, you mentioned that there was an inherent conflict between the two main responsibilities of the INS, that being enforcement and service.
Is there any way toit seems to me the only way to avoid that inherent conflict is in fact to separate the responsibilities and have different bureaus, which is what we do in this bill.
Any more thoughts on that? Is there any alternative that we have not thought about? Or is that the only way to solve the problem?
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Mr. ROGERS. I think it is the only way. Many of us have looked at various alternatives and various configurations. The thing around which we can form a consensus, whether it be the Attorney General, or the Commissioner, or Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, people with experience on the subject, is that you have got to separate these two inherently conflicting missions of the agency so that they don't contaminate each other and draw attention from each other.
It seems to me that there are some violations of some rights that people have under our Constitution when you are required, in order to get some benefit, to give information which very well might incriminate you on the enforcement side, and you are forced to give it to the same agency. That is another reason why I think we need to separate the two missions.
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. Thank you, Mr. Rogers.
Mr. Reyes, because of your background and experience and expertise, your words carry great weight. It is because of your support of this bill that I think we have attracted over 80 co-sponsors, 40 percent of whom are Democrats and, as you just mentionedalthough I did not realize it included representatives from two Territories as well as 25 Statesbut there is a broad cross section of Members of Congress who support this legislation.
I wonder if you have spoken, because of your past position, if you have spoken with other INS District Directors, if you have spoken with other Border Patrol Chiefs, to find out what they think about this proposed bill.
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Mr. REYES. Well, Mr. Chairman, first let me tell you that there are many Members of Congress that have a tremendous amount of built-up frustration over issues with INS, and oftentimes because of my background I am the one that they come to, and I am happy to help out with them.
I think that is part of what drives so many Members of Congress to consider this legislation to resolve some of these issues.
Part of the problem manifests itself in the context that some Members of Congress have told me that issues dealing with casework with INS sometimes accounts for about 90 percent of the work in their Districts, which is just a tremendous workload for those that are trying to resolve issues of naturalization, adjustment of status, looking into some of the areas that INS has jurisdiction over.
Part of the problem is endemic to the fact that INS has so many stand-alone systems that do not integrate, that do not have the capability to talk to each other. In this day and age of computerization, a lot of my former colleagues are very frustrated that one of the things that almost invariably always occurs is that these things are designed and set up in a vacuum at the headquarters level without any customer input.
You know, the field officers routinely do not get a chance, or get an opportunity to provide input at the front end when systems are being designed.
I can tell you that many of my colleagues are frustrated. Many of my colleagues definitely support re-working the issue and, to frankly say that separating the enforcement from the service site is a good idea and a workable solution.
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Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. Thank you, Mr. Reyes.
Ms. Jackson Lee.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
We appreciate very much the testimony of both Chairman Rogers and Mr. Reyes, both of whom I know are committed to these issues of which we have listened to all this morning.
One of the points that was made earlier this morning, gentlemen, before you arrived in testimony attributable to the GAO and similarly, or likewise, to the Inspector General's Office, is one of the key issues of the INS is coordination, systems management, consistency.
So to you, Mr. Rogers, I would ask the question about the present legislation, H.R. 2528. As it presently is drafted, it seems as if the responsibilities of certain aspects of the INS would go to the Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney General.
In particular, the Deputy right now has oversight over the FBI, the DEA, the U.S. Attorney's Office, the U.S. Marshall's Office, the Bureau of Prisons, and a host of other entities.
Do you really think that that would be a reasonably good management decision to overload this deputy with the additional responsibilities of an agency that really needs close attention?
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Mr. ROGERS. Well, of course the Deputy Attorney General oversees a great deal of things. That is the purpose of that job. But we provide, in this bill, two distinct bureaus headed by separate, presidentially confirmed appointees who would be required to have 10 years experience in their respective fields, 5 of which must be in management.
So in the first place, you would have highly qualified people running each bureau. And within each bureau also the director would have the benefit of a chief financial officer, which would be of enormous benefit I think to each bureau, all of which would be overseen by the Deputy Attorney General, but of course that person oversees all divisions of the Department.
So I think management-wise it would be a good idea. I can't think of anything better. If there is a better idea, I want to hear it because I have got a somewhat open mind.
I have studied this ad infinitum and concluded that this is the best way to go.
Let me say this quickly. Of all the agencies that I am charged with funding in my subcommittee, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Justice, the Department of State, the independent agencies like the SEC and the FCC and the various other agencies, including the Federal Judiciary, the INS is the only agency that I have ever attempted to try to change dramatically.
Page 233 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I come to that conclusion very reluctantly after many years of study and reflection. I do not do this lightly. I am charged with funding this agency, and I do not like anyone messing with the agencies that I try to fund. [Laughter.]
Mr. ROGERS. But I have come to the reluctant conclusion, after years of reflection, that this is the only way we can have an answer to the problem that your constituents and mine face.
It is a terribly important mission we have turned over to this agency, and it is not working. I think your constituents and mine, certainly mine, are demanding that we do something.
Congressmen and women tell me that immigration problems are the number one constituent problem they face in their home offices. It is a consensus. That tells me that we have a problem, and I feel obligated to try to do the best I can to solve the problem in a bipartisan fashion, a nonpartisan fashion.
But I think this is the best management construct that we have been able to find. We have studied the Carnegie Report. We have studied the Barbara Jordan Commission findings. We have listened to the Attorney Generalstill are listening to the Attorney General and the Commissioner, and we are drawing on the tremendous experience of people who know these missions, and I think all of us have come to the conclusion that this is the way to go.
There are some minor changes that the Attorney General or the Commissioner perhaps might want in the way we are doing things, but all of us I think agree that we have got to divide the mission in two, and that is what the bill does I think most effectively.
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Mr. REYES. May I comment on that, because I would tell you, yes, that this is the way to go and I will tell you why. It is the way to go because I think it raises the issue dealing with immigration matters to a higher level.
I will tell you that this is the way to go because the Attorney General is responsible by law for all the things that are carried out by this agency and by the Commissioner.
I will tell you this is the way to go because you would be surprisedI would say pleasantly surprisedhow when you separate these two functions, when you remove the inherent conflict that exists between these two missions under this one agency, and you have experienced directors doing both of these missions that would carry out those mandates without any degree of conflict, you would be surprised at how streamlined both missions would become and how better organized the whole system would be if you have, and if you give this kind of legislation an opportunity.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Chairman, I ask unanimous consent for just an additional minuteI may not use all thatto put some information into the record, inasmuch as I wanted to make sure my colleagues had a chance to answer my question.
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. Okay. Had your question been answered? And without objection we will putwhat is it you would like to put into the record?
Ms. JACKSON LEE. One, I would like to just pose the question and then read a statement.
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I thank Mr. Rogers and Mr. Reyes both for their openness, and I want them to be open to my legislation, the Immigration Restructuring and Accountability Act of 1999, and to also ask that Mr. Rogers, the legislation that both Mr. Reyes and I have dealing with the Border Patrol, the recruitment and retention, be considered in your funding. Because, remember, we came and testified and asked for an increase in compensation to improve the quality of Border Patrol agents.
So I would appreciatemaybe we would have a chance to discuss that if we have a second round.
And lastly, I will read this statement to quote from a letter from the Hispanic Caucus on similar legislation proposed last year.
We are concerned that this bill does not address the problem of unifying our National immigration policy. Upon the creation of a new enforcement agency, it will be essential to have one senior-level DOJ official passed with overseeing national immigration policy.
So I do want to add that to the record. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. Without objection.
Thank you, Ms. Jackson Lee.
Page 236 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The gentleman from Indiana, Mr. Pease, is recognized.
Mr. PEASE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I do not have questions for these witnesses, just some observations quickly.
There is no Member of the Congress who knows more about the financing of this entity than Congressman Rogers, and his knowledge in the field is not only the dollars and cents that have gone into this operation, but the management of the agency.
And there is nobody in the Congress who knows more about how it works in the field, or doesn't, than Congressman Reyes. And so the combination of these two Members makes a powerful statement for what I think is a framework for discussion of where we should go with the INS. I want to thank both of you for the time that you have spent on this.
I know, Congressman Reyes, that you came with Congressman Rogers last year, and then backed away for awhile to try and give more time to the INS and others to address the problem.
I appreciate the persistence of both of you. I know there is a temptation for all of us, because I have been guilty of it myself, to criticize the INS. Some of that I believe is deserved, but a lot of it I think is not their fault.
We have set up the structure within which they have to work. We have created some of the problems that they have been unable to resolve. So it is not entirely fair for us to criticize them for the fact that they have not been able to resolve some of the problems that we created.
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But we can address that. That is what you are asking us to do. That is also what Commissioner Meissner is asking us to do.
I want to apologize to herand I have to get to a 1 o'clock meeting and will not be here for her presentationhowever I want to thank her publicly.
She has spent personal time with me and my staff on this subject and others as recently as yesterday, I think honestly trying to do the right thing and find out how to do it.
I have got to believe that with all these folks working together we can do that.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. Thank you, Mr. Pease.
The gentleman from California, Mr. Berman, is recognized.
Mr. BERMAN. Well thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Rogers hasI have not looked at the whole bill, but he has had to put together an appropriations bill. I do not know how much the 302[b] allocation changed from what it had been originally, but I do not know how you did it. [Laughter.]
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Mr. BERMAN. Other than the long-going dispute we have had about the appropriate level for Legal Services Corporation, which is probably as much philosophical as fiscal anyway, just hearing you talk about some of the things you were able to fund sounds like you did as remarkable a job as you could.
I know particularly from the California point of view, you did something the Senate did not do, which is to at least maintain under these difficult budget caps and allocations the money to try to reimburse the State and local governments for the incarceration of illegal aliens. The Senate just decimated that program on their version of the budget.
So I think from both sides of the aisle, particularly from places like California and Texas and a few other Statesbecause my guess is Kentucky is not the biggest recipient of those funds
Mr. ROGERS. Yes, that is right.
Mr. BERMAN: [continuing]. We are very grateful.
The basic concern about thisI mean, I gather this is the kind of an issue that is very easy to forget the details about from year to year, and we started to talk about this last year and all of a sudden I cannot remember anything I heard last year[Laughter.]
Mr. BERMAN: [continuing]. But the very basic concern from a lot of people who I have respect for is:
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There is a need for the separation and to focus separately on both the enforcement side and on the services side. But that there is also a need for the enforcement people to understand sort of the philosophy behind immigration, the appropriateness of services, the importance of due process, the meaning of our refugee laws and our asylum laws. And, for the services people to understand that the only mission here is not simply to provide as much funds as you can and as much leeway you can to anybody who wants to come to this country. We have laws, we have controls, and they have to be enforced.
And, that the most effective way to get the efficiencies which you both want to get from the separation and still maintain, inculcate particularly from my point of view on the enforcement side the importance of understanding what you spoke to, I heard a little while ago, Mr. Reyes, the importance of immigrants and decent treatment of immigrants, to at some point have somebody at the top who will make sure that that somewhat nebulous dynamic is maintained, is pushed, is promoted, and that the most particularly outstanding flaw, if you want to call it that, in your approach is not having one person at the top whose only responsibility is making sure that these two new agencies, divisions, departments, whatever we are calling them, one focused on the services side one focused on the enforcement side, are both meeting their missions and integrating those notions in the work that they do.
And, that giving this to the Attorney General, or to somebody who has portfolios in a lot of other areas will diminish that responsibility.
I think that is the big critique of your approach. I think there is by and large a total, across-the-board acceptance of the logic of the reorganization into two different kinds of divisions.
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And, Mr. Reyes, you yourself had some sympathy for that notion in the past because you wrote a letter and testified here, and you had an approach I think last year that, I can't remember exactly now, and I forget everything, but you had a bill last year that was a little bit different from Mr. Rogers' approach in the sense that it provided at the top for that kind of coordinated role.
Just 1 second here, I might have misplacedanyway, in a dear colleague letter I thought you captured the notion. Let me just see if I can find it here.
Mr. REYES. Actually if I could
Mr. BERMAN. Yes, I'll just read the quote and let you guys respond:
''It is vitally important that both components receive equal attention and support, and that both receive adequate funding.'' I am real nervous that on the funding side enforcement will get it all, services will get strangled if we have that separation and what can we do to protect against that. And also you said, ''It will be essential to have one senior-level DOJ official tasked with overseeing the national immigration policy.''
Why have your views changed?
Mr. REYES. When I say ''one senior DOJ official,'' it is at the level that we have identified it on this thing. If there was any concern last year, it was that we did notI felt that we did not give INS sufficient time to come up with a counterproposal, and the chairman was, at least at the time was thinking about doing this through the appropriations process.
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I did not agree with him on that then, and I would not agree with him on that now.
I do, however, and I can tell you as I have had an opportunity to have dialogue with Chairman Rogers, Chairman Smith, and others, that we need to have this separation. The separation needs to come about.
The senior DOJ official I believe is at the Deputy Attorney General or Associate Attorney General level. I think that
Mr. BERMAN. Well could the Attorney General under your proposal, or would you envision that the Attorney General could have a slot for an Associate Attorney General whose function and responsibility was to coordinate the two agencies created by the separation? Would that be okay?
Mr. REYES. At that level, absolutely. But I do think that you have to have professional, experienced directors over both bureaus to carry out the mission of the respective bureaus.
Mr. BERMAN. Absolutely. I do not have any disagreement with that. They key thing was, are we giving this thing to an Attorney General who has got a million different things on her agenda? Or even to a Deputy Attorney General, the number two, who essentially has the same million things?
Page 242 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Or can you create a slot like an Associate or an Assistant Attorney General that supervises the two directors that you have talked about in the separated notion, but that is their function.
Mr. REYES. Yes. And the inherent thing here is accountability. There has to be accountability on both the service side and the enforcement side.
If I can just allay your concerns about the funding aspect, the funding aspect from my perspective in my 26.5 years experience in the INS and Border Patrol, that is the simplest one to identify because each program is program coded for funding for the purposes of budget.
And so that is why in our legislation it calls for the Attorney General to come in with a plan on how this is going to be done. I think that is the simplest way to allay the concerns and the fears of those that question whether the service side would be subordinate to the enforcement side, or whether it would suffer at the expense of enforcement.
Mr. BERMAN. And in all fairness, Chairman Rogers mentioned, I gather, you funded the administration's request for naturalization monies, which is a critical part of services. So if that in fact is the case, then I think it would be unfair to leave the implication that one is accusing you of being insensitive to the services and naturalization side of this.
Mr. ROGERS. Well in fact, in the mark of my bill that goes to the Full Committee tomorrow, and the Floor next week I hope, the only three agencies that receive a program increase in funding for the upcoming year are DEA, Census, and INS.
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And the major portion of the INS monies, or not the major portion but a big chunk of the INS monies is the $124 million they requested to continue reducing the naturalization backlog process. And the other is for more Border Patrol agents.
Mr. BERMAN. I will not get into a debate on that
Mr. ROGERS. I do not think anybody could argue, Mr. Berman, that we have underfunded one side or the other during the years that I have been working on this subcommittee, under three administrations and two different parties. It just has not been done.
And, it is an unfair charge that either mission would be underfunded in the future.
Mr. BERMAN. Well I would argue that form 1986 to 1992 we may have underfunded the Border Patrol.
Mr. ROGERS. Well, Border Patrol perhaps. But I think we have made up for it. In fact, there is money laying there that they have not used to hire new agents.
Let me make one point in response to your earlier question. There is nothing in our bill that would prevent or preclude the Attorney General from appointing an Associate Attorney General to oversee both of these bureaus. In fact, we make a strong effort in our bill to leave most of the details to the Attorney General and the Department of Justice.
Page 244 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We leave much leeway. There is very little detail that we put into our scheme. We do not want to micro manage or over manage. We just want to divide the functions so that there is some clean administrative discipline that can take the place of an agency that is incapable of that now.
Doris Meissner has done a wonderful job of trying to make this thing work. Wethe Congresshave given her a bum machine.
I think we sold her a lemon, and I think it is our business now to try to clean up that structure so that someone in the future can make it work.
Mr. BERMAN. Well when I hear you say that, then I have to look at the ranking member's bill and the INS proposal, but I start wondering, is there as much difference as I have assumed there was in the two approaches.
Mr. ROGERS. I have to tell you, I have not studied the gentlelady's bill, myself.
Mr. REYES. Could I comment, because I alluded
Mr. BERMAN. I am going into somebody else's 5 minutes, but
Mr. REYES. I made mention in my comments about having an opportunity to seek proposals, and basically shifting of boxes.
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I have seen what Commissioner Meissner, and I am assumingbecause there has not been a final product that has been brought forwardI have seen the draft portions of the quote, unquote, ''restructuring'' or ''reorganization.''
I can tell you from my own experience from the 1980's that the proposal that I have seen that has been presented to me is similar to one that worked horribly, that did not work and was horrible when I was a Chief in McAllen.
It stovepiped everything. It bottlenecked everything at the Deputy Commissioner's level. And as a consequence, neither the service side nor the enforcement side was able to function effectively.
And if that is the proposal, I will adamantly oppose it.
Mr. ROGERS. Let me just say this about it.
I think we have been focusing too much on the question of whether an Associate Attorney General or the Deputy is going to oversee two bureaus at the very highest level.
That is not the problem, in my judgment. The problem occurs at much lower levels than that, down through the system where there are no clear lines of authority.
The ability to discipline and bring some order to a system takes place not at these upper levels, but down there in the trenches
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Mr. BERMAN. But I thought you won that argument. I mean, maybe I am wrong, but I thought there is a consensus that accepts this principle that things will be better when we create those clear lines.
Mr. ROGERS. I think that is true, and we earlier testified that there seems to be a consensus around that. So that really is no longer a question.
Let me say this. The model that you have mentioned, of having an Associate Attorney General that would be in charge of immigration policy, or whatever you wish to call it, under which would be the two bureaus, is the model really put forward by the Carnegie Study, which has a lot of merit. It is a report that I commend to you.
We have discussed this in fact with the Attorney General. So I think we are all talking about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, because I think there is a broad consensus about the general direction we all need to go.
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. Mr. Berman, may be proceed to the next panel? Were you finished?
Mr. BERMAN. I am.
Mr. ROGERS. If I may make one final point, Mr. Chairman, if I may?
Page 247 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. Yes, Mr. Rogers.
Mr. ROGERS. Here is a chart of the Department of Justice. I know it is too small for you to see from there, but you can certainly see the myriad of boxes. And here is the Deputy Attorney General under the current organization of the Department.
Way down here at the very bottom, mixed in all of this maze, is the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Our bill would elevate the missions of what is now the INS up out of the clutter so that the Attorney General is looking at them every day, and I think would make immigration matters of much more import than they are now, mixed in with the maze of boxes that is the Department of Justice.
And one thing that I think will result from the passage of this bill, Silvestre, is the elevation of the importance of these matters in the government structure so that it gets more attention, and probably even more money.
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. Thank you, Mr. Rogers.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Chairman?
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. Thank you, Mr. Reyes.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Chairman
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. Ms. Jackson Lee.
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Ms. JACKSON LEE: [continuing]. Before the Members leave, let me take from your comments an openness, as Mr. Berman has indicated, for us to be able to cooperate and collaborate together on pieces of your legislation and what you will have the opportunity to review are my legislative initiatives which do not track the INS.
I think the crucial issue is a consistency of immigration policy, coordination, and the one hand knowing what the other hand is doing.
I might close by simply saying that one of the important factors that I think your bill does not yet reachbecause we think of immigration advocacy groups as, if you will, laydowns for the INS; they are not; they believe in legal immigrationis that this bill does not have the support of the immigration advocacy groups.
I think we want to work together so that services is viewed as an important aspect of what you are doing and what we are doing.
I thank you all for your testimony.
Mr. ROGERS. I thank you.
Mr. REYES. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. BERMAN. I do not think the immigration groupsI do not think the INS thinks that the immigration groups is a laydown.
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Ms. JACKSON LEE. I am not sure what the gentleman thought. [Laughter.]
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. We will now proceed to our fourth panel.
Commissioner Meissner, thank you for your patience. We had an impromptu recess there, and I want to assure you that it had nothing to do with you or the Immigration Service or anything else that has been testified to in this room today. It had to do
Mr. BERMAN. As far as we know. [Laughter.]
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. As far as we know. That is a fair statement. But thank you for standing by for us to finish an unrelated conversation.
Let me introduce the Honorable Doris Meissner, Commissioner, Immigration and Naturalization Service. We welcome her today and look forward to her testimony, and would you please proceed.
STATEMENT OF DORIS MEISSNER, COMMISSIONER, IMMIGRATION AND NATURALIZATION SERVICE
Ms. MEISSNER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Jackson Lee when she arrives, and members of the subcommittee.
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I am pleased to be here today to discuss the critical issue of how the Nation best administers its immigration policy and system as we prepare to enter the next century.
In April 1998, this administration sent you a framework for change through restructuring. Last summer we sent you legislation to endorse that change. And this month we gave you a detailed restructuring proposal for how that change could work.
I want to fundamentally change this agency, and I hope for your approval to move forward as soon as possible with the kind of change that will lead to improved performance.
Some have asked me why I care about this issue and am working so hard on it, since realistically restructuring would not become effective until the next administration arrives.
Members of the subcommittee, you are likely to be here in 2001. I will not. My only stake in the restructuring debate based on more than 20 years experience in the immigration arena is to try to achieve an immigration system that is best positioned both to enforce our immigration laws effectively and to continue a tradition of welcoming immigrants in the years ahead.
Today's global society is challenging this Nation's immigration system as never before. From unforseen world events such as Hurricane Mitch in Central America to increasingly sophisticated human smuggling operations, to dramatic changes in immigration laws, and we can expect more complex challenges ahead.
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We have met these new challenges and goals head on, and we have achieved significant successes, from gaining control of key areas of the Southwest Border, to fixing an asylum system that was badly broken, to dismantling the largest, most complex alien smuggling ring ever encountered by Federal authorities, to removing a record number of criminal aliens for the fifth straight year.
And from 1993 to 1998, 5.6 million immigrants, more than the total in the previous 30 years combined, have applied for citizenship. We have been able to congratulate 3.3 million of them as new United States citizens.
At the same time, I am all too aware of the many problems that we have. Despite real progress, I know that consistent, courteous, and timely customer service is not uniformly provided.
Mission conflict at the local operational level impedes accountability, and the current bureaucratic chain of command often leads to confusing roles and hampers efficiency.
Mr. Chairman, I believe that you and the committee know that I have been working to solve these and many other problems, but the time has come to make fundamental structural changes that will enable a true and meaningful transformation from a strained structure designed for a different era to a modernized structure equipped to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow.
Page 252 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC It is the next logical step in our ongoing institutional reform, and we need Congressional action to continue to move ahead.
The administration's proposal and the legislation under discussion today seek to address the problems in similar ways. Both represent bold, far-reaching, non-status-quo reform geared toward providing better customer service and improved law enforcement. Both call for a clear split between enforcement and services to provide better results, improved accountability, and strengthened management of each function, and both advocate organizing these two distinct functions into separate chains of command, keeping them within the Department of Justice.
Our key difference is how these separated but inter-related missions should be coordinated. I have included the administration's full proposal as part of there record.
It represents more than a year's planning of how a separation of enforcement and services could actually work. I would like to briefly outline a few of its key features.
The administration's proposal calls for radically transforming the current structure by eliminating the current INS regional and district offices where the enforcement and the service functions today are co-mingled, and creating in their place two new mission-centered organizations, one for immigration services and one for law enforcement.
Each would be headed by a senior-level executive with a distinct chain of command, but would report to a full-time senior appointed official with responsibility to manage immigration matters as one coherent immigration system.
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The proposed structure for immigration services leverages the work that INS has already begun in naturalization re-engineering and through a streamlined immigration services division and a new national customer service center to answer information and status queries which will open in September of this year.
The new services structure, in addition, would establish customer service advocates throughout the country who would be responsible for customer service training and problem resolution.
It would consolidate all remote operations, telephone, service and card centers with newer efforts such as forms on the Internet and direct mail so that our customers can get ready access to information they need.
It would consolidate our asylum program with our overseas and refugee humanitarian affairs programs, and maintain the current domestic asylum offices.
It would expand upon the more than 120 new community-based fingerprinting sites we opened last year to provide our most customer-focused activities directly in the communities that they serve.
With respect to our enforcement mission, the new structure would integrate all enforcement operations and consolidate domestic and international enforcement programs within one chain of command so as to have seamless enforcement between the border and interior locations, and effectively coordinate such actions as large anti-smuggling operations.
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It would create community advisory panels at the national and area levels to provide community input regarding enforcement.
It would centralize the detention program at the national level to support enforcement operations and ensure uniform standards are followed and consistent practices utilized.
The proposed integrated enforcement structure is designed to meet the needs of a modern, professional law enforcement agency that can deal with the complexities of immigration law and crimes that often extend far beyond our boundaries, while at the same time upholding the civil rights of all individuals with whom we come into contact.
Separate and apart from the coordinating structure at the top, the administration's proposal provides for a unified support operations structure that would handle support needs such as a records and national file center, training and human resource functions, automation, data support, technology, and administrative support.
The importance of such a unified, responsive structure cannot be overstated. Just taking into account the millions of records alone that we handle I do not believe our daily business can be done without a support structure dedicated solely to meeting the needs of both enforcement and services chains of command.
We currently maintain more than 25 million immigrant files. Each contains the documentation required to ascertain an individual's immigration history with the United States, including both enforcement and benefit matters. These files must be complete, and they must be readily available whether to an adjudicator in immigration services or an investigator in enforcement operations.
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The services' chronic problems surrounding lost files are finally being solved with the opening of an automated, centralized national file center in November. A new structure needs to strengthen these hard-won improvements.
It is in the area of overall coordination among enforcement, services, and administrative support for that work where we primarily differ with H.R. 2528.
The administration's proposal recognizes that while immigration enforcement and immigration services are separate functions, they are also inextricably linked and need to be managed as part of an integrated structure under the leadership of one full-time, senior appointed official who would be the focal point of accountability and the policy voice for immigration by being directly responsible and accountable for both services and enforcement activities.
In this way, the government can maintain the crucial balance between enforcement and services that is needed for a coherent national immigration policy and system and an effective application of immigration law.
In this day of rapidly changing events that play out before the world in real time, a single voice for U.S. immigration policy that can respond quickly and decisively on immigration matters is critical.
That is why the administration's proposal establishes one person reporting to the Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney General with a number of functions at the national level in such critical areas as legal representation, policy, financial management, professional responsibility and review, and public and Congressional affairs, yet still provides for complete separation of enforcement and services from the national offices down to the field offices.
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The need for such broad level overarching coordination is also important in ensuring that a would-be smaller immigration services organization receives the priority and the resources necessary to do its job within the larger law enforcement mission of the Department of Justice.
In short, the administration proposal carefully balances the need to eliminate potential mission conflict at the day-to-day operational level like more clearly defining staff roles, responsibilities, and reporting relationships in separate chains of command, at the same time recognizing that the complementary missions must remain together the policy and the national interest are involved.
We live in an era of large-scale immigration and increasing international migration pressures. We need greater, not less, cohesion and stronger consolidation and interaction among the functions in order to serve the broad public policy needs of our time.
How to organize immigration governance has been debated for more than 100 years as a response to problems in the immigration bureaucracy that transcends particular administrations or historical periods.
This administration's proposal represents fundamental reform that will strengthen the system. We should not let the frustration that we share lead us to weaken our institutions and our ability to carry out responsibilities in both enforcement and benefit granting that are mutually reenforcing not fundamentally incompatible.
Page 257 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. Chairman, I am committed to change and I look forward to working with you and other Members of Congress in moving forward to restructure INS and bring much-needed reform to our immigration system in a manner that best serves our Nation.
Thank you very much.
[The prepared statement of Doris Meissner follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF DORIS MEISSNER, COMMISSIONER, IMMIGRATION AND NATURALIZATION SERVICE
Thank you Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Jackson-Lee and Members of the Subcommittee. I am pleased to be here today to discuss the critical issue of how best to reform our current immigration structure to address current and future immigration challenges facing the nation.
These immigration challenges have changed dramatically in recent years. The tremendous growth of the global economy has increased the flow of money, goods, and people across our borders. Organized smuggling has increased both in size and sophistication. Unforeseen world eventsfrom Hurricane Mitch in Central America to the conflict in Kosovo increasingly impact our day-to-day operations. And the new legislative mandatessuch as the broad new authorities and responsibilities contained in the Illegal Immigration Reform and Responsibility Act of 1996continue to evolve and present new challenges.
Page 258 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC These sweeping social, economic, and political changes at home and abroad have made unprecedented enforcement and service demands on the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).
We have met these new challenges and goals head on and have achieved success in many areas. Let me mention just a few.
INS has had the greatest success in enforcement, particularly at the border, where we have used new resources to address longstanding enforcement challenges.
A prime example is our Southwest border enforcement strategy where we have achieved more in the past five years than has been done in decades. Five years ago, we developed a comprehensive multi-year Southwest border strategy with a clearly defined goal of deterring illegal migration, drug trafficking and alien smuggling, while facilitating legal migration and commerce.
To help us meet our goal, Congress provided funding for unparalleled growth in personnel and resources. We have doubled the number of Border Patrol agents, which stands at more than 8,000 today, and have supported them with state-of-the-art force-multiplying equipment and technology. And we have seen results.
Today, we have achieved considerable success in restoring integrity and safety to the Southwest border, thereby improving the quality of life in border communities. Operation Rio Grande is just one recent example of how successful deterrence works. After a concentrated effort to gain control of the border in South Texas and New Mexico was initiated in August 1997, apprehensions in Brownsville declined by 35 percent in FY 1998. This mirrors the decline in criminal activities that have accompanied INS border operations in other areas, such as with Operation Gatekeeper in San Diego where apprehensions reached an 18-year low in FY 1998. Local law enforcement credit our operations for directly decreasing crime rates in Laredo, Brownsville, and San Diego among others.
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To complement the work along the border between the ports of entry, we have worked closely with other federal agencies to enhance our enforcement efforts at the ports while at the same time facilitating legal migration and commerce. Our target has been to achieve a less than 20 minute wait in our port of entry traffic lanes at least 80% of the time. From October 1998 to May 1999, we met this goal 96% of the time and we continue to build on this success at all of our ports of entry.
Complementing this enhanced border management is an effective approach to combating illegal immigration in the nation's interior. We have now developed and begun to implement a new interior enforcement strategy focused on the investigation of human smuggling, human rights abuses, and other criminal violations. Last November, we announced the dismantling of the largest, most complex smuggling ring ever encountered by federal authorities. It smuggled more than 10,000 people into the United States, with organizers grossing nearly $200 million.
We have also been successful at keeping pace with record numbers of criminal and illegal aliens coming through the system. For the fifth consecutive year, INS removed a record number of criminal and other aliens in fiscal year (FY) 1998, reflecting the agency's continuing commitment to ensuring that illegal immigrants are not only caught, but also removed from the country.
From FY 1993 to FY 1998, criminal alien removals increased by 98 percent, from 27,825 to 55,211. Such record removals and increased resources have helped INS deal with the fastest growing detention population within the Department of Justice. In FY 1998 alone, INS expanded its detention capacity by 33 percent, or 4,000 beds for an end of year total of 16,000 beds, which supported the detention of over 160,000 individuals who spent some time in INS custody.
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Success has not been limited to our enforcement function. We are also beginning to see improvement in the provision of immigrant services as a result of recent funding and our reengineering efforts.
Our top priority in the provision of these services has been revitalizing the nation's citizenship program in its entirety. In FY 1998, we opened more than 120 new fingerprinting sites in immigrant communities across the country, implemented additional quality assurance procedures to ensure integrity which repeated outside audits have validated, and expanded access of our customers to information that they need.
During this comprehensive effort to overhaul the entire naturalization process, we have maintained as our number one focus the reduction of the backlog of pending naturalization applications. With the new staff that we have brought aboard and the continued improvements in our conversion to automated processes, we have moved ahead in meeting the very ambitious goals that we have set in naturalization for this year. During the third quarter of this year, the INS completed a total of 337,221 applications as compared to 164,007 completions during the same quarter last yearan increase of over 106 percent. This means that during FY 1999 through June, the INS has completed more than 798,900 naturalization applications, more than were completed during all of FY 1998.
The significant progress that we have made on these and other longstanding problems demonstrate that we can achieve results given the proper resources and a truly coordinated approach.
Page 261 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC However, I am all too aware of the problems that we have at INS. Consistent, courteous and timely customer service is not uniformly provided. Mission conflict at the local operational level often impedes accountability, and the current bureaucratic chain of command hampers efficiency.
I assure you that I am and have been working to solve these and other problems, but I cannot fully succeed without the necessary structural changes that will result in a true and meaningful transformationfrom a strained structure designed to deal with the smaller and more manageable workload of yesterday to a modern system equipped to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow.
Restructuring alone will not solve all of our problems but it will better position us to solve many by providing the core framework for administering the nation's immigration policy in the most effective manner possible. Restructuring will provide us with the tools necessary to achieve comprehensive change across the board, from our operational structure to the culture of our organization. It is the next step in our ongoing institutional reform.
I am committed to fundamental change that will bring about true, meaningful reform as quickly as possible, and I want to work with Congress to achieve these reforms.
The INS must change and will change. Therefore, the question before us is how to change the current immigration system to ensure that this change will improve the immigration system so as to meet tomorrow's challenges and not undermine the significant progress we have made.
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And the time could not be better. We have a new workforce eager and ready to embrace the structural change that will allow them to perform more effectively and foster the new culture of customer-oriented professional service.
Fortunately, I believe we share many core restructuring principles and structural solutions. This is critical for we must work together to lay the foundation of the immigration system that will last far beyond this Administration and this Congress into the next century.
I know that we cannot succeed without your help and support and I look forward to reaching a final plan together.
Before discussing the Administration's proposal, let me briefly share with you the extensive research and work we have done to bring us to where we are today.
As you may know, two years ago, Congress asked the Attorney General and me to report back on the 1997 proposal that the Commission on Immigration Reform (CIR) prepared calling for structured changes in the nation's immigration system. The Administration's review of the CIR recommendations led to a proposal for a new framework for improving INS which I shared with you last spring.
As you may recall, the Administration's Framework for Change set forth a high level structure that fundamentally changes our immigration system to the core. It preserves one coherent immigration system while building a strengthened law enforcement operation and a new service-oriented organization by splitting enforcement and services functions into two distinct chains of command.
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Since last spring, INS has worked on providing the detail that illustrates how the INS' organizational structure would look and operate beneath the framework. This past fall, INS formed a restructuring team in the Commissioner's Office, and hired a nationally renowned consulting firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), to provide design support and best practices from other public and private organizations.
The Restructuring team's planning has been extensive and has drawn upon both internal and external input. It has involved wide-ranging consultation with INS field and headquarters staff. Team members talked to more than 900 INS employees during field site visits and headquarters interviews.
Through a PwC stakeholder advisory board as well as through specific briefings, the Restructuring team also engaged in extensive consultations with INS external stakeholders, ranging from community-based organizations to trade and international business organizations to other government and law enforcement agencies. Regular meetings with staff from the Department of Justice, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the White House, and Congress have been ongoing to gain input and ideas.
To apply successful lessons from structures of relevant organizations for benchmarking purposes, the team extensively researched other federal law enforcement and service providing agencies, including selected state agencies and private corporations.
INS senior management and Administration reviews of this work have led to the detailed proposal, which I would now like to discuss with you.
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Let me begin by saying that the Administration's proposal and the legislation recently introduced, H.R. 2528, seek to address the same problems and contain many similar structural elements. We both want the same thingresults.
Both the Administration's proposal and H.R. 2528 represent bold, far-reaching, fundamental reforms geared toward providing better customer service and improved law enforcement.
Both propose a complete split between enforcement and services to provide better results, improve accountability, and strengthen management in both areas.
Both advocate putting these two distinct functions into separate chains of command, keeping them within the Department of Justice.
Our key difference is how the interrelated missions should be coordinated.
First, let me describe the Administration's proposal and identify areas where we have shared views. I have included the proposal itself as part of the record and would like to highlight its main features.
The Administration's proposal achieves each of the four primary goals that we identified at the beginning of our effort.
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First, the proposal strengthens accountability by providing clear, separate chains of command for immigration services and enforcement from the top of the agency to each local manager so that these managers can be held accountable for performance and results in their area of expertise.
Second, the proposal helps achieve a culture change in customer service by providing for structural features such as remote servicing offices and for full-time positions devoted solely to ensuring consistent, courteous, accurate and timely service.
Third, the proposal builds a seamless enforcement structure that supports all enforcement activities at and between ports of entry and in the nation's interior.
Finally, and most importantly, the proposal ensures a coherent immigration system for the nation that enforces the laws at the border and in the interior as well as serves the immigrant community.
The Administration's proposed new immigration structure represents fundamental reform. In the current organization, managers and employees are frequently required to reconcile conflicting priorities at the expense of one or the other of the agency's immigration services and law enforcement missions. This proposal calls for radically transforming the current structure by creating two new mission-centered organizationsone for immigration services and one for law enforcementeach with a distinct chain-of-command but within one coherent immigration system.
Page 266 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The three INS regional and thirty-three district offices that have increasingly struggled with dual mission responsibilities would be eliminated and replaced with area and local offices organized in networks focused around either immigration service delivery or law enforcement.
The proposed structure for Immigration Services (IS) builds upon the work that INS has already begun in its comprehensive overhaul of its benefit-granting mission in providing new customer service as reflected in the streamlined Immigration Services Division and the National Customer Service Center. The new structure is designed to achieve a culture change that will make Immigration Services a model of customer service.
Specifically, the agency's new structure would establish a senior executive manager for Immigration Services who would be the head of the new Immigration Services chain of command and skilled in service delivery. Working with an integrated program staff organized according to specific servicesfamily, business and trade, resident and status, and citizenshipthis executive would be responsible for INS' immigration services mission and would be held solely accountable for that mission's results.
The proposal establishes a senior level Customer Service Advocate who reports directly to the head of Immigration Services to promote customer service throughout the agency. The Advocate would have the responsibility of ensuring that customers are treated fairly and courteously in a timely manner in local offices throughout the country.
Page 267 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Let me be clear about this pointthe Customer Advocate position would in no way substitute for the requirement that all INS managers be accountable for customer service. Rather, we would reinforce this institutionalized culture of customer service by having a national point for customer service training, the conducting of annual customer satisfaction surveys, and problem resolution.
The proposal eliminates a layer of management and creates geographic operational areas headed by directors who would report directly to the head of Immigration Services. We have ensured that the new areas are based on such factors as the location of immigrant communities to better reach and serve our customers. In addition, each of the new geographic areas contains one of the metropolitan areas that are among those with the largest volume of applications so as to better manage the workload for more timely and accurate processing.
These Area directors would oversee all local immigration services offices within their area and ensure quality, timely management of adjudications workloads as well as consistent decision-making. With clear mission demands, the Area directors can be held directly accountable for achieving performance and customer service standards within their areas.
To maximize direct service for our customers, the proposal would build upon existing offices that locate the most customer focused activities directly in the communities to eventually establish additional local immigration offices that would report, through Area directors, to the head of Immigration Services. These offices would report directly to the head of Immigration Services and provide services such as fingerprinting, general information, problem resolution, testing, and adjudication.
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In addition, the proposal would build upon the gains we have made in using economies of scale to improve service such as in the provision of remote services to our customers. The proposal would consolidate all remote operationstelephone, service, and card centersunder one director that would report to the Immigration Services executive. This director would be held accountable for these operations critical to a modern customer service organization.
The proposal also would consolidate the asylum, refugee, and humanitarian affairs programs and maintain the current domestic asylum officesa single mission program that has a proven record of resultsto provide for fuller integration.
To effectively enforce the nation's immigration laws, the new structure consolidates all existing enforcement functions under one new chain of command while keeping the single mission enforcement units, such as the Border Patrol sectors, intact. This comprehensive law enforcement approach has been designed to promote seamless enforcement from the nation's borders to its interior.
The new enforcement structure would integrate all enforcement operations and consolidate domestic and international enforcement programs under one senior law enforcement executive supported by two principal deputy positionsthe Chief of the Border Patrol and a Deputy for enforcement operations. This senior executive would be accountable for all enforcement operations.
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This coordination under one enforcement head will help address many difficulties we encounter in our enforcement efforts. It will enhance coordination with other law enforcement agencies on comprehensive border-control strategies to ensure that there is one coordinated enforcement message. It will strengthen the ability to pursue illegal activities that cross geographic boundaries as one enforcement head will be in charge. With the enhanced coordination between ports, as well as with other INS enforcement entities, the ability to identify and break large-scale criminal enterprises will increase.
The structure itself fully integrates all enforcement functions into geographic enforcement areas based on workload and enforcement priorities such as anti-smuggling routes, and headed by law enforcement professionals responsible for monitoring performance and ensuring compliance with standard agency-wide policies and procedures. The proposal removes a layer of middle management so that the area heads report directly to the head of enforcement. This direct chain of command and full integration will allow enforcement area directors to allocate resources in response to rapid changes in criminal activities.
Recognizing the exponential increase in the demand for detention space, the proposal would centralize the detention program at the national level to provide for better management of limited detention space and coordination of this vital enforcement support function. The proposal also recognizes our increased dependence upon the use of contracted beds to meet our detention responsibilities. As a result, the proposal provides for a national structure that ensures that uniform standards are followed, consistent practices are utilized, and INS and contracted facilities are monitored to ensure that every INS detainee is afforded the same protections and rights guaranteed by law.
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The proposal also creates Community Advisory Panels at the national and area levels to provide community input regarding enforcement operations, to institutionalize a forum for public involvement, and to foster better community relationships and cooperation. This will ensure that senior management directly hear from the community as they make operational decisions, and will better educate our personnel in the field of the concerns unique to a particular community as they carry out an enforcement mission.
In short, the proposed integrated enforcement structure is designed to meet the needs of a modern, professional law enforcement agency that can manage the complexities of immigration law and crimes that often extend far beyond our boundaries while upholding the civil rights of all individuals.
The Administration's proposal provides for unified support operations to effectively serve both the immigration services and law enforcement functions. Separate and apart from high-level coordination, which I will discuss momentarily, operational integration of administrative support is key to achieve fundamental reform of our immigration structure.
The unified support operations structure contained in the Administration proposal would provide support activities such as a records and national file center, training and human resource functions, automation, data support and technology, and administrative support.
I can tell you, the importance of a unified support operations structure cannot be overstated.
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With respect to records alone, the INS maintains more than 25 million immigrant files, each of which contains a detailed account of the individual's relationship with the United States, including enforcement and benefit matters. These files must be complete and must be made available to employees quickly and easily, without regard to whether the records are needed by an adjudicator in Immigration Services or an investigator in Enforcement Operations. We have already begun centralizing these millions of files in the National Records Center in Missouri to establish a consolidated records management function to ensure access to files and availability to all INS officesservice and enforcementwhich need it.
Not only does a unified support structure serving both chains of command help maintain essential operational integration, but it also makes the most effective and efficient use of the resources the Administration and Congress have provided the INS over the last five years.
The key component of the Administration's proposal, and the primary difference with H.R. 2528 is where the coordination of the immigration functions occurs.
The Administration's proposal recognizes that immigration enforcement and immigration services are inextricably linked and need to be managed within an overall integrating structure by one full-time, senior appointed official who will be the policy voice for immigration and directly responsible and accountable for both services and enforcement operations. This would allow the government to maintain the crucial balance between enforcement and services that is needed for a coherent national immigration policy.
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Recognizing this interrelated nature of the service and enforcement missions, the Administration proposal establishes a number of functions at the national level, provides the necessary operational coordination between the two separate chains of command, and creates a unified administrative support structure.
Agency-wide functions at the national level provide a single point for setting broad strategic direction and ensuring overall coherence in implementation of immigration policy, application of immigration law, and communication with the public. The new structure centralizes these overarching functions by establishing national offices responsible in such critical areas as legal functions and representation, policy, financial management, professional responsibility and review, congressional and intergovernmental relations, community relations and outreach, and public information.
For instance, the nation's immigration laws determine the legal status of all non-citizens in the United States. The laws outline how those who are here unlawfully can obtain legal status and how those here legally can lose that status. Because these processes are intertwined in statute and practice, assigning them to separate entities with no coordination would fragment and weaken the government's ability to fairly and effectively administer immigration laws.
And in this day of rapidly changing events that can play out before the world in real time, a single voice for United States immigration policy that can respond quickly and decisively on immigration matters is critical. Recently, the INS was able coordinate and respond quickly to provide one flexible, balanced approach in its handling of thousands of Kosovo refugees seeking refuge in the United States.
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And the coordination provided by a single integrative structure is not just needed for overall policy guidance. The structure must also provide for day-to-day operational coordination.
While separating the two missions into two chains of command does help solve the problem of accountability and mission focus on the local level, operational coordination is still a necessity. Let me use just a key example.
As INS has increased its enforcement effectiveness in its border control, interior enforcement and criminal alien removals, there has been a corresponding increase in the number of individuals resorting to fraudulent means to enter and remain in the United States. Stopping benefit fraud requires close coordination between the Service Centers, the Immigration Services division and investigators.
On a daily basis, INS adjudicators in service centers and local offices review thousands of applications and other supporting documents. In the course of their adjudication work, they often detect suspected fraudulent documents and suspect applications. The service centers and local offices refer suspect applications and petitions to the appropriate district office for analysis and consideration for investigation. Immigration Services employees also develop general intelligence information about patterns of fraud and possible groups or individuals involved.
INS Special Agents working with the service center or local office review the information referred by immigration services employees. Once an investigation is initiated, special agents complete all necessary fieldwork on the case through prosecution if necessary, and report the results to the appropriate immigration services office for completion of the adjudication action. Special agents and intelligence analysts also compile intelligence information from various service centers and local offices into plans containing strategies and tactics to maximize future investigations of benefit fraud.
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Benefit fraud investigations and resulting fraud reduction efforts would suffer from constant challenges and competing priorities if the two interrelated missions were completely split.
The Administration proposal recognizes this need for a single official to effectively set forth a uniform policy while eliminating potential mission conflict at the operational level by clearly defining staff's roles, responsibilities and reporting relationships. It would provide for one policymaking authority on benefit fraud issues at the top of the organization while at the operational level placing investigators assigned specifically to benefit fraud cases in the Service Centers who would report directly to the area enforcement director.
And there are many like examples.
Temporary Protected Status is a generous humanitarian action that must also discourage potential increased illegal migration, decisions to grant it must be informed by both enforcement and benefit-granting considerations.
With the initiation of the expedited removal process, the designing of the regulations, training, and proper implementation required enforcement and benefit-granting policy and operational perspectives to ensure a proper and fair process.
The development of easily verifiable, fraud-resistant documents is essential for improving the delivery of services, as well as for enhancing the enforcement of the nation's immigration laws. Expertise in each field is needed to develop the documents and provide the right balance.
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In short, the Administration proposal carefully balances the need to eliminate potential mission conflict at the day-to-day operational level while recognizing that the missions are complementary and both must be considered where immigration policy and the national interest are involved.
We live in an era of large-scale immigration and increasing international migration pressures. We need greater, not less, cohesion and stronger consolidation and interaction among functions, such as those achieved by this Administration in its management of the Southwest border, in order to serve the broad public policy needs of our time.
How to organize immigration governance has been debated for more than 100 years as a response to problems in the immigration bureaucracy that transcend particular administrations or historical periods. This Administration's proposal represents fundamental reform that will strengthen the immigration system. We should not let the frustration we share lead us to weaken our institutions and our ability to carry out responsibilities in both enforcement and benefit-granting that are mutually reinforcing, not fundamentally incompatible.
I look forward to working you and other members of Congress in moving forward to restructure INS to bring much needed reform to our immigration system in a manner that best serves the nation. Thank you.
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. Thank you, Commissioner Meissner.
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The gentleman from Massachusetts, Mr. Frank, will be recognized first.
Mr. FRANK. I thank the chairman. I have a debate I want to get into on the Floor, and so the chairman is being very gracious and I appreciate that.
Commissioner, I was impressed with the outline that you put forward. It does seem to me that meets some of the concerns people have had without the separation.
I am fully familiar with the legislation, but one of the major concerns I have is the separation of enforcement and the rest, because my own sense is that as a Member of Congress the two are very much interconnected and it is information in the one area that I get that serves my judgment in the other area.
I am wondering what your sense is about the effect of a separation here as to, frankly, the quality of decisions. I mean frankly, what happens when these decisions are made even more in isolation from each other than they might now be?
Ms. MEISSNER. Well, Mr. Frank, this is exactly the problem that we have tried to solve. We have tried to solve it by separating at the working level and at the operating level, because of the needs for different expertise for different kinds of training really for a different mindset and culture in the service activities vis-a-vis the enforcement activities.
But the functions are all part of regulating the flow of noncitizens into this country. And that regulating of the flow of noncitizens is what creates our immigration system as a system that calls for preventing illegal entry at the same time that it calls for facilitating legal, and that needs to be connected at the policy and at the broad management level.
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Mr. FRANK. Well you have helped me clarify this in my mind, because I agree that there are somewhat different cultures but I guess my concern would be if the cultures became too different and too isolated.
Because we are dealing withand this is a peculiar kind of law enforcement. In much of law enforcement, what law enforcement is doing is dealing with people who have done objectively bad acts.
In the case of immigration, much of the illegality is illegaland it is illegal for good reason; I do not think we can simply open the borders, and I do believe that the presence of people who are here illegally undermines the quality of life because you do not get the right kind of enforcement of other legislationbut they did not hit anybody over the head. They did not shoot anybody. They did not rape anybody.
These are not people who are committing objectively bad acts. They are committing acts which in fact other people used to commit and they were okay.
I worry too much about a separation that looks only at this as a law enforcement problem and does not see the interconnection, especially since I gather in some cases what we are doing is deciding. We have some discretion. We have told you to exercise some discretion in refugees in other categories.
And so the world is not divided into a universe of illegals and legals. Much of your job is to decide which category people go into.
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I worry about the effects of a harsh separation on our ability to make a judgment. Is that a problem?
Ms. MEISSNER. I think that is a very legitimate concern. There is no question that when bureaucraciesthat bureaucracies operate unto themselves to a great extent, and it is extraordinarily difficult to get coordination across organizational lines.
I think that an immigration services agency standing alone might not be as effectivelymight not be as sensitive to the needs and the likelihood of its legal processes and application methods being subject to fraud, subject to misuse.
Similarly, in enforcement organizations standing alone without some broader guidance that is carefully balancing and sensitive to the kind of law enforcement that is involved in immigration could become too zealous.
Mr. FRANK. So you think it is possible to improve the separation at the functional operational level but not lose the kind of ability to have them cross-fertilize each other at the policy-making level and the administrative level?
Ms. MEISSNER. That is exactly correct, and that is the kind of design we have
Mr. FRANK. Let me say this. One thing that leads me to be opposed to a separation, I had to be someplace else but there was a panel of people who worked for Members of Congress who have a very hard job, and I am very impressed with them, and I have, because of the nature of my District, two people most of whose time is spent on immigration matters, and they deal with all immigration matters.
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I guess the question would be to Members of Congress. If we were to go ahead and split Immigration in this way, would they then split the function among their caseworkers?
Would you have an enforcement caseworker and another caseworker? My guess is, the answer is, no, to everybody. No one would think of that.
If it does not make any sense for us, I am inclined to think it does not necessarily make sense there. I mean, literally that would beyou know, we would divide up our caseworkers' duties.
The logic of this would be that you might have a different caseworker for one half of this, and a different caseworker for the other half, and I do not think anybody plans to do that, and I hope we do not give them the occasion to.
Thank you again for letting me go ahead, Mr. Chairman. I am going to go to the Floor.
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. Thank you, Mr. Frank.
The gentlewoman from Texas, Ms. Jackson Lee, is recognized.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. I thank the gentleman very much.
Page 280 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Commissioner Meissner, I hope you have had an opportunity to glimpse at some of the early-morning testimony, most of which complimented your professionalism, your commitment to the issues that the INS deals with, and I hope you appreciate my respect for you as well for the job that you are doing and the commitment that you bring to the task.
Frankly, many of the criticisms dealt with the mechanisms of the INS. In particular, a citation was given to the fact that the INS has experienced restructuring in the past. That, for me, gives pause that all of us should be deliberative as we consider what is the best way to answer the concerns.
I have had the opportunity to talk to individuals who deal with the bonds aspect, and there is certainly a crisis there in terms of individuals who are detained and possibly not able to follow those procedures or get the necessary access to being on bond.
So we have just a myriad of issues that we can deal with.
I happen to look at this in a different perspective from what you have presented to us. Although I had to step away to another meeting, I am familiar with the testimony and the structure that you are offering.
I think a lot of thought has gone into it, but I think if we are going to make what I would hope to be a final attempt at restructuring the INS and, as I indicated to you of course, I am offering the Immigration Restructuring and Accountability Act of 1999, and I would commend you to study it carefully so that we can have some collaborative efforts, and I hope you will comment on the collaboration.
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But the issue I think has to be what else can we be doing in addition to restructuring. I mentioned it to both Mr. Rogers and Mr. Reyes, this question of management, this question of accountability, this question of management systems. That is why I used the term ''mechanisms.''
So I think it would be important for there to be Congressional activity or Congressional affirmation, if you will, by Congressional initiative in restructuring as opposed to simply doing it on an internal basis.
I would like you to comment on the issue of management systems, the data base, the automation, the accountability and how you would foresee that occurring.
I am going to recommend, and have already stated my commitment to an outside management consultant process that is not intrusive but brings to bear as we begin to look at who will be appointed over this area, or how we will merge these areas, how we will coordinate this area to bring in an objective free-standing, if you will, and not free-falling, approach to assisting us in the systems.
Because all of the various staff persons who were here were sort of talking about systemic problems, of losing fingerprints, and 3-year delays, and can't find files, and I think Congressman Canady talked about some files having to get from Texas to Florida.
So I would appreciate it if you would share your thoughts on that, please.
Page 282 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. MEISSNER. Thank you very much.
The most important starting point is the enormous growth that this agency has experienced in the last 5 or 6 years.
You have heard from Chairman Rogers that the Appropriations Committee has been extraordinarily committed to the growth of the INS.
The administration has put forward very, very ambitious budget proposals, and we have experienced a tremendous amount of growth combined with the change of many internal reforms and many, many new mandates from the Congress.
Managing all of that under any circumstances is exceptionally difficult. All of those things happening at once creates many management challenges.
But that of course has had to happen on an infrastructure and with a management structure that has not been as effective for the tasks that we have needed to take on as it might be.
The proposal that we are now all agreed on of the split of enforcement and service is appropriate, given the size to which we have grown and the range and scope of responsibilities, many of them very recent, that we have needed to take on.
Now the systems that support that, the underlying systems that allow for that work to be done, have also grown very, very quickly.
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The automation that we have brought in, the demands on our hiring and training systems, and we have done an enormous amount in achieving our goals.
We have doubled the size of the Border Patrol. We have met our hiring requirements on the Border Patrol side until this year when we have run into labor market issues.
We have bought computers. We had 30 percent of the agency computerized. We now have more than 90 percent of it computerized.
There has been a tremendous infusion. But this structural change is needed now in order for us to truly focus our people on that their primary responsibilities are.
Each side has a different culture. Each side has different training needs. The range of things that each side needs to do is so vast that there need to be that specialization.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. So you are willing to collaborate with those of us in Congress to work on these issues?
Ms. MEISSNER. I am absolutely willing to collaborate. And as I say, the proposal that the administration has put forward shows in considerable detail how in fact we would go about doing it because we have been planning for more than a year, and we have been relying on outside consultant support from two different well known firms, and we have looked at the experiences of other agencies across the Federal Government as well as in the private sector in order to build in the sorts of efforts that make organizations be effective both in their customer service and in their internal accountability and management structures.
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Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. Thank you, Ms. Jackson Lee.
Mr. Berman, the gentleman from California.
Mr. BERMAN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
First, I think it would be interesting to put into the recordand if I might just provide the staff with some charts that show thatto the extent that anything is premised on the notion that somehow enforcement has gotten short shrift in the last 5 years, these are charts showing massive, massive increases in aliens removed by the INS both through inadmissable, excludable, and deportable; prosecutionsthe increase in INS prosecutions between 1995 and now far exceeds the sum total of increases in Customs, DEA, FBI, IRS, and ATF, all the other Federal prosecution agencies inside both Justice and outside Justice.
Staffing trends, where the staff increases have been going up, Border Patrol agents, immigration inspectors, detention and enforcement officers, general enforcement, and criminal investigators.
I mean, the whole issue of a thousand new Border Patrols is an interesting questions about timing, and absorbtion and all of that, but no one should think that this is a debate or a discussion that is just starting now.
The INS, since 1993, has been on a huge, on the enforcement side, on a huge scaleup. I am not saying that is bad. In fact, I think that has helped. There have been some strong benefits that have come from that. But that is the story.
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The question I would like to ask you
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. Mr. Berman, without objection we will make those charts a part of the record
Mr. BERMAN. Great.
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS: [continuing]. Which I think was your original request.
Let me also, if you will yield just briefly
Mr. BERMAN. Sure.
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS: [continuing]. Mention to you that the spike upwards that you referred to in prosecutions and deportations and so forth is attributable, I think you will see, almost directly to the extradited deportation measures in the 1996 act.
That is why the last couple of years have shown such increases in some of those categories.
Mr. BERMAN. Well I did not say they were all good. [Laughter.]
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. Thank you for yielding.
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Mr. BERMAN. No, that is certainly true. There might have even been some people deported who should not have been.
But anyway, in the lastwith the Members who are sponsoring the bill, Mr. Reyes and Mr. Rogers, Mr. Rogers talked about the Carnegie Endowment Report. We have heard you talk about the importance of separation.
We had some discussions. I know there were some other issues about where the records are kept, management records, and the issue of who is in charge of some of the detention capabilities, but on the fundamental question of separation, what is the difference between what they are suggesting, what the Carnegie Report suggested, and what you suggest?
How could youCould you boil that down very easily?
Ms. MEISSNER. On the issue of separation, I think for the purposes of legislation there is not a difference. We agree in principle that there needs to be a separation at the operating level up to a headquarters level of the enforcement functions from the services functions.
So as you pointed out in your earlier question, there is broad agreement on that notion.
The difference existsalthough I must say that, in listening to the earlier testimony it seems to me that we should be able to reach a consensus here, which is what the administration would like to dobut the difference that does exist is the difference of how the coordination between the service and the enforcement functions should occur.
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The way 2528 is presently written, it would occur at the level of the Deputy Attorney General and the Attorney General.
We believe that those people, those positions, given the scope of their responsibilities, cannot devote the kind of time and effort to this coordination function that is required, and therefore there should be a structure and a full-time official in charge.
Mr. BERMAN. In the boxes, in the chart that Mr. Rogers showed us, which you could not see because it was turned toward us, but every little box that came to the Attorney General also came to the Deputy Attorney General. So there isI mean, the notion that somehow if the Deputy Attorney General has this function they have less people reporting to them and more time to focus I think is disputed and discredited by the very chart that we were shown.
So boiled down, then, what you are really saying is the big difference that you think exists right now is that, when they talk about Attorney General or designee they are limiting it to the Deputy Attorney General, whereas you think there should be someone whose sole responsibility should be coordination and supervision and oversight of these two separate agencies, divisions, departments, whatever you want to call them.
Ms. MEISSNER. That is correct.
Mr. BERMAN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Page 288 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. Thank you, Mr. Berman.
Commissioner Meissner, I don't have any questions, just a brief observation.
You know how I feel. We met yesterday. You should be familiar with my opening statement. I just want to reiterate the fact that we need two separate bureaus. It is again because of the conflict of interest not on the case level or caseworker level, because they do not set policy, but on the level that you are at.
It is because of the potential for politicalization of the agency, having one person, in this case the INS Commissioner, responsible for both services and enforcement and the inherent conflict in that regard that demands that we separate the two functions, I think, of the INS.
I will give you one example involving yourself so you can respond if you need to, briefly, but this is the kind of conflict that I am talking about, the kind of thing that quite frankly has demoralized many people in the INS. In this case the example is from the enforcement side.
Last March, for example, when you went down to South America and in effect talked about amnesty for Central Americans, that arguably and, according to a lot of people, definitely led to an increase in illegal immigration coming north.
It made a lot of law enforcement people in the INS wonder exactly why the head of the INS was talking about encouraging people, undermining the current law and perhaps encouraging people to come into the U.S. illegally. We have the situation where for the last 6 years you have been encouraged by Border Patrol chiefs and district directors to come up with regulations that would allow Border Patrol agents, for example, to have general arrest authority. Then they could make arrests when they ran across individuals who they thought were coming into the country illegally. As you know now they cannot arrest them if they have illegal drugs. They have got to call the DEA.
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We have been trying to get you to promulgate regulations that would allow them to have the arrest authority and to stop the drug dealers as well as the people coming in illegally.
All those are areas where there is obviously a conflict. It has been handled to the disappointment of many people in the INS who are demoralized by seeing somebody who is in a position where she has to choose service or enforcement. Sometimes there is that obvious conflict of interest.
That is how I see it. I think that is why we have introduced the bill. That is how I think Congressmen Reyes and Rogers see it as well.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Would the gentleman yield?
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. I will be happy to yield briefly to Ms. Jackson Lee.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. I thank the gentleman very much.
I guess I want to pick up on the point. We have had so much agreement in this hearing as we have proceeded, but just let me raise a point of murkiness as it relates to H.R. 2528. Let me just raise these two questions.
As I read it, they would be putting, or the bill would be putting the inspectors who, as I had the opportunity to visit some of the sites who were at the airports inspecting documents in enforcement, and my question to you, because I believe some of the things you have said you have been following administration policy, so I don't know if you can answer that, but my question to you is. How would that impact civil rights and due process?
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If you could just answer that very briefly, as well as those who are asylum seekers, particularly those facing expedited removal.
The reason why I am following up on this is because some of these issues of asylum, and granting of asylum, I believe you were espousing the policies of the administration, which means that we may have a political difference, meaning there may be a political difference here, and I do not know if you can answer that, but you can certainly answer
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. Let me reclaim my time to say that the gentlelady has made the exact point that I was attempting to make. That is, that it is an agency that has been politicized by the administration, and if it were not for that we would not be talking about separating the functions.
Mr. BERMAN. Well would the gentleman yield?
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. Let's let the Commissioner respond to Ms. Jackson Lee's question first.
Ms. MEISSNER. Well, Mr. Chairman, if I might
Ms. JACKSON LEE. We disagree on policies, but thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate it.
Page 291 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. MEISSNER. I would like to respond first to your points, because my trip to Central America occurred at a very critical time for Central America. It was in the wake of a hurricane that devastated several countries.
It was at a time when U.S. immigration policy toward those countries was critical. I never spoke about an amnesty in Central America because our policy was not one of an amnesty.
In fact, our policy was one of temporary protected status, and my role there was to explain that temporary protected status issues and to inform people that they should not be coming to the United States.
Where general arrest authority is concernedand I might say that that is again one of the reasons why a senior policy official responsible for immigration is critical because we are not only talking about domestic policy, we are talking about foreign policy, of which immigration is a part.
For many countries, including the countries of Central America, immigration is the single biggest foreign policy issue on their agenda with us.
So our being there
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. Commissioner, that is my point. You were doing the bidding of the administration. Had you been a Deputy Attorney General, it is a lot less likely that you would be susceptible to political pressure.
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The Deputy Attorney General, now that we have that overseas, the FBI and the DEA, you do not see him or her going out and promulgating new policy that is being proposed by the administration.
And by the way, the subject of amnesty or talking about a new policy of legal permanent status does encourage people to come into the country illegally. We have had study after study show that.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. If the chairman would yield, it is a devastation that occurred in Central America. I think the President and the Commissioner was responding to it.
Can she quickly answer the two questions that I raised, please, which is dealing with inspectors under the 2528 being put in enforcement and what happens, in your opinion, to asylum seekers under H.R. 2528?
Ms. MEISSNER. I will answer that.
I also want to say that on general arrest authority, we have no objection. We have a very limited training capacity right now because
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. Commissioner, we have been waiting 6 years for the regulations
Page 293 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. MEISSNER: [continuing]. Because it is strained with all of the
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS: [continuing]. Six years for the regulations.
Ms. MEISSNER: [continuing]. With all of the new hiring, and we cannot give people general arrest authority without training them.
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. I am not talking about training. I am just talking about the regulations have not been written yet, after 6 years.
Ms. MEISSNER. The regulationsto write the regulations and not allow people to implement them by training them properly would not be a responsible thing to do.
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. You do not have to get to the training. I am just talking about writing the regulations, 6 years. In 6 years the budget of the INS has, what, increased 150%?
Mr. BERMAN. Would you yield?
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. I am going to yield briefly because we need to get to the next panel.
Page 294 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. JACKSON LEE. And she has not answered the question, but go ahead, Mr. Berman.
Mr. BERMAN. Why would she promulgate a regulation saying that as soon as we get the funding, the resources, the time and the support from Congress to provide the requisite training, we will then
Ms. MEISSNER. I could do that. I could do that. Now as to inspectorsI could do that.
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. Okay. Thank you
Ms. MEISSNER. As to inspectors, we would categorize them under the enforcement side. Asylum is part of the services side. Both of those are examples of why you need overall balance because inspectors do carry out responsibilities that are also service-oriented and asylum seekers of course need to be treated both by enforcement and service personnel with the proper training and the proper attention to their potential claims for protection.
Mr. BERMAN. Mr. Chairman
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. Thank you, Commissioner Meissner, for answering all three of our questions.
Mr. BERMAN. Mr. Chairman, unanimous consent for 30 seconds, not for a question but just to respond to a point you made?
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Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. Yes. Mr. Berman is recognized, or I will yield the time.
Mr. BERMAN. In the sense that you are talking about it, we are all walking conflicts of interest. Because everybody has different kinds of inputs and pressures that sometimes work against each other.
What I cannot understand for the life of me is why we think that a Deputy Attorney General appointed by the President would be less sensitive to pressures from the Executive Branch than the Director of the INS would be who comes out of an agency.
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. Well, for a couple of reasons. In the case of the Deputy Attorney General who is now in charge of say the DEA and the FBI, you do not see that individual going out and promulgating administration policy, or suggesting a change of policy.
The other part of the answer to your question is, for good or for bad, this administration is the best example we have, in my judgment, of a successful attempt to politicize an agency from top to bottom and, had this administration not so politicized this agencyI am talking about everything from Citizenship USA, to a plain misinterpretation of the plain language of legislation, to getting involved in private immigration billshad we not had that top to bottom politicization of this agency, Mr. Berman, we probably would not be talking about separating the two.
Page 296 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC But just to make sure this does not happen again, that is one reason to separate these two things.
Mr. BERMAN. Then what we really have to do is have a President for Services and a President for Enforcement. [Laughter.]
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. No, that is not the case. If we separate the functions, then the conflict of interest is not near as inherent as it is when you have the head of the INS herself or himself with individuals coming to them.
As I say, the proof is in the example we have seen under this administration, and it is regrettable.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Chairman, when you say we live in different times than we did in 1970 with respect to the immigration flow in this country and therefore different policies are warranted.
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. We have had a good, healthy discussion. Thank you again, Commissioner, for being here.
Let me introduce the next panel as they come forward.
I will introduce our members of the fifth panel. Susan Martin, Former Director, Commission on Immigration Reform, now Director of the Institute for the Study of International Migration at Georgetown University; Chief Paul Berg, President, United States Border Patrol Chiefs' Association; Richard Gallo, President, Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association; Mr. T.J. Bonner, President, National Border Patrol Council; Mr. Dennis, J. Smith, Executive Vice President, National Immigration and Naturalization Service Council for the American Federation of Government Employees, AFLCIO; and Mr. Mark Hetfield, Director, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society.
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We welcome you all, and I am going to ask a favor and then hold out a carrot. The favor is this. That you stay strictly within the few minutes we are going to give you for your testimony.
The reason for that is a personal favor to me because I have to be somewhere at 2:30 and I cannot cancel it.
The favor I offer you in return is, if we get through this quickly, is either no questions or no hard questions. So we just need to get through this quickly, if you do not mind. And I am afraid weeven if you can reduce it to three or 4 minutes, that will be of even more help, but we do need to build a record for the five of the six of you all are in favor of the bill that we are considering, and you all have experience that is unmatched in many, many ways.
Now having said that, I am also going to take 1 second to say that a special thanks needs to go to Paul Berg, because today is not only his birthday, it is his anniversary.
I can only hope his wife came with him on the tripshe did notwe owe her a special thank you and tell her we appreciate her sharing you with us on an important day.
With that, we will start and start with Dr. Martin.
Page 298 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCSTATEMENT OF SUSAN MARTIN, FORMER DIRECTOR, COMMISSION ON IMMIGRATION REFORM, DIRECTOR OF THE INSTITUTE FOR THE STUDY OF INTERNATIONAL MIGRATION, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY
Ms. MARTIN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, members of the subcommittee.
I am pleased to testify on this bill, particularly because of the progress that clearly has been made in dealing with the structural problems within the Immigration System.
Although I continue to believe that the recommendations made by the Commission on Immigration Reform that dealt with other aspects of the Immigration System remain desirable, I do support enactment of this legislation as a means of getting to some of the basic problems that we have been hearing about with regard to the Immigration Service itself, but with a few suggestions, modifications, and additions.
Rather than goingin the interest of time, rather than go over all the reasons that separating the agency is necessary, let me tell you about what I see as being five major advantages of the approach taken in the legislation of having two co-equal bureaus, one for services and one for enforcement.
By having these co-equal bureaus, we will have a distinct set of functions that are assigned to each bureau, meaning that each will have a chain of command and a mechanism for accountability that should improve performance.
Page 299 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I particularly like that the bill elevates the level of leadership for each of the two functions, so that both services and enforcement will receive the leadership of the Senate-confirmed appointment who is at an Executive level 4, and therefore the level of the current Commissioner of INS. This provision shows the importance of the issue and the complexity of the management tasks ahead of the directions of these two agencies.
It also provides the opportunity for reorganizing the field structure to ensure that we modernize the way in which services are provided and enforcement is handled.
Fourth, it allows for recruitment, training, deploying, evaluating, and promoting staff with the specific skills needed to carry out each of these two functions.
In fact, I would go further than the legislation as it is currently framed to require that each of the agencies has its own human resource and training capacities to ensure that the two cultures are definitely supported.
And finally, each agency would have its own financial resources and therefore ability to carry out its functions with a defined budget and no sharing of costs between them.
Two things, though, I think need to be added to the legislation.
The first deals with the diffusion of responsibility that the Commission identified between the INS, the State Department, and the Labor Department, particularly in the area of services.
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The splitting of the agency in the Justice Department provides the opportunity to also look at ways to streamline services across all three agencies.
We would encourage the legislation to include a provision requiring the Attorney General, in consultation with the Secretaries of Labor and State, to come up with a plan for streamlining including any legislative authorities that would be needed.
The second area where I would suggest an addition, is to make more explicit in the legislation that the Attorney General deal with the issue of oversight and policy development at the departmental level.
The Associate Attorney General concept is one that I think has a lot of merit, but it also holds the potential for halting the separation of functions and operations.
It is also possible for services to report to the Associate Attorney General and enforcement to report to the Deputy Attorney General with some type of task force or coordination mechanism between those two offices.
So there are a variety of ways to deal with it but I think it is essential to ensure a policymaking capability at the departmental level on immigration issues.
[The prepared statement of Susan Martin follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF SUSAN MARTIN, FORMER DIRECTOR, COMMISSION ON IMMIGRATION REFORM, DIRECTOR OF THE INSTITUTE FOR THE STUDY OF INTERNATIONAL MIGRATION, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY
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Mr. Chairman, Members of the Subcommittee, thank you for providing this opportunity to testify on the ''Immigration Reorganization and Improvement Act of 1999.''
At present, the immigration system is in dire need of restructuring to improve its capacity to carry out the many functions required of it. An effective immigration system requires both credible policy and sound management. But, poor organizational structure will foil even the best intended management and policies.
The Immigration and Naturalization Service [INS] is an institution in crisis, unable to carry out effectively either its service or its enforcement activities. The agency has grown rapidly in the 1990s, for the first time gaining resources more in keeping with the importance of its mandate. Even as resources increased, however, the demands on INS have also grown this decade, and the agency has been unable to keep up with the increasing size and complexity of its workload.
Although more fundamental reform of the overall immigration system along the lines of the proposals made by the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform would be desirable, reorganization of INS's functions is urgently needed. For this reason, I support enactment of the ''Immigration Reorganization and Improvement Act of 1999,'' with some modifications as I will describe below.
WHY IS REFORM NEEDED?
In its 1997 report to Congress, the Commission on Immigration Reform outlined two principal structural problems resulting from the current complex system for implementing immigration policy: mission overload at the Immigration and Naturalization Service and diffusion of responsibility across several federal agencies, particularly for legal immigration matters. The result is a lack of accountability for carrying out effectively and efficiently the major functions of the immigration system.
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These problems have only worsened since the Commission's report. To take immigration services as an example: Although improvements have been made in some locations, such as Los Angeles, it takes two years or more to approve a naturalization application in other INS district offices. Gleaning information from federal agency data and reports from attorneys handling these cases, it appears that the waits for legal immigration status are as bad. Let's say your U.S. citizen son living in Los Angeles(see footnote 29) marries the foreign student he met at university. It will take two years for her to become a legal permanent resident: the processing time for an I130 petition is about six months and approval of an adjustment of status application is another 1821 months.
If you are an employer in Los Angeles seeking permanent resident status for an employee, the processing times are even longer. A regular labor certification takes up to 40 months to get through the state employment agency and the Department of Labor; even an application that can be approved through the expedited process takes 12 months. Add the 10 months at INS for approval of the I140 petition and the 1821 months for adjustment of status, and the whole process can take 3 1/2 years if you are lucky and five years if you must go through the regular process. It is little wonder that employers are concerned about the time limits on the nonimmigrant visas for intracompany transfers (L) and specialty workers (H1B).
INS plays a key role, though hardly the only one, in implementing every aspect of immigration policy. Its mission is now too broad and complicated to manage properly. No one agency could have the capacity to accomplish all of the goals of immigration policy equally well. Immigration law enforcement requires staffing, training, resources, and a work culture that differs from what is required for effective adjudication of benefits. Each function requires serious attention from an senior executive who can be held fully accountable for the performance of the activities within his or her mandate.
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Our Commission was not the first to recognize this point. As early as 1931, the Wickersham Commission, in its Report on the Enforcement of the Deportation Laws of the United States, noted the conflict arising when the same agency is responsible for adjudicating applications for benefits and deporting aliens. The Wickersham Commission found that ''the confusion of functions limits the effective performance of each function involved'' and recommended separating the functions. More recently, the Commission for the Study of International Migration and Cooperative Economic Development also concluded that placing incompatible service and enforcement functions within one agency creates problems: competition for resources; lack of coordination and cooperation; and personnel practices that both encourage transfer between enforcement and service positions and create confusion regarding mission and responsibilities.
Combining responsibility for immigration enforcement and immigration services also blurs the distinction between illegal migration and legal admissions. As a matter of public policy, it is important to maintain a bright line between these two forms of entry. Separating enforcement and benefits functions will lead to more effective enforcement and improved service to the public.
WHAT TYPE OF REORGANIZATION IS NEEDED?
The Commission on Immigration Reform recommended a more comprehensive restructuring of the immigration system than is contained in the ''Immigration Reorganization and Improvement Act of 1999.'' Under the Commission's proposal, the responsibility for immigration enforcement would remain within the Justice Department in a new Bureau for Immigration Enforcement. The responsibility for immigration services, now dispersed among the State, Justice and Labor Departments, would be consolidated into a new office for Citizenship, Immigration and Refugee Admissions at the Department of State. The Commission's recommendation has the advantage of dealing with both problemsmission overload and diffusion of responsibilitiesfound in the current system.
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Although I continue to believe that the type of consolidation of immigration services outlined by the Commission is desirable, I see a more urgent need to address the organizational problems at INS. The internal restructuring plan at INS already recognizes the value of separating services and enforcement, and the planning team has addressed many of the operational issues that need to be addressed in effecting such separation at the field level. The ''Immigration Reorganization and Improvement Act of 1999,'' by creating co-equal agencies within the Justice Department, one responsible for immigration services and the other for immigration enforcement, takes this concept further and in several directions that I believe will increase the ability of the federal government to carry out effectively its immigration-related responsibilities.
The strengths of the approach taken in the bill are as follows:
Each agency has responsibility for a distinct set of functions related to a single, clearly conceived mandate. The Bureau of Immigration Services will have sole responsibility for adjudication of immigration services, including nonimmigrant and immigrant visa petitions, naturalization petitions, asylum and refugee applications, and other services performed by INS. The Bureau of Immigration Enforcement will have sole responsibility for the functions now performed by the Border Patrol, inspections, detention and deportation program, intelligence program and investigations. Each will have its own chain of command to ensure maximum accountability.
Each agency will be led by a Director, appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate, who has had extensive management experience in his or her agency's area of competence and is hired at level IV of the Executive Schedule. In the proposed bill, responsibility for each of the two principal functionsservices and enforcementrests with a Director who is at the level of the current Commissioner of INS. Under the current structure, the persons responsible for actual implementation of services and enforcement are several layers below the Commissioner. By elevating the level of the persons accountable for immigration services and immigration enforcement, the legislation recognizes the national importance, size and scale of operations, and resources devoted to each function.
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Each agency will have the opportunity to reorganize its field structure to ensure the most effective implementation of its responsibilities. For example, the Bureau for Immigration Services could designate new offices, designed specifically with service delivery in mind. Ideally, to avoid long lines and waits for service, there would be smaller offices in more locations than current INS district offices. The Bureau for Immigration Enforcement would focus its offices in areas where serious violations of immigration law take place. In border communities, the new Bureau could combine into one office, with one responsible official, what is now spread between the Border Patrol sectors and the INS district offices. The two Bureaus should refrain from co-locating their field offices. Asking individuals requesting services or information to go to an enforcement agency sends the wrong message about the purpose of our legal immigration system.
Each agency can concentrate on recruiting, training, deploying and promoting staff with the needed skills and experience to carry out its functions. Staff undertaking law enforcement activities require significantly different skills, experience and outlook than do staff responsible for providing customer services. The Bureau for Immigration Services should look towards hiring, training and promoting persons committed to efficiently running large-scale benefits adjudication programs and establishing customer-friendly environments. The Bureau for Immigration Enforcement should look towards hiring, training and promoting persons with interest and experience in pursuing careers in law enforcement. The differences in needed skills and career outlooks are so significant that I would recommend deleting human resources and training from the list of potential shared support functions, referenced in Sec. 6(e)(2).
Each agency will have its own financial resources to carry out its functions and will be accountable for its activities. For the most part, fees cover adjudication of applications for immigration services whereas appropriations from general revenues cover enforcement activities. Because of the many shared support systems, facilities and data systems, it is difficult to determine currently whether fees for services subsidize enforcement or vice versa. What we can say definitely, though, is that the clients paying for immigration services are not now receiving the services for which they pay. Separating the two functions means that each agency will be able to set its own budget, seek its own appropriation of general revenue funds and, where appropriate, set its own fee structures. Each agency will also be held accountable for its management of resources.
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WHAT ELSE NEEDS TO BE DONE?
Having described the advantages of splitting and elevating the immigration service and immigration enforcement functions as presented in the ''Immigration Reorganization and Improvement Act of 1999,'' let me offer recommendations on two issues not covered sufficiently in the bill.
My first recommendation pertains to the diffusion of responsibilities for immigration services. The reorganization of immigration functions at the Department of Justice should help address some of the backlogs and waiting times for receipt of immigration benefits, but it cannot on its own overcome the delays caused by the unwieldy system that requires largely sequential and sometimes duplicate actions on the parts of Justice, Labor and State Departments. I urge Congress to require the Attorney General, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Labor, to report to Congress on ways to streamline the adjudication of applications for immigration services, specifying actions that can be undertaken under existing statutory authority and recommending statutory changes where insufficient authority exists.
My second recommendation pertains to policy development and departmental oversight. The Commission on Immigration Reform recommended developing more fully the capacity within the Executive Branch for policy development, planning, monitoring, evaluation and oversight of operations. In the absence of effective policy development and oversight, we can expect bad policymaking, poorly developed programs, inadequate coordination across agencies, and almost nonexistent program assessment and evaluation of outcomes.
Page 307 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The immigration-related policy making at the departmental level of Justice tends to be ad hoc, understaffed and crisis-driven. The Office of the Deputy Attorney General has two to three attorneys working on immigration policy and program coordination. These staff serve as a clearinghouse through which immigration-related concerns pass from the responsible agencies (particularly, INS and the Executive Office for Immigration Review but also the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices and the Office of Immigration Litigation) through the Deputy to the Attorney General. Given the wide range of immigration policy issues requiring department-level attention and the large number of other, equally pressing matters before the Deputy Attorney General (factors that will not change under the proposed reorganization), these staff have an all-but-unmanageable portfolio.
There are several possible strategies to address this issue. One option is to give responsibility for all immigration policy development and oversight to a newly created Associate Attorney General to whom the Directors of all of the immigration agencies would report. There is danger, however, that this approach would weaken the separation of enforcement and service operations accomplished by splitting the INS.
Under a second option, the two principal immigration agencies would each have a policy office that would focus on issues specifically related to its mandate. For oversight, each would report to the existing Deputy Attorney General and Associate Attorney General whose portfolio most closely matches its own operations. In the current administration, the Bureau of Immigration Services would likely report to the Associate Attorney General who now has responsibility for the civil, anti-trust, civil rights, and environmental and natural resource divisions. The Bureau of Immigration Enforcement would likely report to the Deputy Attorney General who now has responsibility for agencies handling other law enforcement matters. Policy and operational decisions affecting both agencies would be resolved in the office of the Attorney General if the Deputy and Associate Attorney Generals are unable to come to a mutually agreeable decision.
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This approach reinforces the separation of services and enforcement and assigns clear responsibility for policy development and operational oversight. The Attorney General would resolve differences between the two agencies when her Deputy and Associate do not agree. It is unclear, however, given their other responsibilities, that the Deputy and Associate have the time, staff and resources to engage in the level of oversight that may be required, particularly in the transitional period during which the two new agencies are becoming operational as separate functioning entities.
Because these approaches raise complex issues affecting not only immigration matters but also the overall operation of the Justice Department, a thorough examination of the advantages and disadvantages must take place. The proposed legislation already requires the Attorney General to develop an implementation plan. The legislation should specify that the Attorney General should address the issues of departmental-level policymaking and oversight in the report to be submitted to Congress.
Thank you again for providing the opportunity to present this testimony. I would be pleased to answer any questions you have.
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. Thank you, Dr. Martin.
STATEMENT OF CHIEF PAUL BERG, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES BORDER PATROL CHIEFS' ASSOCIATION
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Mr. BERG. Mr. Chairman, Congresswoman Jackson Lee, and members of the subcommittee:
I am pleased to have the opportunity to talk to you today about the impact of the proposed Immigration Reorganization and Improvement Act of 1999.
The Chiefs Association, which consists of over 170 top field managers, firmly believes that both immigration enforcement and immigration services are critically important to our Nation's sovereignty and those to whom we provide service.
The problems with the existing system have been caused by the complexity and the diversity of the two competing missions of the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
On the one hand you have an agency responsible for adjudicating the various immigration benefits and application for those seeking to legally immigrate to the United States and, most importantly, the vesting of U.S. citizenship to those eligible and deserving.
Divergently, enforcement elements deal with people trying to circumvent the legal immigration system and violate their status after admission.
The largest of these enforcement elements, of course, is the U.S. Border Patrol, which apprehended 1.5 million illegal entrants and seized nearly $1.9 billion worth of narcotics last fiscal year, and those figures will probably be equal this year.
Page 310 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC As you can see, the management of such diverse activities by one person leads to an adverse competition for resources. Historically, budget allocations for the enforcement elements have served as funding mechanisms for the support services and benefits programs, and that of course has been vice versa. When there are shortages in those areas, funds for enforcement equipment enhancements, including personnel, often are redirected.
Congress fully intended to improve the efficiency of the INS as evidence by the record budgets over the past five fiscal years, yet the agency has fallen short in accomplishing the objectives mandated by Congress.
Shortages of personnel and technology continue to exist. These inherent problems may be directly or indirectly what led to the INS's failure to detect railway killer Angel Maturino Resendez because of budgetary considerations and inadequate system development.
IDENT did not contain archived files prior to 2 years of its advent.
Secondly, it does not provide the ability to access other Federal and State enforcement data bases. Ironically, IDENT cannot even crosscheck INS's own data bases.
The information IDENT contains depends entirely on the information input by its user. As you can see, the priorities of a law enforcement agency are drastically different from a benefits' providing agency.
What we presently have is similar to expecting one manager to oversee the operations of the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the Social Security System at the same time.
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The chain of command for the enforcement side of INS is extremely dysfunctional. As Chief Patrol Agent for the Del Rio Sector, my immediate operational supervisor is not within the Border Patrol but is the Central Regional Director. Chief of the Border Patrol, INS Headquarters, is not even in the chain of command.
In reviewing all the enforcement divisions within the Department of Justice, we are the only agency organized in this nonfunctional manner. For optimum efficiency, the functions and management of enforcement elements must be structured similar to a large metropolitan police department.
The proposed legislation will allow the directors of the bureaus to concentrate their efforts on making a system that is efficient to remain focused on very complex missions, and they will be independently accountable.
We must stop illegal entry into the United States and remove those who have slipped through remain and work here legally. We must eliminate the incentive for people who risk their lives at the hands of unscrupulous smugglers.
The new enforcement agency should be managed by career enforcement officers with the expertise to enforce immigration law, much like the FBI Director, a well-managed board that will enhance our national security and safeguard our immigration heritage, while restoring our Nation's confidence and integrity of its sovereign border.
Speaking on behalf of all officers of INS, and especially for the agency of the U.S. Border Patrol, we are proud to be serving our country and take pride in carrying out the intent of the immigration laws passed by Congress.
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Thank you, and I would be happy to answer any questions you might have.
[The prepared statement of Paul Berg follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF CHIEF PAUL BERG, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES BORDER PATROL CHIEFS' ASSOCIATION
Mr. Chairman, Congresswoman Jackson Lee, and Members of the Subcommittee, I am pleased to have the opportunity to talk to you today about the impact of the proposed ''Immigration Reorganization and Improvement Act of 1999'' on immigration enforcement operations.
The Chief Patrol Agents Association, which consists of over 170 top field managers, firmly believes that both immigration enforcement and immigration services are critically important to our nation's sovereignty and those to whom we provide service. Each area requires equal dedication and continuous management oversight.
The problems with the existing system have been caused by the complexity and diversity of the two competing missions of the Immigration and Naturalization Serviceproviding services to legal immigrants and preventing the entry of individuals who attempt to enter the United States illegally.
On one hand, you have an agency responsible for adjudicating the various immigration benefit applications for those seeking to legally immigrate to the United States. The immigration services functions primarily deal with the paperwork and meticulous details that are required to provide benefits within the immigration and nationality laws passed by Congress.
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The public is entitled to efficient and timely handling of applications and issuance of immigrant and non-immigrant visas, and most importantly the vesting of U.S. Citizenship to those eligible and deserving of such.
Divergently, you have enforcement elements who deal with people who try to circumvent the legal immigration system or who violate their status after admission. The largest of these enforcement elements is the U.S. Border Patrol. The Border Patrol is the uniformed law enforcement element tasked with protecting the border of our nation 24-hours-a-day, 7-days a week, 52-weeks a year. Last fiscal year, the Border Patrol apprehended 1.5 million people attempting to enter the country illegally. That figure will probably be equaled this fiscal year.
The second largest of the enforcement elements is the immigration inspectors at the ports of entry. The inspectors also have the dual function of facilitating the free flow of commerce and persons through our land, sea and airport ports of entry, as well as detecting malafide applicants for admission and interdicting illegal contraband.
Supporting these enforcement elements are the offices of intelligence, investigations, and detention and deportation. All the aforementioned are essential to immediate border control as well as an effective interior enforcement strategy.
As you can see the management of such diverse activities by one person leads to an adverse competition for resources. Historically, budget allocations for the enforcement elements served as a funding mechanism for the support services and benefits programs, when there are shortages in those areas. Funds for enforcement equipment and enhancements are redirected. When temporary increases in adjudicators are needed, they normally come from enforcement elements.
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Congress has initiated a commitment to improving the efficiency of the Immigration and Naturalization Service as is evidenced by the record budgets allocated to the agency over the past five fiscal years. Yet the Agency has fallen short in accomplishing the objectives mandated by Congress.
Naturalization applications backlogs, unacceptable inspection waiting times at ports of entry, poor investigation of fraudulent applications for benefits, overstay of non-immigrants, as well as shortages of personnel and technology continue to exist.
These inherent problems may have directly or indirectly led to the World Trade Center bombing and the terror of the ''Railway Killer.'' The database system (IDENT/ENFORCE), which was developed by INS, failed to detect fugitive Angel Maturino Resendiz. Because of budgetary considerations and inadequate system development, IDENT did not contain archived files prior to two years of its advent. Secondly, it did not provide the ability to access other law enforcement databases, such as FBI's NCIC, Customs TECS II, or State agency crime information records. Ironically, IDENT cannot even crosscheck INS's own databases. The information IDENT contains depends entirely on the information input by its user.
As you can see, the operation of a law enforcement agency is drastically different from the operation of a benefits providing agency. What we presently have is similar to expecting one manager to oversee the operations of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Social Security System at the same time. While smaller in size, the current INS requires the same diversity.
Page 315 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Additionally, the current system provides for a very disjointed operation. The chain of command for the enforcement side of INS is extremely dysfunctional. As Chief Patrol Agent for the Del Rio Sector, my immediate operational supervisor is not the Regional Director for Border Patrol, but, is the Central Region Director. The Regional Director then reports to the Office of Field Operations at INS Headquarters on all operational matters. The Chief of the Border Patrol at INS Headquarters is not even in the chain of command.
In reviewing all the enforcement divisions within the Department of Justice, FBI, DEA, Bureau of Prisons, U.S. Marshals Service and the INS, we are the only agency organized in this non-functional management structure.
To have an effective immigration law enforcement element, there is a need for a very precise chain of command, with as few layers of management as possible, and, with trained law enforcement people in management functions.
For optimum efficiency, the functions and management of the enforcement elements must be structured similar to a large metropolitan police department.
The proposed legislation (the ''Immigration Reorganization and Improvement Act of 1999'') will provide the potential for effective management of the Immigration Services and Immigration Enforcement activities. It will allow the directors of the two bureaus to concentrate their efforts on making a system that is efficient, to remain focused on very complex missions facing them, and they will be independently accountable.
The latter is something I know this committee is very concerned with, and is important to our employers, the taxpayers. When tax-dollars are allocated to hire 1,000 new employees, or to purchase technology enhancements, it is important that the purchases be made for these specific purposes, and the funds not be diverted to other activities based on one person's conflicting priorities.
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From the standpoint of the proposal for the Bureau of Immigration Enforcement, we believe the creation of the bureau will provide a framework to properly enforce the immigration laws of this nation, at the same time creating a separate bureau to better serve those wishing to immigrate legally or seek benefits under immigration law.
We must not only stop illegal entry into the United States, but, we must remove those who have slipped through, remain and work here illegally. We must ensure employers stop hiring people who can not legally work in this country. We must remove the incentive for people to risk their lives at the hands of smugglers who are paid not only by those who are being smuggled, but also by employers in search of cheap labor. We must be able to detect, identify, and remove those who are threats to our society through modern technology and the human resources required to effect the removals.
This will require an enforcement agency structured much like the FBI, with professional law enforcement officers in charge of each area who know how to enforce immigration laws. The Bureau of Immigration Enforcement must be an agency with the majority of its officers in the field where the enforcement takes place, and with a very limited amount of management overhead. It must take advantage of the latest technology to ensure the most efficient usage of its resources.
The proposed legislation would provide the framework for this country to more effectively manage its borders, while improving the services required to eligible persons. The Bill would bring the National Border Patrol Strategic Plan, developed in 1994, nearer to closure.
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A well managed border will enhance our national security and safeguard our immigration heritage, while restoring our nations confidence in the integrity of its sovereign border.
As stated, this Bill provides the framework. A detailed implementation plan would be developed in a collaborative effort with those impacted by this plan, internal and external customers, community-based organizations, advocacy groups, other government and law enforcement agencies, the Department of Justice and with the members of Congress.
Mr. Chairman, and Members of this subcommittee, all the employees and officers of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and I speak for the Agents of the U.S. Border Patrol, when I say that we are proud to be serving our country and take pride in carrying out the intent of the immigration laws passed by Congress.
I thank you for allowing me the opportunity to appear before you today on behalf of the members of the Chief Patrol Agents' Association. I now would be happy to answer any questions you might have.
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. Thank you, Chief Berg.
STATEMENT OF RICHARD GALLO, PRESIDENT, FEDERAL LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS ASSOCIATION
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Mr. GALLO. Chairman Smith, Congresswoman Jackson Lee, members of the subcommittee, my name is Richard Gallo. I am the national President of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, a voluntary, nonpartisan professional association representing more than 16,000 Federal law enforcement officers and special agents from over 51 agencies of the Federal Government.
It is my pleasure to appear before you today to deliver a summary of FLEOA's position on the reform, restructuring, and revitalization of the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
As national president of FLEOA, I represent many of the outstanding men and women who enforce our Nation's immigration laws in the Investigations Division, Border Patrol, and Detention and Deportation Divisions.
These three, along with the Inspections and the Intelligence Divisions, make up INS's enforcement side. The men and women of these divisions risk their lives every day in a dangerous line of work.
In July 1998, two Border Patrol agents were killedthe first female agent, along with a male traineewhile attempting to arrest a deranged murderer in San Benito, Texas.
Ironically, the INS has yet to implement the provision of the Immigration Act of 1990 that provides general arrest authority, extending protection to these agents against legal liability in taking such actions.
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I offer this as one example of many of the inefficiencies of the bureaucracies of INS. In brief, the work has changed. Congress has changed the laws and increased the funding, yet INS remains stuck in the 1980's.
Congressman Rogers captures the essence of the problem in stating, ''The missions and jobs they have been charged with are too big and too important to be botched, and that is what they have done, botched their jobs.''
I read the statements of Senator Spencer Abraham, ''It make little sense to have a single agency, the INS, responsible for keeping out illegal immigrants and, at the same time, letting in legal immigrants and refugees.''
And his second quote would be. ''We should consider splitting up the INS into one law enforcement agency and one legal immigration agency to increase the efficiency of both.''
Clearly we cannot agree more with Senator Spencer Abraham, who is obviously on the cutting edge, and we commend him, you Mr. Chairman, and the members of this subcommittee for the efforts and your determined actions in this important endeavor.
It is apparent that there is a bipartisan consensus in Washington for the separation of law enforcement from benefits disbursement, with a wide spectrum of thought on how to do it.
Page 320 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Sentiments run from the Commission on Immigration Reform, endorsement of the piecemealing out of different functions to the State Department, and; a recommendation by Booz-Allen to give INS more time to get its house in order with an internal separation.
FLEOA feels the solution lies in the middle. However, I must say that the country cannot afford any further delay in correcting this problem.
As I travel to numerous FLEOA chapters across the country, INS special agents continually and unanimously cite the urgent need for a substantive reorganization of INS.
Immigration law enforcement must be both professionalized and depoliticized. Two separate bureaus within the Justice Department, one for immigration law enforcement, the other for benefits disbursements, would relieve INS's mission overload.
This would avoid a constant budget battle between the totally different but equally important missions of enforcement and service. In addition, law enforcement management officials will not be in a position of influencing benefit decisions, and vice versa, thereby eliminating the possibility of a tilt in emphasis by a single administrator or top agency management.
District directors face severe pressures to provide services for aliens, sometimes with inadequate resources. When faced with such problems, district directors have frequently used enforcement agents as a labor pool to perform non-enforcement duties.
This practice has continued for over 20 years and shows no sign of diminishing. In Baltimore, the District Director used all of the special agents in the district to act as ushers at a naturalization ceremony, including those agents working undercover, both short-term and long-term undercover assignments.
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Mr. Chairman, in closing, I respectfully submit that H.R. 2528, the Immigration Reorganization and Improvement Act of 1999 introduced on July 15th, 1999, by the Honorable Congressman Hal Rogers with 70 co-sponsors, will accomplish what FLEOA believes needs to be done.
[The prepared statement of Richard Gallo follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF RICHARD GALLO, PRESIDENT, FEDERAL LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS ASSOCIATION
Good morning, Mr. Chairman and distinguished Members of the Subcommittee. I am honored to submit this written statement in support of my oral testimony for such an important and vital hearing. The Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA), is a voluntary, non-partisan professional association.
FLEOA currently represents over 16,000 federal law enforcement officers and is the largest association for federal officers of its kind. Several years ago, FLEOA joined with all of the major state and local police national associations to form the Law Enforcement Steering Committee. The Law Enforcement Steering Committee also includes the following prominent and important organizations: Fraternal Order of Police, National Troopers Coalition, Major Cities Chiefs of Police, Police Executive Research Foundation, National Association of Police Organizations, National Organization of Blacks in Law Enforcement, International Brotherhood of Police Organizations and the Police Foundation. In becoming a part of this group, federal agents were able to add our voices to those of the over half a million state and local officers already commenting on the issues that our Association considers to be of greatest importance. I tell you today, as I have told my membership for the past three years that the continuing revitalization of immigration law enforcement is one of our highest priorities. That revitalization will be accomplished through passage of the recently introduced Reyes-Rogers-Smith Bill, H.R. 2528 and FLEOA pledges to do everything possible to ensure swift and successful Congressional action.
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As National President of FLEOA, I represent many of the outstanding men and women who enforce our Nation's immigration laws. These men and women risk their lives every day in an ever-increasingly dangerous line of work. In fact, in July of 1998, the first female Border Patrol agent was slain along with a male trainee Patrol agent while attempting to arrest a deranged murderer in San Benito, Texas. Ironically, the INS has yet to implement a key provision of the Immigration Act of 1990 (IMMACT) that would provide general arrest authority to extend protection against legal liability to INS officers in such very situations. That is correct, I said 1990! This tragic anecdote is not a mere criticism of the status quo but rather an indictment. I offer this by way of example of the total inefficiencies of that current bureaucracy. In essence, the work environment for immigration law enforcement has changed drastically; the statutory mandates as well as funding for immigration law enforcement have similarly undergone dramatic changes but yet the INS remains stagnant, at best and highly resistant to those very changes.
The INS representation in FLEOA derives primarily from three organizational divisions: Investigations, Detention & Deportation, and the Border Patrol. These three, along with the Inspections and Intelligence Divisions, represent the enforcement components of the INS. I would ask that you keep them, and the complex bureaucratic framework in which they operate, at the forefront of your thoughts because I believe this is the essence of both the present problem and its potential solution.
I read, with interest, the statements of Senator Spencer Abraham in The New York Times on January 17, 1997. At that time, Sen. Abraham outlined his priorities for the Senate Immigration Subcommittee when addressing the Cypress Semiconductor Corporation in San Jose, California. I could not agree more that it makes ''little sense to have a single agency, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, responsible for keeping out illegal immigrants and, at the same time letting in legal immigrants and refugees''. Furthermore, Sen. Abraham then suggested splitting the INS into two agencies. In August of 1997, The New York Times again quoted him as saying ''We should consider splitting the INS up into one law enforcement agency and one legal immigration agency to increase the efficiency of both''. Clearly, Sen. Abraham has been on the cutting edge of this issue and we commend both him and yourself, Mr. Chairman for your tenacious and determined actions in this most important effort.
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On March 31, 1998, the Honorable Harold Rogers questioned INS Commissioner Meissner regarding the current recommendations for restructuring by Booz-Allen, the INS Contractor, and stated, ''Did you look at two different agencies within Justice to achieve on one hand, enforcement; on the other hand, service matters?'' Mr. Rogers went on to point out the systemic formula for failure that even the Booz-Allen study would perpetuate when he stated, ''There is an inherent conflict with having this all in one agency . . . Even though you may have two separate chains of command, it eventually winds up on your desk.'' Mr. Rogers echoed the concerns of both the Republican and Democratic leadership in concluding that the INS had collapsed under the weight of its dual conflicting missions: service and enforcement. Immigrants who apply to become citizens wait up to two years in large cities. The INS deports 112,000 illegal immigrants a year, fewer than half the 275,000 who enter illegally each year or stay after their visas expire.
Representative Rogers captured the essence of the problem in stating ''The missions and jobs they're charged with are too big and too important to be botched, and that's what they've done, botched their job''.
It is apparent that there is a broad, bipartisan consensus in Washington for the clear separation of immigration law enforcement from benefit disbursement. There has also been a wide spectrum of thought on how best to attack this extremely important problem. Sentiment runs the gamut from the Commission on Immigration Reform (CIR) endorsement of piece-mealing out different functions to State and Labor to affording INS more time to get its house in order with the internal separation recommended by Booz-Allen. I would submit to this Body today that the citizens and the country cannot afford any further delay in rectifying this problem.
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FLEOA feels strongly that the solution lies in the middle of that spectrum. As I travel to the numerous FLEOA chapters throughout the country, the topic most on the minds of the more than 600 beleaguered INS special agents who currently belong to FLEOA is the urgent need for a substantive and dynamic reorganization of the immigration law enforcement mission. Immigration law enforcement must be both professionalized and depoliticized. Two separate bureaus within Justice for immigration enforcement and benefit disbursement will provide the essential specialization to resolve ''mission overload'. At the same time, enforcement and service will have the requisite communication and coordination through oversight by the Justice Department. This will avoid a constant budget battle between the totally different, but equally important, missions of enforcement and service. In addition, law enforcement management officials will not be in a position of influencing benefit decisions and vice-versa, thereby eliminating the possibility of a ''tilt'' in emphasis by a single administrator or top agency management toward, or against, either function.
WHAT SHOULD IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT DO WELL
A 1991 General Accounting Office (GAO) General Management Report entitled Immigration management: Strong Leadership and Management Reforms Needed to Address Serious Problems, identified changes in the evolving INS enforcement mission. The report noted, ''During this period INS saw its enforcement mission evolve from one aimed primarily at interdicting aliens at or near the border to one with increased emphasis on investigative work and drug interdiction.'' GAO recommended the consolidation of ''. . . all field enforcement functions, including Border Patrol and District enforcement functions under a single official within a geographic area.''
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The consolidation of enforcement functions will not only alleviate the problem of overlapping enforcement programs, but will enhance the ability to maintain consistent service and enforcement postures throughout the United States. The variances in District Office policies relating to service functions should be greatly reduced when District Directors are relieved of the responsibility of carrying out simultaneous enforcement efforts.
Enforcement efforts will be more uniform in application, and the overlapping functions of the Border Patrol and Investigations can be substantially reduced or eliminated altogether. This can be accomplished through development of Enforcement Sectors and the integration of enforcement components within that structure.
Enforcement Sector Components:
The establishment of integrated sub-units at the field level would ensure an appropriate level of specialization while maintaining flexibility, and would facilitate a cooperative and balanced approach. Frankly, the establishment of a Chief Enforcement Officer who supervises all enforcement components in a particular field enforcement sector and reports to the Bureau of Immigration Enforcement Headquarters Director, is an idea whose time has come. This concept begs for congressional attention. It is needed to overcome the inefficient and incredibly confusing status quoor even the half-steps that are envisioned under an internal benefits-versus-enforcement split within INS.
Page 326 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The Border Patrol is the largest enforcement component within INS, with considerable growth in the recent past to approximately 8,000 agents on duty. The INS is now the largest federal agent force at 12,403 total immigration officers, with more armed agents than either the Bureau of Prisons or the FBI. The Border Patrol has accounted for roughly two-thirds of that fiscal growth.
The traditional responsibility of the Border Patrol is patrolling the border between ports of entry. In recent years, the span of Border Patrol activities has extended to include drug interdiction and tactical operations. Under the new immigration law enforcement bureau concept, a Deputy Chief for Border Patrol Operations would report to the Chief within a respective Enforcement Sector.
The Investigations Division is the general and criminal investigative arm of the ''Enforcement Sector,'' and should be responsible for all complex, protracted investigative activities. It is FLEOA's recommendation that the Investigations component operate in a manner similar to that of most major federal investigative agencies and detective bureaus. Investigative activities should place more emphasis on proactive criminal investigations in the following functional areas: anti-smuggling, benefit application fraud, document fraud, ''sensible'' worksite enforcement, and participation in multi-agency task forces including OCDETF, Joint Terrorism Task Forces, Violent Gang Task Forces, and INS-led Community Based Criminal Alien Task Forces. This division would be overseen by a Deputy Chief for Investigative Operations, reporting to the Chief of the Enforcement Sector.
Page 327 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The Investigations Division employs approximately 2,000 special agents today for the entire interior of the United States. The Administration, itself, estimates that for every one alien apprehended by the Patrol, two get through and that approximately 42% of the current 6,000,000 illegal alien population entered the country with a valid visa and simply overstayed that visa. Budget increases for the Division under the Administration's priority emphasis on immigration have been modest, by anyone's standards. While the aforementioned increase in INS Border Patrol positions was appropriated and paid for by the Congressthe same was not true for increases for the Investigations Division. The addition of 1,200 special agents under the Illegal Immigration and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRAIRA) of 1996, (300 visa overstayer Special Agents/investigators in FY 1997300 anti-smuggling and employer sanctions Special Agents/investigators in FY 1997, FY 1998 and FY 1999) was authorized but not appropriated for by the Congress. In short, no agents at all.
Congress must begin to strike a balance between enforcement on our borders and enforcement in the interior. A total focus on the first line of defense will lead to only a hollow victory with word of mouth rapidly traveling back to the source countries that one must merely make it across the border in order to attain this new form of unsanctioned amnesty.
Prompted by a then current estimate of 5,000,000 illegal aliens in the country, The Wall Street Journal wrote that ''immigration is becoming an issue deep in America's heartland as legal and illegal immigrants are pulled well beyond the border areas in search of employment.'' The article illustrated one of the most frequently traveled routes used by alien smugglers180 from the California coast through the Mid-West and on to Chicago. An analysis of that route reveals the shortage of INS criminal investigators in the interior states through which that route passes:
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Nevadaeleven special agents
Utahsix special agents
Wyomingone special agent
Nebraskafourteen special agents
Indianafour special agents
While it is true that California and Illinois have relatively large contingents of INS Special Agents, even those numbers are insufficient to cope with a problem of this magnitude. The latest Census Bureau figures list 1,875,000 illegals in California or 4,630 per agent. In order to be effective, it is necessary that immigration law enforcement be comprehensive and balanced.
Pursuant to a directive by the Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, State and Judiciary of the House Appropriations Committee, the INS has been developing a long overdue comprehensive, mission-oriented integrated interior enforcement strategy that, together with its border control strategy, would effectively determine the application of enforcement priorities and resources throughout the United States. The required report was due on April 1, 1998 but was never received until March 30, 1999, after repeated promptings. This strategy would focus around an integrated effort to deter and remove unlawful presence and unlawful activities in the United States. The mission would be achieved by prioritizing operational activities. For example, ''sensible'' worksite enforcement should and would be tied into the current anti-smuggling strategy that targets notorious and/or abusive employers who contract for smuggling loads with identified criminal syndicates. This is a common sense approach to create a deterrent effect through successful criminal prosecutions of the most egregious violators. In the weighing contest with the current extremely limited interior resources, it is evident that those resources should be utilized first and foremost against criminal aliens and other criminal violators of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA),
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The Detention/Deportation component is responsible for the care and custody of the alien population detained by the Enforcement Sector; it is responsible for managing the alien docket and bond control, and for arranging removal of aliens from the United States. FLEOA believes that this component should also be responsible for the processing and removal of all foreign nationals incarcerated in federal, state, and local correctional institutions or jails. The Deputy Chief for Detention and Deportation Operations would oversee this unit, and would report to the Chief Enforcement Officer.
The Inspections component is responsible for the inspection of applicants seeking admission to the United States at air, land and sea ports of entry. The Inspections Division facilitates an integrated approach to border management and promotes cooperation with other inspectional agencies such as the Customs and Public Health Services. As with the others, the Deputy Chief for Inspections Operations would report to the CEO.
The Intelligence component within the Enforcement Sector should play an integral role in support of the other enforcement components. Intelligence officers should be integrated into each field enforcement component unit. The Deputy Chief for Intelligence and staff would be responsible for the collection of information, analysis of information, and reporting of intelligence product upward through the organization and outward to other components. The Deputy Chief would also serve as a primary liaison point with the Directors of Adjudications Service Centers, Directors of Asylum Offices, and any enforcement units remotely posted to the field benefits offices, adjudications service centers or asylum offices, to assist in their anti-fraud efforts. The Deputy Chief for Intelligence Operations would report to the CEO.
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Mr. Chairman, I would respectfully submit that upon creation of the standalone enforcement bureau, it is not necessary to reinvent the wheel but merely adopt tried and true successful practices of modern day law enforcement entities. For example, virtually all municipal, county and state law enforcement organizations of significant size are composed of distinct investigative and patrol divisionsthe Los Angeles County Sheriff s Office provides an excellent example of a well respected law enforcement organization that centralizes command and control over the divergent functions of patrol, investigations and detention. Even the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), although operating in a different national and enforcement environment, is structured similarly at the national and field level.
Implementation of Enforcement Sectors would facilitate a cooperative and balanced approach to enforcement of our nation's immigration laws. In turn, you will then begin to see the accountability and productivity that our citizens not only deserve but are demanding of immigration enforcement.
For many years, the INS was derisively referred to as a stepchild within the Department of Justice. In the 1980s, a Main Justice official told The Washington Post that the Department had ''no idea what they do over there''a reference to the physical distance between the Main Justice Building and the INS Headquarters in Washington, D.C. More importantly, this aside expressed the apathy and perhaps disdain with which many prior Administrations regarded the immigration issue. All that has changed and the Main Justice bureaucracy must change at the same time that the independent immigration enforcement bureau is created through legislation. Specifically, there is no office at the Justice Department exclusively charged with immigration policy development. That must be rectified under the oversight of the Deputy Attorney General. The Department of Justice clearly has the clout to serve as a major forum for immigration policy making, but it rarely exercises such authority. The immigration issue is based upon law and should not be dictated by the politics of the moment.
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Mr. Chairman, FLEOA strongly urges Congress, through the appropriate Subcommittees, to examine and then to adopt into legislation, the recommendations of H.R. 2528 for a substantive and complete reorganization of the INS. INS District Directors face severe pressure to provide services for aliens, and when confronted with inadequate resources, have frequently used enforcement agents as a labor pool to perform non-enforcement duties. This practice has continued for over twenty years and shows no signs today of diminishing. We believe that diversion damages the professional image of immigration law enforcement officers, it diminishes their capacity to provide assistance to other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve, and it fails to provide protection for our society at large.
INS, as did the IRS until very recently, struggles under an obsolete and confused organizational structure. Without the creation of a distinct bureau for immigration law enforcement with the requisite federal law enforcement chain of command, it is unlikely that the legislative innovations passed by the 104th Congress in 1996 will ever be used to their full potential. Only through streamlining the bureaucracy, overcoming institutional inertia, and establishing balance through a separation of functions, can modern day immigration law enforcement be successful.
The separation of immigration benefit disbursement from law enforcement would allow immigration agents in the interior and on the border to focus solely on enforcement activities, in accordance with a standard federal law enforcement chain of command. Repeated headlines in newspapers throughout the country on alien smuggling, foreign narcotics trafficking and international terrorism demonstrate that our nation cannot afford anything less. I ask this Subcommittee to do everything within its power to effect this change for the good of our nation and the preservation of the world's most generous system of legal immigration. The creation of a new Bureau of Immigration Enforcement will allow this to pass.
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On behalf of FLEOA, and the many dedicated men and women who risk their lives enforcing our immigration laws, I appreciate your time and attention, and the opportunity to share our views. Thank you.
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. Thank you, Mr. Gallo.
STATEMENT OF T.J. BONNER, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL BORDER PATROL COUNCIL
Mr. BONNER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for the opportunity to present the views of my organization on the important issue of improving the structure of the INS.
Immigration issues captured the attention of the public several years ago and remain a major area of concern. As a result, the INS has received unprecedented increases in personnel and funding. Despite this, it remains unable to slow, much less stop, the tide of illegal immigration or to efficiently process the immigration benefits under its jurisdiction.
Examples of such inefficiencies and mismanagement surface almost daily. Many of the most compelling and shocking accounts are relayed through the employee unions on behalf of frustrated employees who want to do a good job but are stymied by an inept bureaucracy.
One of the reasons for these problems is the current structure of the INS which places the responsibility for handling both the enforcement and service functions under the same offices, causing both functions to suffer.
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There is no longer any legitimate reason to debate whether or not these functions should be separated. The debate should now be focused on how to best accomplish this necessary division.
The National Border Patrol Council, which represents approximately 8,500 employees, would like to share some thoughts regarding the elements it believes are necessary for a successful structure, as well as its concerns regarding certain aspects of various approaches that have been advocated.
A clear separation of funding and the creation of separate offices to handle such matters for each function, such as the separate chief financial officers proposed in H.R. 2528, is essential to a successful reorganization.
The present system has resulted in far too many instances of funding being diverted for purposes other than those for which it was intended.
Close coordination and cooperation between the enforcement and service functions is also crucial to the success of any reorganization effort, especially since a sizeable number of benefit applications are fraudulent.
In order to be successful, any reorganized structure must have a single office or individual who has both the authority and time to devote to ensure that the two divisions coordinate and cooperate.
Page 334 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Another essential element required for a successful reorganization is adequate support for the two core functions.
It must be recognized that the creation of separate support structures for the two divisions, however desirable that might be, would entail substantial expenses.
If it is not practical to fund such a structure, a way must be found to provide adequate support within existing means.
A structure that would transfer the detention function away from the INS would be problematic for two main reasons:
First, it would exacerbate the problem of providing enough space for the large number of persons detained by the INS, as most of these detainees would have a lower priority than the criminals typically housed in prisons.
Second, it would be unwise for obvious reasons to place non-criminal illegal immigrants in the same space as criminals.
The creation of new agencies also creates the potential for disrupting the relationship between management and labor that has existed within the INS for approximately 35 years.
The National Border Patrol Council is concerned by reliable reports that certain high-level managers intend to attempt to eliminate labor organizations within the newly created enforcement division by claiming that all such employees are exempt from the protections they currently enjoy because they are engaged in national security work.
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While this claim would be specious at best, the ensuing conflict would be extremely disruptive and damaging to the relationship of the parties.
Moreover, if such protections were somehow lost, Congress and the public would lose the single most valuable source of candid information and feedback about the efficiency and effectiveness of the new agency.
Without the protection of the union, employees would not dare speak out, as doing so would subject them to reprisal or dismissal.
In summary, it needs to be recognized that restructuring is not the answer to all of the INS's problems. A fundamental cultural change has to occur at all levels in order to transform it into an organization that is able to fulfill its mission efficiently and effectively.
We appreciate your leadership, Mr. Chairman, in advancing this bill and feel that this will open the debate in a constructive way that hopefully will accomplish some change this year.
[The prepared statement of T.J. Bonner follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF T.J. BONNER, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL BORDER PATROL COUNCIL
Page 336 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Immigration issues captured the attention of the public several years ago, and remain a major area of concern. As a result, the Immigration and Naturalization Service has received unprecedented increases in personnel and funding. Despite this, it remains unable to slow, much less stop, the tide of illegal immigration, or to efficiently process the immigration benefits under its jurisdiction. Examples of such inefficiencies and mismanagement surface almost daily. Many of the most compelling and shocking accounts are relayed through the employee unions on behalf of frustrated employees who want to do a good job but are stymied by an inept bureaucracy.
One of the reasons for these problems is the current structure of the I&NS, which places the responsibility for handling both the enforcement and service functions under the same offices, causing both functions to suffer. There is no longer any legitimate reason to debate whether or not these functions should be separated. The debate should now be focused on how to best accomplish this necessary division. The National Border Patrol Council, which represents approximately 8,500 employees, would like to share some thoughts regarding the elements it believes are necessary for a successful structure, as well as its concerns regarding certain aspects of various approaches that have been advocated.
A clear separation of funding and the creation of separate offices to handle such matters for each function, such as the separate Chief Financial Officers proposed in the Immigration Reorganization and Improvement Act of 1999, is essential to a successful reorganization. The present system has resulted in far too many instances of funding being diverted for purposes other than those for which it was intended.
Close coordination and cooperation between the enforcement and service functions is also crucial to the success of any reorganization effort, especially since a sizeable number of benefit applications are fraudulent. In order to be successful, any reorganized structure must have a single office or individual who has both the authority and time to devote to ensure that the two divisions coordinate and cooperate.
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Another essential element required for a successful reorganization is adequate support for the two core functions. It must be recognized that the creation of separate support structures for the two divisions, however desirable that might be, would entail substantial expenses. If it is not practical to fund such a structure, a way must be found to provide adequate support within existing means.
A structure that would transfer the detention function away from the I&NS would be problematic for two main reasons. First, it would exacerbate the problem of providing enough space for the large number of persons detained by the I&NS, as most of these detainees would have a lower priority than the criminals typically housed in prisons. Second, it would be unwise, for obvious reasons, to place non-criminal illegal immigrants in the same space as criminals.
The creation of new agencies also creates the potential for disrupting the relationship between management and labor that has existed within the I&NS for approximately thirty-five years. The National Border Patrol Council is concerned by reliable reports that certain high-level managers intend to attempt to eliminate labor organizations within the newly created enforcement division by claiming that all such employees are exempt from the protections they currently enjoy because they are engaged in national security work. While this claim would be specious at best, the ensuing conflict would be extremely disruptive and damaging to the relationship of the parties. Moreover, if such protections were somehow lost, Congress and the public would lose the single most valuable source of candid information and feedback about the efficiency and effectiveness of the new agency. Without the protection of the union, employees would not dare speak out, as doing so would subject them to reprisal or dismissal. If the enforcement and service functions are placed in separate agencies, the National Border Patrol Council strongly urges Congress to avoid this disruptive scenario by including language that makes it clear that the employees of such agencies are entitled to the protections of the Civil Service Reform Act.
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Similarly, the creation of separate agencies or even a single new agency would create the potential for new labor organization election processes and a corresponding need to negotiate new collective bargaining agreements. This would also be extremely disruptive to the relationship between labor and management. It could easily be avoided by incorporating language into the legislation that preserves the existing bargaining units and collective bargaining agreements, and the National Border Patrol Council urges that this be done.
Finally, it needs to be recognized that restructuring in and of itself is not the answer to many of the troubles that plague the Immigration and Naturalization Service. A fundamental cultural change must occur at all levels in order to transform it into an organization that is capable of fulfilling its mission efficiently and effectively. Although I&NS employees receive some of the most comprehensive and finest training available, they are rarely empowered to exercise independent judgement.
In conclusion, the National Border Patrol Council strongly endorses the concept of separating the enforcement and service functions of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and believes that this legislation serves as a good starting point for the debate of how best to accomplish this worthwhile and necessary task.
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. Thank you, Mr. Bonner.
Let me say to you, too, I know you have certain interests as does Mr. Smith, and I want to be of help to you and your interests as well.
Page 339 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. BONNER. I appreciate that.
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. I have to go, and so Representative Sheila Jackson Lee is going to conduct the rest of the hearing.
Let me thank you all for your testimony. Mr. Smith, you came the farthest from Hawaii. I am sorry to miss my cousin's testimony, but one thing we will do before I leave is to make your entire testimony a part of the record, something we have not always done, just because we need to have that in the record.
So even though you have had to shorten it at my request, your entire testimony will be in there.
I thank you all for being here and for spending three-quarters of a day with us.
Mr. Berg, I hope you get back home quickly to celebrate both your birthday and anniversary with your wife, and appreciate all of your contributions today.
Ms. Jackson Lee will now serve as chair.
Ms. JACKSON LEE [PRESIDING]. Mr. Smith, if you would present your testimony. The plight of Members of Congress, as the chairman was gracious to turn the gavel over to me, is that we all have obligations. I have a committee that is going on at this point. Your testimony will be in its completion, totality put in the record, so I would appreciate it if the last two witnesses would abbreviate their comments.
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STATEMENT OF DENNIS J. SMITH, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, NATIONAL IMMIGRATION AND NATURALIZATION SERVICE COUNCIL FOR THE AMERICAN FEDERATION OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, AFLCIO
Mr. DENNIS SMITH. Thank you, ma'am.
Thank you for the opportunity to present our views regarding H.R. 2528. The American Federation of Government Employees represents 600,000 Federal workers, including over 23,000 workers in the INS.
My Council represents the nonprofessional bargaining unit and those personnel not attached to the Border Patrol, approximately 15,000 employees.
I am the Executive Vice President. I am also a Special Agent with the Service stationed in Honolulu, Hawaii. We are here to advise you that we support certain aspects of H.R. 2528, and most especially the concept of the establishment of strong and separate service and enforcement programs.
We understand that the congress has attempted to strengthen INS enforcement measures. Our Council supports this goal.
To the extent that our Council has disagreed with the steps taken by the Congress and administration in recent years, it has been over what we view as the lack of sufficient focus on enforcement, especially on interior enforcement.
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Historically, INS District Directors have been free to utilize enforcement resources and service functions. We believe that using those resources to support service functions not only damages the service functions in the short run by making them appear more efficient than they actually are, it also destroys the effectiveness of our enforcement functions by misusing tax dollars.
This has happened in the past in Houston, Chicago, Baltimore, Honolulu, and Los Angeles, at least. We do believe that the Service must have an efficient service function, but the operations of the service program should not be augmented by misuse of enforcement's resources.
As long as the INS District Directors have the authority to use the resources for the functions, they will do it.
We also support your efforts to install strict financial controls over how monies appropriated for INS separate missions are actually spent.
We also support the bill's requirement that those managers appointed to run the agency's service and enforcement functions have experience in those areas.
Too often, INS top enforcement jobs have been viewed as being just another management billet that could be filled by any manager with or without experience in the discipline they were to supervise.
Page 342 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC This approach has led to a loss of respect for agency managers by those who report to them, for the agency's law enforcement components by professionals in the field who recognize, as do the employees, that INS enforcement managers have no loyalty to their programs.
The INS is in dire need of reorganization. As funding has increased, attention has been focused on border enforcement and service to the public with insufficient emphasis paid to interior enforcement.
INS management has robbed Peter to pay Paul and enforcement at the border and in the interior has suffered as a result.
Law enforcement employees have long felt that more needed to be done to increase INS's effectiveness in the law enforcement community.
We believe Congress took an important first step when it mandated the establishment of small and geographically dispersed offices.
We would recommend that the Congress continue to support this approach. Specifically, the Congress should mandate the hiring of several hundred additional special agents in geographically dispersed offices over the next several years.
There is a single exception to what we see as a need for separation of INS service and enforcement. We believe that the Congress should direct the INS to increase efforts to present fraud in granting of immigration benefits.
Page 343 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC But this law enforcement aspect of the service program should be managed through the enforcement side of the Service.
We support the bill's proposal
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Smith, can you wrap up? The light is on.
Mr. DENNIS SMITH. Yes.
The Council and the AFGE appreciates the opportunity for us to offer these comments, and we look forward to working with the Congress and with the committee in order to accomplish this in the near future.
[The prepared statement of Dennis Smith follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF DENNIS J. SMITH, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, NATIONAL IMMIGRATION AND NATURALIZATION SERVICE COUNCIL FOR THE AMERICAN FEDERATION OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, AFLCIO
Mr. Chairman and members of the Subcommittee: thank you for the opportunity to present our views regarding HR 2528, the Immigration Reorganization and Improvement Act of 1999.
The American Federation of Government Employees, AFLCIO, represents 600,000 federal workers across the nation, including over 23,000 workers in the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). My Council represents the main line INS, that is to say the non-professional bargaining unit, and those personnel not attached to the Border Patrol. Our bargaining unit includes some 15,000 employees. I am Executive Vice President of the National Immigration & Naturalization Service Council. I am a Special Agent with the Service, stationed in Honolulu, Hawaii. I have been employed as both a Border Patrol Agent and Special Agent since entering on duty with the Service on November 4, 1974.
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We are here to advise you that we support certain aspects of HR 2528, and most especially the concept of the establishment of strong and separate service and enforcement programs. While we do have concerns about certain aspects of the bill we believe it will form the basis for a more serious examination of the Service's operations and look forward to working with the committee and the administration in the development of a comprehensive approach to INS reform. As time goes on we would hope to be able to work with the Congress and the Administration in developing a structure for the agency's separate service and enforcement functions. We believe that the development of a rational geographic service and enforcement structure is essential to insuring employee support for any reorganization.
We understand that the Congress has attempted to strengthen INS enforcement measures. Our Council supports this goal. To the extent that our Council has disagreed with the steps taken by the Congress and the Administration in recent years it has been over what we view as the lack of a sufficient focus on enforcement and especially on interior enforcement. This problem is most serious in the Services district offices. Historically, INS District Directors have been free to utilize enforcement resources in Service functions. We believe that using enforcement resources to support service functions not only damages these service functions in the short run by making them appear more efficient than they actually are, but it destroys the effectiveness of our enforcement functions by misusing tax dollars appropriated for enforcement activity, and thus by reducing our law enforcement effectiveness, but also by damaging the morale of our enforcement personnel and exposing them to the public in venues where they should not normally appear.
We do believe that the Service must have an efficient service function but the operations of the service programs should not be augmented by misuse of enforcement resources. As long as INS District Directors have the authority or option to use enforcement resources for service functions they will do so. Experience has shown that every time added staff is needed for naturalization interviews and ceremonies, or every time a backlog occurs in benefit programs the staffing to meet it is drawn from the enforcement branches.
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For these reasons, we also support your efforts to install strict financial controls over how monies appropriated for INS separate missions are actually spent. We view this step as essential to the success of any reorganization. Unless there are clear limits on how monies for enforcement and service programs are spent there will never be any control on how INS performs its several missions.
As we indicated in testimony we provided the Congress earlier this year we view language in the administrations FY 2000 budget proposal, to allow the Attorney General to transfer funds between the ''Enforcement and Border Affairs'' and ''Citizenship and Benefits, Immigration Support and Program Direction'' programs as ill-advised. We also view the proposal, which was part of the FY 2000 budget submission of the administration , as indicative of the fact that the administration and the Service have not yet recognized the equal importance of INS' dual missions. Only when different INS managers are responsible for the operation of the various programs will enforcement resources be safe from misuse.
We also support the bills requirement that those managers appointed to run the agency's service and enforcement functions have experience in those areas. Too often INS has seen its service and enforcement programs played off one another to the detriment of the enforcement program. Too often INS top enforcement jobs have been viewed as being just another management billets that could be filled by any manager, with or without experience in the discipline they were to supervise. This approach has led to a loss of respect for agency managers by those who report to them, and a total lack of respect for the agency's law enforcement components by professions in the field who recognize, as do employees, that INS enforcement managers have no loyalty to their programs and no basic understanding of the work done by law enforcement personnel, the dangers they face or the skills they need to perform their jobs.
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The INS is in dire need of reorganization. For many years the Service was underfunded and over tasked. In recent years the Service has begun to receive the funds necessary for efforts to assert real control over our borders and meet the service demands upon it. As funding has increased, however, attention has been focused on border enforcement and service to the public and insufficient emphasis paid to interior enforcement. It may be that Service management was attempting to address what it believed were the public and Congress most serious concerns vis a vis our immigration problem but INS management has robbed Peter to pay Paul and enforcement on the border and in the interior has suffered as a result. INS must be required to increase its emphasis on its law enforcement role, and on interior enforcement in particular.
Law enforcement employees of the Service have long felt that more needed to be done to increase INS effectiveness as a member of the law enforcement community. We believe the Congress took an important first step in this direction last year, when it mandated the establishment of small and geographically dispersed offices to provide greater responsiveness to local law enforcement agencies. We would recommend that the Congress continue to support this approach by doing as it has with the Border Patrol. Specifically, the Congress should mandate the hiring of several hundred additional Special Agents in geographically dispersed offices over each of the next several years. Locating these officers around the country in offices dedicated to the performance of solely law enforcement missions will go a long way to insuring they are not misused by managers not committed to the Services law enforcement mission.
There is a single exception to what we see as the need for a separation of INS service and enforcement functions. We believe as well that the Congress should direct the INS to increase efforts to prevent fraud in the granting of immigration benefits. This can best be accomplished by increasing the numbers of Agents assigned to work fraud cases in cooperation with the service function. Such activity could properly be funded through the INS service budget and the costs paid out of fees paid by applicants themselves. But this law enforcement aspect of the service program should also be managed through the enforcement side of the Service, generally speaking no enforcement funded activities should be directed toward service programs but where fraud investigations must occur they should be funded on a user fee type basis and those investigations managed by law enforcement personnel.
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We also support the HR 2528's proposal to incorporate the INS Inspections branch in the enforcement program. We believe, however, that Congress should increase funding for our Immigration Inspections program at ports of entry and that, as part of this legislation the Congress should act to provide Immigration Inspectors full status as law enforcement officers.
These officers are presently required to carry weapons, effect arrests and detain, enforce the criminal laws of the united states yet they are not considered law enforcement officers and receive less pay, must work longer hours, and do not receive the benefits of law enforcement retirement. While this program must never surrender its sensitivity toward its service function, it has of necessity played an essential part in the Service's law enforcement efforts. More than 5,000 Immigration Inspectors now perform a full range of law enforcement functions. Administrative law judges of the Merit Systems Protection Board have held that these officers perform the duties of law enforcement officers and deserve law enforcement retirement coverage. These employees are neither properly compensated in terms of their grades nor in terms of their retirement coverage. We urge the Congress to consider extending the provisions of law enforcement retirement programs (5 U.S.C. 8336 (c) and 5 U.S.C. 8412(d)) to include Immigration Inspectors, and we urge you to do it as part of this reorganization. H.R. 1228, a bill introduced by Bob Filner, of California, was introduced, in part, for this purpose.
We are also concerned about certain provisions in HR 2528, however. We do not believe that its language calling for a plan to turn INS detention and deportation duties over to the Bureau of Prisons is well advised. Unfortunately, INS is now frequently forced to depend on other agencies to house INS prisoners. Turning responsibility for detention of our prisoners over to BOP will only result in hundreds of complaints about criminal aliens not being referred to facilities with adequate security but will also give rise to complaints about non criminal but illegal aliens being housed with both native and foreign born criminals.
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An additional part of any reorganization of the INS service and enforcement functions should be a comprehensive review of employee grades and compensation. INS officers exercise as broad a range of authorities as officers of other federal agencies but the grades of INS personnel have long lagged those of employees in other agencies. For example, although Congress provided law enforcement agencies authority to recognize employees language skills with special foreign language bonuses INS has never done so. As long as INS maintains a grade structure that is lower than that of other agencies it will suffer from difficulty in recruiting, poor employee morale and higher than normal rates of attrition.
Also troubling to the Council is the lack of any provisions for the representation of employee interests in the reorganization. While we recognize that Congress does not normally intervene in the area of labor relations INS managers, and particularly the District Directors and Border Patrol Chiefs Association, have long objected to the fact that INS employees were unionized. We would ask that the Congress specifically provide for the successorship of our AFGE Councils in this legislation, and include specific language preserving the right of agency employees to unionize and bargain over appropriate matters.
The Council and AFGE appreciate the opportunity for us to offer these comments. We recognize the support of the members of this Committee for the employees of the INS and thank you for your time and attention.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Thank you very much, Mr. Smith, and thank you for coming the distance that you have come. Thank you, very much.
Page 349 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. Hetfield.
STATEMENT OF MARK HETFIELD, DIRECTOR, HEBREW IMMIGRANT AID SOCIETY
Mr. HETFIELD. Ranking Member Jackson Lee, Congresswoman Lofgren:
I am honored to be here today in a dual capacity representing both the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, HIAS, and the American Immigration Lawyers Association, AILA.
HIAS and AILA are already on record in support of reforming and restructuring INS to separate its conflicting missions of adjudication services and enforcement, clarify its priorities, and ensure adequate resources to carry out its important functions.
My written testimony includes a letter signed by 22 different nonprofit organizations and agencies concerned with immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers who state that four broad principles should serve as the foundation for any INS reform so as to equip the agency with the tools it needs to perform both of its functions effectively.
H.R. 2528, however, attempts to restructure INS without due concern for these four principles, and in so doing it could make a bad situation even worse.
I will quickly outline the four principles and explain how H.R. 2528 falls short.
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The first principle is to split the INS's adjudication and enforcement functions to create two separate chains of command and career tracks for greater clarity of mission and accountability, leading to more efficient services and more accountable enforcement.
While H.R. 2528 would separate INS's functions by creating two totally distinct bureausone for immigration enforcement and one for adjudicationswith such a divorce the bill does not appropriately define the distinction between service and enforcement.
Consequently, it would place the immigration inspections functions of INS in the enforcement bureau. Immigration inspectors have quasi-judicial authority.
By taking them out of the adjudication side of INS and placing them in a bureau exclusively focused on enforcement, there would be no checks or balances to ensure that inspectors do not deport and impose severe penalties on bona fide asylum seekers, refugees, and immigrants.
In this sense, H.R. 2528 fails to respect our Constitutional tradition of ensuring that policemen and prosecutors do not exercise judicial authority.
Likewise, the bill requires that the detention of noncriminals who are being held pending the outcome of administrative immigration proceedings would be relocated outside the INS and become a function of the Bureau of Prisons.
The purpose of detaining individuals waiting for an administrative determination of whether they may legally remain in the U.S. is to ensure that they do not abscond, not to punish or to rehabilitate them.
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H.R. 2528 virtually would require that which international instruments of refugee protection forbids. Namely, the detention of asylum seekers in prison facilities with common criminals.
The adjudications and enforcement functions should be split, but H.R. 2528 is dangerous in its failure to carefully define the distinction between these two functions.
Furthermore, the full-scale divorce between the two functions leads to additional problems noted below.
The second principle. Any restructuring should put someone in charge with clout to have a single, full-time high-level individual in charge of both chains of command who will have access to high-level officials within the Executive Branch and who will be able to integrate policymaking with policy implementation, as well as to coordinate the separate service and enforcement chains of command.
H.R. 2528 would balkanize U.S. immigration policy by creating two immigration agencies, each with its own spokesperson and policy under the Attorney General or her delegate.
The creation of two rival bureaucracies, each setting their own policy priorities with no full-time coordinating entity would make it virtually impossible to articulate a coherent, unified immigration policy.
Page 352 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The two bureaus would soon be working at cross purposes with its leaders sending conflicting messages on policy matters of complex laws.
Moreover, it would make coordination at the local level virtually impossible, severely impeding the Bureau of Immigration Services from working with enforcement personnel to combat immigration fraud and to ensure that aliens who are eligible for relief are not unnecessarily detailed or removed by the Enforcement Bureau.
The third principle is to share the support services among the split functions, achieve cost efficiencies and necessary coordination by sharing a set of discrete functions such as shared information systems, legal counsel, administrative infrastructure, and policy.
And here I provide six examples as to how H.R. 2528 would undermine that.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. And I know you are coming to a close.
Mr. HETFIELD. That is correct.
And the fourth principle, and it is a shame I cannot spend more time on this, is funding the adjudications function. We are afraid that the creation of two totally distinct bureaucracies would cost more money.
By law right now the adjudications function must be funded by exams fees, and that includes exams fees must pay for a lot more than just the applications for which they are being paid.
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For example, $100 million goes to support the Office of International Affairs, Asylum and Refugee Adjudications. That is all money that should come out of taxpayer funds, not out of fee funds, at a time when we have backlogs that are close to 3 years for green cards and for asylum and for naturalization.
I would just like to add that while, yes, there was $176 million appropriated last year as a one-time appropriation to assist naturalization, by our estimation $300 million went the other way, toward functions that had nothing to do with the fees for which they were paid.
As I have testified here today, H.R. 2528 falls short of addressing INS's restructuring needs and would likely make a bad situation worse.
With this in mind, we would urge the subcommittee to pursue alternative legislation which would explicitly incorporate the four principles of restructuring which I have outlined today.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Hetfield follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF MARK HETFIELD, DIRECTOR, HEBREW IMMIGRANT AID SOCIETY
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee on Immigration Claims, I am honored to be here today in a dual capacity, representing both the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) and the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).
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Since its founding in 1880, HIAS has been the worldwide arm of the organized American Jewish community for the rescue, relocation and resettlement of refugees and other migrants. Since the passage of the Refugee Act of 1980, HIAS has resettled, in partnership with the US government and the American Jewish community, more than 360,000 refugees, and has assisted these refugees and others to navigate the immigration bureaucracy to obtain refugee status, green cards, naturalization, and other benefits.
AILA is the pre-eminent immigration bar association of nearly 6,000 attorneys who practice immigration law. AILA Member attorneys represent tens of thousands of U.S. families who have applied for permanent residence for their spouses, children, and other close relatives to lawfully enter and reside in the United States. AILA Members also represent thousands of U.S. businesses and industries that sponsor highly skilled foreign workers seeking to enter the United States on a temporary basis or, having proved the unavailability of U.S. workers, on a permanent basis. AILA Members also represent foreign students, entertainers, athletes, and asylum seekers, often on a pro bono basis. Founded in 1946, AILA is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization and is an affiliated Organization of the American Bar Association (ABA). HIAS and AILA appreciate this opportunity to express their views on the issue of the restructuring of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).
In recent years, sweeping changes to the law and unprecedented growth in the size and responsibilities of the INS have overwhelmed the agency, which has been severely criticized by the press, its customers, and Congress for ineffective management of its dual adjudication and enforcement missions. Congress needs to share responsibility as well, due to conflicting and unfunded mandates directed at the agency. In spite of some modest successes in INS' efforts to improve customer service, HIAS and AILA attorneys must still tell clients that they must wait years to fill a job with a needed legal immigrant, to reunite with close family members, or to obtain US citizenship to participate in our democracy, simply because an overtasked and underresourced bureaucracy is taking years to adjudicate their applications. The INS also has faced severe criticism for failing to effectively enforce immigration laws through nationally set priorities applied consistently, professionally, and humanely.
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We are pleased to see that the Subcommittee and so many members of Congress are being attentive to the need to restructure the INS. We look forward to working with Congress and the Administration to effect a sound restructuring of the federal immigration function. Such a restructuring should be the first step toward ensuring that the United States will effectively administer and enforce its immigration laws, and will treat immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers with the professionalism and dignity which they deserve.
HIAS and AILA are on record in support of reforming and restructuring the INS to disentangle its conflicting missions of adjudication services and enforcement, clarify its priorities, and ensure adequate resources to carry out its important function. As you can see in the attached letter, many nonprofit organizations and agencies concerned with immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers have stated that four broad principles should serve as the foundation for any INS reform so as to equip the agency with the tools it needs to perform both of its functions effectively. H.R. 2528, however, attempts to restructure INS without due concern for the principles and, in so doing, could make a bad situation even worse.
AN EFFECTIVE RESTRUCTURING OF THE FEDERAL IMMIGRATION FUNCTION MUST:
(1) Split the INS' adjudication and enforcement functions in order to create two separate chains of command and career tracks for greater clarity of mission and accountability, leading to more efficient services and more accountable enforcement.
H.R. 2528 would separate INS' functions by creating two totally distinct bureausone for immigration enforcement and one for adjudicationswithin the Department of Justice. However, in such a ''divorce'', the Bill does not appropriately define the distinction between ''service'' and ''enforcement.'' Consequently, it would place the immigration inspections function of INS in the enforcement bureau. Immigration inspectors have quasi-judicial authority. By taking them out of the adjudications side of INS and placing them in a bureau exclusively focused on enforcement, there would be no checks or balances to ensure that inspectors do not deport and impose severe penalties on bona fide asylum seekers, refugees and immigrants. In this sense, H.R. 2528 fails to respect our Constitutional tradition of ensuring that policemen and prosecutors do not exercise judicial authority.
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Likewise, the Bill requires that the detention of non-criminals who are being held pending the outcome of administrative immigration proceedings would be relocated outside the INS and become a function of the Bureau of Prisons. The purpose of detaining individuals who are waiting for an administrative determination of whether they may legally remain in the US is to ensure that they do not abscondnot to punish or ''rehabilitate'' them. H.R. 2528 virtually would require that which international instruments of refugee protection forbids; namely, the detention of asylum seekers in prison facilities with common criminals.
The adjudications and enforcement functions should be split, but H.R. 2528 is dangerous in its failure to define the distinction between these two functions. Furthermore, the full scale divorce between the two functions leads to additional problems noted below.
(2) Put Someone in Charge, With Clout. Have a single, full-time, high-level individual in charge of both chains of command, who will have access to high-level officials within the executive branch, and who will be able to integrate policy making with policy implementation, as well as to coordinate the separate service and enforcement chains of command.
H.R. 2528 would balkanize U.S. immigration policy by creating two immigration agencies, each with its own spokesperson and policy, under the Attorney General or ''her delegate.'' The creation of two rival bureaucracies, each setting their own policy priorities, with no full-time coordinating entity, would make it virtually impossible to articulate a coherent, unified immigration policy. In fact, H.R. 2528 suggests there is no need for a coherent, unified policy. The two bureaus soon would be working at cross-purposes, with its leaders sending conflicting messages on policy matters of complex laws. Moreover, it would make coordination at the local level virtually impossible, severely impeding the ''Bureau of Immigration Services'' from working with enforcement personnel to combat immigration fraud and to ensure that aliens who are eligible for relief are not unnecessarily detained or removed by the enforcement bureau.
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H.R. 2528 assumes that the office of the Attorney General alone will be able to coordinate the enforcement and service bureaus. If the coordination between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and INS, however, is any indication, the Attorney General will be too busy mediating to coordinate. For example, the walls between the INS and FBI bureaucracies may have been partially responsible for the multitude of problems INS has experienced in recent years in the processing fingerprint cards of applicants for naturalization.
If existing inter-bureau relationships within DOJ are any harbinger for the future, the creation of two more immigration agencies under the Attorney General will only create further logjams and weaker accountability leading to weaker enforcement and longer backlogs in naturalization and adjudication, as each agency pursues competing priorities and agendas.
(3) Share the Support Services Among the Split Functions. Achieve cost efficiencies and necessary coordination by sharing a set of discrete functions, such as shared information systems, legal counsel, administrative infrastructure, and policy.
H.R. 2528 would authorize the Department of Justice to make provisions for the two immigration bureaus to share support services. However, the Bill's requirement that each bureau answer directly to the Attorney General would only result in two warring bureaucracies whose competing priorities would preclude resources from being efficiently shared. Moreover, the Bill requires that the information management needs of the immigration function be melted into the Department of Justice Management Division, which has experience only in managing the needs of law enforcementnot benefits programs. This merger would hinder the ''Bureau of Immigration Services'' in its ability to provide an acceptable level of customer service to legal immigrants.
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Examples of the need for close coordination between the two bureaus abound, and H.R. 2528, by making such coordination even more difficult than it is, would undermine both adjudications services as well as enforcement priorities. Consider the following examples:
1. Border Patrol picks up a suspected illegal alien. He claims to be a lawful permanent resident, but does not have his green card in his possession. The Border Patrol needs to check his status with Adjudications, or would have to either return him over the border or, more likely, put him into detention pending a hearing, at taxpayer expense.
2. Immigration Adjudications receives a suspicious petition for H1B status and suspects fraud. The Service Center wants to check on the employer's record with INS and whether it has been found to hire undocumented workers in the past (a legitimate part of a profile for fraud is to look at the past fraud of the employer). The Adjudications division would need to access enforcement records to check on the employer's work site investigations records.
3. An adjustment applicant claims to have no periods of unlawful presence. The Immigration Adjudicator suspects otherwise based upon claimed dates of entry. Without easy access to entry/exit records from Inspections, the adjudicator cannot confirm her suspicions.
4. An applicant for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) has a discrepancy in her application regarding physical presence and INS needs to examine entry databases. Without easy access to those inspections records, the application cannot be properly or efficiently adjudicated.
5. An F1 student overstays, marries a U.S. citizen and applies for conditional residence. The marriage does not last until the time of the permanent residence application, and there are potential issues of fraud. After the interview, there are continuing concerns. The investigator wants to refer the case to proceedings. Without close linkages between the two agencies, such routine referrals would likely become a Kafkaesque nightmare.
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6. While the lack of due process and secrecy of expedited removal proceedings and secondary inspection puts bona fide asylum seekers at risk of being returned to their persecutors, the severing of links between enforcement and adjudications would severely limit the influence of the asylum corps, at both the local operational and national policy levels, in encouraging appropriate referrals to credible fear proceedings.
If enforcement and adjudications are to be split, an action which we support, the restructuring plan must ensure that a high-ranking official, with full-time devotion to immigration matters and direct line authority over the two functions and shared support services, is able to coordinate shared information systems, legal counsel, policy, and administrative infrastructure, including personnel and training.
(4) Provide Adequate Resources for the Adjudications Function. Ensure that congressional appropriations are available to improve services that have been abysmal and continue to deteriorate as user fees underwrite unfunded congressional mandates and upgrades of INS systems.
H.R. 2528 would virtually ensure that the immigration ''service'' function would be severed from the resources it needs to make badly needed improvements to customer service, and to address the nearly three year-long backlog faced by legal immigrants waiting for green cards or citizenship.
In theory, fees paid by applicants for immigration benefits are to pay for the adjudication of the applications for which the fees are paid. Generally speaking, the adjudications side of INS does not receive taxpayer dollars through an annual congressional appropriations to sustain its operations, but must rely entirely on funding from the ''examinations fee account'', and rare ''one time'' appropriations from Congress, as was the case last year, to deal with the naturalization backlog.
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In practice, however, while immigration ''services'' receive little or no taxpayer dollars each year, a large share of fee money paid by immigrants goes to support other functions which are wholly unrelated to the fees paid. On the other hand, enforcement in recent years has enjoyed an unprecedented infusion of resources from both taxpayer money and fees paid by legal immigrants.
Over FY 1998 and FY 1999, for example, Congress mandated the diversion of more than half a billion dollars ($518m) of fee money (including 245(i) revenue) to pay for detention, asylum processing, refugee processing, Department of Justice Oversight, Inspector General investigations, and Congressionally mandated infrastructure costs not related to directly supporting immigration benefits. With massive backlogs, this money should have been spent on adjudicating the applications for which the fees were paid.
However, for FY 2000, INS estimates that, even if it receives its requested ''one-time'' Salary and Expense appropriation from Congress of $128.710 million, immigration services will have to make $105.157 million in cuts in critical initiatives and expenditures to its revised budget request. Under this scenario, INS would have to cut more than 700 positions related to adjudications, would fall further behind in making badly needed customer service improvements, would make little progress in addressing the naturalization backlog, and would exacerbate its adjustment backlog, which is now approximately 900,000, with an expected processing time of 34 months.
Immigrants, particularly when they are receiving an unacceptable level of service when applying for immigration benefits, should not be forced to pick up the check for programs unrelated to the processing of their applications. The responsibility for programs which do not generate fees should be shared among all taxpayersnot just those who happen to be tax-paying immigrants.
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We are very disappointed that H.R. 2528 does not address the need for legislation to restructure the financing of the immigration function, and would do nothing to stem the hemorrhaging of INS application fee money for unrelated purposes. Rather, the Bill would maintain this diversion and further exacerbate the backlogs by implicitly tacking on the additional requirement that fee money also cover significant additional infrastructure costs associated with creating and maintaining a new administrative bureaucracy for the ''Bureau of Immigration Services.''
Any restructuring of INS must be accompanied by finance reform of immigration services. H.R. 2528 would only exacerbate the chronic under-resourcing of the immigration ''service'' function, which relies on fees paid by immigrants, and would prevent the adjudications side from sharing any of the taxpayer resources provided to the immigration ''enforcement bureau.''
In our view, the federal immigration function needs to be restructured in order to disentangle immigration adjudications from enforcement; enhance accountability, professionalism and customer service; and make other improvements to managing the enforcement and administration of the immigration laws of the United States. To achieve these ends, it is necessary to define and separate INS' adjudication functions from its enforcement functions; to ensure coordination and efficiency through a strong unified leadership and shared services in support of the two functions; and to restructure the financing of the agency to ensure that both enforcement and adjudications are fully and appropriately funded.
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AILA and HIAS are among the many organizations whose members, employees and volunteers are dedicated to helping immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees navigate the dysfunctional immigration bureaucracy. Most members of Congress are now in this business as well, with their caseworkers spending an inordinate and unmatched percentage of their time helping constituents squeeze INS for basic information about pending applications in the mammoth backlog. With no alternative legislation introduced, dozens of members of the House of Representatives have co-sponsored H.R. 2528 in the hope that such legislation would improve this intolerable situation for their constituents. As I have testified here today, however, H.R. 2528 falls short of addressing INS' restructuring needs, and would likely make a bad situation worse. With this in mind, we would urge the Subcommittee to pursue alternative legislation which would explicitly incorporate the four principles of restructuring which I have outlined today.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Thank you, very much.
I would likewise thank all the panelists. I will make a few brief remarks, and be happy to yield to my colleague.
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My remarks will include, Mr. Hetfield, a question to you.
I realize that what has brought us here today is the need for collective good and collective solution. So I respect the perspectives that have been given on the only legislative initiative that you can now comment on, and that is H.R. 2528.
But having been in the room the entire time, or a good portion of the time, I would ask that those of you who have come to testify for H.R. 2528 be open minded to further efforts to look at this question.
As I indicated in my opening testimony, that would be in the name of the Immigration Restructuring and Accountability Act of 1999, which will take into consideration the concerns of Mr. Hetfield, Mr. Smith, Mr. Bonner, and some others.
I do think it is important to note that we can recruit all day long for Border Patrol agents, but if we do not train and provide professional development, but also enhance compensation so that we move the starting salary from the GS9 level to a GS11, possibly, of which a bill sponsored by Mr. Reyes and myself, the Border Patrol Recruitment and Retention Act, is doing. We would welcome your support on that legislation.
But there are many ways to solve problems, and we should open our minds to ensure that we get the greatest amount of support from the advocacy groups that deal with the service end of it in many instances, the due process questions, and the fact that we are a country of immigrants and of laws and that every immigrant is not illegal, and that everyone who comes to the INS comes on the basis that they are here without documentation or reason.
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At the same time, we should have the right kind of enforcement that allows our agent to know that they deal with the simple aspect of it and, as well, that the deal with the criminal aspect of it.
Mr. Hetfield, let me conclude with a question to you with respect to H.R. 2528 dealing with, as I understand your portfolio immigrant groups and immigrant issues, what happens to the due process questions? What happens when you separate out so distinctly that there is no possible collaboration or coordination, as it seems to be under H.R. 2528?
Mr. HETFIELD. That is our real fear, especially with regard to asylum seekers. And we have to remember that the Immigration Act of 1996 was passed with the current structure in mind.
If you are going to changeand there are a lot of due process concerns relating to that act which are made significantly worse by this bill.
For example, an immigration inspector can now get inside someone's head when they apply for entry to the U.S. and determine whether or not that person got their visa, their facially valid visa, through fraudulent means.
If they determine they did, with no checks or balances, they can order that person removed and the person cannot return for 5 years.
Likewise, that inspector alone has the right to decide whether or not it is appropriate to refer somebody who may have a well-founded fear of persecution for a credible fear hearing before ordering that person removed.
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Again, that authority is totally unchecked.
At least in the current system you have input from the Asylum Corps, and from the Examinations side of INS, and from a Commissioner over all of it to try to see that there is some semblance of due process in this.
But if you take Inspections and just move it in an enforcement agency with none of that input and none of that oversight, I am afraid that that process would be totally gone. You would be returning asylum seekers and refugees to their persecutors and no one would know what is going on because there is no oversight and there is no ability to monitor what is happening.
So that is just one significant example.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. I thank you.
I would like to yield to give time to the gentlelady from California, Ms. Lofgren.
Ms. LOFGREN. I will just be real quick because we have a series of votes over on the Floor.
First let me apologize for missing most of the oral statements. I was upstairs at a Science Committee markup that went on longer than any of us expected.
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I do, however, have the benefit of your written statements. I was thinking, listening and reading through the statements this morning, that in this town we are set up really to fight with each other instead of to appreciate when there is common ground.
When you think about where we are today compared to where we were a couple of years ago, everybody is almost in the same place, really. The only difference between the competing proposals, between Ms. Jackson Lee's proposal, the Commissioner's proposal, and Mr. Reyes' bill is what happens at the top level.
But in terms of really addressing the management issues, and the clarification issues, we have made great progress. Now we need to do some implementation.
So I am hopeful that we can work together collaboratively on whether or not the two sides report to one person and who that person ought to be is really not going to be definitive in whether we bring the reforms that we all hope to achieve.
So I am very grateful for this hearing. It has been a long day for all of you, and so I appreciate that you have been here and been willing to sit through it all and to give us your expertise. This is not the last time we will need your help and advice.
I would note, Mr. Hetfield, on the issue you have raised, I agree with you that there does need to be some civilian collaboration and supervision.
On the other hand, even with that I think the system we have set up is inherently flawed, and which we pointed out in 1996, there was certainly a scam problem going on. It was serious. It needed an answer. But I think it is one of those cases where you identify a problem but sometimes the solution goes a little bit farther than you needed to go.
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So with that, Ms. Jackson Lee, I thank you for yielding your time and we can go and run off and vote.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Thank you.
Let me say to the chairman in his absence, again to thank him for this hearing and thank his staff for her work, as well as the Minority Counsel's work.
Let me wear my Congresswoman Jackson Lee Ranking Member hat and ask unanimous consent to submit into the record the Immigration Restructuring and Accountability Act of 1999 summary and, as the Chair sitting in for Mr. Smith, let me allow that to be admitted into the record. So I will present it here.
[The information referred to follows:]
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Again, let us on behalf of the committee convey to you our appreciation. Will you continue to work with us as we deliberate on these issues? I am looking forward to a meeting of the minds to respond to many of the concerns. There are probably more distinctions in our legislative approaches than might come to the eye at this point, and I think those distinctions may play out as we watch this process. And of course I am going to be looking for the support on legislation that we have offered in combination with my colleague, the Chairperson, and others who are supporting other legislative initiatives.
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We must work to solve this problem, and we thank you gentleman, and Dr. Martin, for your testimony.
Thank you. This hearing is now adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 2:50 p.m., the hearing of the subcommittee was adjourned.]
(Footnote 1 return)
Performance and Accountability Series: Major Management Challenges and Program Risks: Department of Justice (GAO/OCG9910, Jan. 1999).
(Footnote 2 return)
Immigration Management: Strong Leadership and Management Reforms Needed to Address Serious Problems (GAO/GGD9128, Jan. 23, 1991).
(Footnote 3 return)
INS Management: Follow-up on Selected Problems (GAO/GGD97132, July 22, 1997).
(Footnote 4 return)
GAO/GGD9128, January 23, 1991.
(Footnote 5 return)
GAO/GGD97132, July 22, 1997.
(Footnote 6 return)
GAO/GGD97132, July 22, 1997; and GAO/GGD9128, January 23, 1991.
(Footnote 7 return)
A material weakness is a condition in which the design or operation of one or more of the internal control components does not reduce to a relatively low level the risk that errors or irregularities in amounts that would be material to the financial statements may occur and not be detected promptly by employees in the normal course of performing their duties.
(Footnote 8 return)
Immigration Issues: Making Needed Policy and Management Decisions on Immigration Issues (GAO/TGGD9318, Mar. 30, 1993); and GAO/GGD97132, July 22, 1997.
(Footnote 9 return)
INS Budget: Overhiring and Decline in Revenues Have Created Fiscal Stress (GAO/TGGD/AIMD99129, Mar. 24, 1999).
(Footnote 10 return)
P.L. 104106. The act requires executive agencies to conduct analyses of work processes before making significant investments in information technology.
(Footnote 11 return)
Immigration Enforcement: Problems in Controlling the Flow of Illegal Aliens (GAO/TGGD9339, June 30, 1993).
(Footnote 12 return)
Illegal Immigration: Southwest Border Strategy Results Inconclusive; More Evaluation Needed (GAO/GGD9821, Dec. 11, 1997).
(Footnote 13 return)
Illegal Immigration: Status of Southwest Border Strategy Implementation (GAO/GGD9944, May 19, 1999).
(Footnote 14 return)
Immigration Control: Deporting and Excluding Aliens From the United States (GAO/GGD9018, Oct. 26, 1989).
(Footnote 15 return)
The IHP was subsumed under a broader program in June 1998 called the Institutional Removal Program (IRP). The objectives of the programs are the same. The IRP, however, counts certain removal orders not included in the IHPspecifically, reinstatement of prior removal orders and administrative removal ordersin measuring program outcomes.
(Footnote 16 return)
Criminal Aliens: INS' Efforts to Identify and Remove Imprisoned Aliens Need To Be Improved (GAO/TGGD97154, July 15, 1997); and Criminal Aliens: INS' Efforts to Remove Imprisoned Aliens Continue to Need Improvement (GAO/GGD993, Oct. 16, 1998).
(Footnote 17 return)
INS User Fees: INS Working to Improve Management of User Fee Accounts (GAO/GGD94101, Apr. 12, 1994). Our review was of INS' two major fee accountsthe Immigration Examinations Fee Account and the Immigration User Fee Account. Those two accounts represented about 99 percent of INS' total user fee account revenue.
(Footnote 18 return)
Alien Applications: Processing Differences Exist Among INS Field Units (GAO/GGD9747, May 20, 1997).
(Footnote 19 return)
INS Fingerprinting of Aliens: Efforts to Ensure Authenticity of Aliens' Fingerprints (GAO/GGD9540, Dec. 22, 1994).
(Footnote 20 return)
Naturalization of Aliens: INS Internal Controls (GAO/TGGD9798, May 1, 1997).
(Footnote 21 return)
P.L. 99603, 8 U.S.C. 1324a et seq.
(Footnote 22 return)
Generally, the act requires employers to verify the identity and eligibility of all new employees hired after November 6, 1986.
(Footnote 23 return)
Employer Sanctions: Comments on H.R. 3362Employer Sanctions Improvement Act (GAO/TGGD94189, Sept. 21, 1994).
(Footnote 24 return)
Illegal Aliens: Significant Obstacles to Reducing Unauthorized Alien Employment Exist (GAO/GGD9933, Apr. 2, 1999); and (GAO/TGGD99105, July 1, 1999).
(Footnote 25 return)
(Footnote 26 return)
Illegal Aliens: Changes in the Process of Denying Aliens Entry Into the United States (GAO/GGD9881, Mar. 31, 1998).
(Footnote 27 return)
The locations, which we judgmentally selected, included San Ysidro, California; Buffalo, New York; and Miami International, Los Angeles International, and John Fitzgerald Kennedy (JFK) Airports.
(Footnote 28 return)
In March of this year, William Yates, acting deputy executive associate commissioner, Office of Field Operations, Immigration Service Division, announced the Commissioner's Service Center Adjudications Priorities: Non Immigrant, Religious Worker Petitions (I360's) are not identified as a priority, and at the California Service Center, they are not currently being considered for processing. Since February 1998, 1,749 I360's have been filed.
(Footnote 29 return)
Los Angeles is not unique; any number of other district offices have similar waiting times.