INS News Release
October 18, 2000
INS Commissioner Doris Meissner Announces Departure
WASHINGTON ó Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) Commissioner Doris Meissner today announced her plans to depart the Service in mid-November to return to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. She joined INS in October of 1993, after being nominated by President Clinton to serve as Commissioner of the INS.
"Commissioner Meissner has consistently upheld the principles that have allowed this country to continue welcoming immigrants into our society," President Clinton stated. "We are a nation of immigrants, and their contributions to Americaís diverse culture are invaluable. We are also a nation of laws. Commissioner Meissnerís balanced approach to deterring illegal immigration while facilitating legal migration has enabled our nation to continue the great American tradition of welcoming immigrants to our shores."
When Commissioner Meissner joined INS, she took the helm of an agency that had been ignored for decades and was considered a backwater bureaucracy. In the last seven years, Commissioner Meissner has presided over a period of unprecedented growth in employees, resources and mandates for the agency. As Commissioner, she has managed this growth, providing guidance and leadership through a tumultuous period in which immigration has been on the social and political forefront of the nationís agenda as never before.
"I believe Commissioner Meissner has proven herself to be one of the most respected and accomplished Commissioners in INSí history," said Attorney General Janet Reno. "Her knowledge and expertise of immigration issues, coupled with her humanity, fairness, dedication and compassion, have enabled her to steer the agency towards a more balanced program of judicious enforcement and improved customer service. She has served the American people well."
Commissioner Meissner will return to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace where she previously worked and was the founder of its distinguished International Migration Policy Program. Building on her government experience as an immigration policymaker, she will develop and direct a new project that examines the broader issues and challenges facing the United States as it implements global policy agendas.
"The last seven years have been the most challenging and rewarding of my professional career," said Commissioner Meissner. "When I became Commissioner, the tasks ahead were daunting. Thanks to the tireless dedication of INS employees, we have been able to build an impressive record of reform. I am proud of this agencyís accomplishments in enforcing our nationís immigration laws professionally and in providing improved levels of service to our customers. It has not been easy, and there is still much to be done. But the advances the agency has made, at times under the most difficult circumstances, have made me proud to be a part of the INS team and grateful for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."
Commissioner Meissnerís seven-year tenure at the INS caps her distinguished career at the Department of Justice, which began with her selection as a White House Fellow in 1973, serving as Special Assistant to the Attorney General. Following that appointment, she became Assistant Director of the Office of Policy and Planning, followed by Executive Director of the Cabinet Committee on Illegal Aliens, and in 1977 she was appointed Deputy Associate Attorney General. She also served as Acting Commissioner of INS in 1981 and then as Executive Associate Commissioner until 1986 when she left government service to join the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Highlights of Commissioner Meissnerís Tenure
During Commissioner Meissnerís tenure, INSí workforce nearly doubled from 18,000 employees in 1993 to more than 32,000 employees in 2000. The agencyís budget grew exponentially from $1.58 billion in 1993 to $4.3 billion in 2000. This phenomenal growth, which few other U.S. government agencies have experienced in such a short period, was testament to the mounting demands being placed on the agency in both its enforcement and immigration benefits responsibilities.
In fielding this growth, Commissioner Meissner implemented a complete overhaul of this nationís asylum system. Burdened by fraud and lengthy delays, the asylum system was ineffective and badly in need of reform. Today, the United States has an asylum system that is able to protect refugees who truly need protection, and deter those who seek to take advantage of this nationís generosity.
The greatest levels of growth have been in border enforcement where INS developed and implemented a multi-year, comprehensive border management strategy designed to deter illegal entries into the United States. To accomplish this, the U.S. Border Patrol more than doubled in size from 4,036 in 1993 to more than 9,100 in 2000. This build-up has enabled the agency to bring a level of unprecedented control and integrity to the Southwest border.
The border strategy also focuses attention on facilitating legal movement through land and air ports of entry where traffic has increased dramatically due to the North American Free Trade Agreement and other global economic trends. In building "borders that work," i.e., preventing illegal and facilitating legal immigration, Commissioner Meissner has opened new commuter facilities, introduced many technology enhancements and fosters close collaboration and joint initiatives with Mexico, Canada and other international partners.
To complement its border strategy, INS also developed and implemented a new interior enforcement strategy focused on the removal of criminal aliens from the United States, combating alien smuggling, attacking immigration fraud and reducing employer access to an illegal workforce. The focus on alien smuggling has resulted in many successful operations to combat unscrupulous alien smuggling activities and expansion of INSí overseas presence to deter migrant smuggling and victimization in other countries.
In the last seven years, the demand for immigration benefits has also been unprecedented. To meet the rise in demand for services, Commissioner Meissner called for a complete modernization of the naturalization program to ensure integrity and timeliness. INS also implemented other key customer service initiatives such as a 1-800 number, which provides toll-free nationwide live phone assistance with accurate information on immigration benefits and services; a national records center to store 25 million files and overcome a history of lost files; and infusions of technology to streamline antiquated procedures and automate labor intensive processes throughout the agency.
The agency has also coped with a succession of immigration emergencies including boatlifts from Haiti and Cuba, Chinese smuggling crises, the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch in Central America and the Kosovo refugee crisis. INS developed new approaches such as the Cuban Interdiction Agreement and safe-haven policies to help prevent similar emergencies in the future.
These last seven years have been some of the most intense for INS from the standpoint of immigration legislation. The 1996 law required INS to implement sweeping new mandates including mandatory detention, and expedited removal. In addition, the passage of the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Refugee Act (NACARA) and the Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act (HRIFA) put additional legislative and regulatory requirements on the agency to adjudicate tens of thousands of additional applications for legal status. More than 70 new regulations were developed and implemented to enforce these new laws passed by Congress.
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