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Bishop Thomas G. Wenski

Auxiliary Bishop of Miami
on behalf of

National Conference of Catholic Bishops'

Committee on Migration

The House Judiciary

Subcommittee on Immigration and Claims

May 15, 2001

I am Bishop Thomas G. Wenski. Auxiliary Bishop of Miami, and member of the U.S. Catholic Bishops' Committee on Migration. I thank you for the opportunity to testify on behalf of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Migration on the budget priorities of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). Specifically, I would like to address the vital topics of INS detention practices, including mandatory detention, funding for alternatives to detention, legal orientation for detainees, and the treatment of children; backlogs in the processing of immigration benefit; border enforcement; Cuban/Haitian resettlement; and INS reorganization.

Mr. Chairman, concern for the immigrant and the experience of immigration are both deeply imbedded in Church teaching. The task of welcoming immigrants, refugees, and displaced persons into full participation in the Church and society with equal rights and duties has long been an integral part of the Roman Catholic faith tradition.

The experience of the Church in the United States has provided the U.S. bishops with a special sensitivity to newcomers in our midst. Arguably no other institution in American life has had as much experience dealing with the integration of newcomers as the Catholic Church, especially through her parishes and schools. Since 1976, the bishops have been clear in their affirmation of the Church's solicitude for newcomers:

The Church, the People of God, is required by the Gospel and by its long tradition to promote and defend the human rights and dignity of people on the move, to advocate social remedies to their problems and to foster opportunities for their spiritual growth. (1)

It is with these values in mind that I address to you my concerns and the concerns of the U.S. Catholic Bishops regarding the fiscal year 2002 budget for the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and the Executive Office for Immigration Review.

INS Detention Practices

The Church is deeply concerned about the detention practices of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. As the Subcommittee well knows, the number of people being detained by the INS has tripled in the past three years, making INS detainees the fastest growing population in the country. The INS's detention budget is now over $1 billion a year. More than 22,000 persons are currently detained by the INS, and the number is growing.

The financial costs of this detention is staggering. But as great as the financial cost, so too is the human cost of this staggering increase in INS detainees.

The increase in detention is due to a number of factors. First, Congress in 1996 passed a number of laws that require mandatory detention of aliens, including many for whom detention makes no sense. And second, the decentralized nature of INS decision-making makes it impossible for there to be a national policy on detention.

The bishops recommend a number of policy and legislative changes governing the INS's detention practices:

  • First, the Subcommittee take a close look at mandatory detention laws and, wherever possible, make changes to those laws to give the Attorney General more discretion to release INS detainees who are not a danger to society and are not in danger of absconding.

  • Second, the Subcommittee should direct the INS to pursue a program of providing alternatives to detention for those detainees who are not a danger to the community and are not in danger of absconding. Such a program could be funded by a small earmark of current INS detention funds and would save the federal government millions in detention costs.

  • Third, the Subcommittee should direct the INS to fund "legal orientation presentations" in facilities housing INS detainees to enable detainees to receive accurate legal information about the forms of relief to which they might be eligible or ineligible. This would have the double benefit of speeding proceedings; identifying those detainees who may actually have relief, including valid claims of asylum; and helping those who have no form of relief available to them understand the reality of their situation.

  • Fourth, the Subcommittee should enact comprehensive legislation to ensure that unaccompanied alien children in INS custody are treated humanely and not placed in juvenile jails or in adult detention facilities. The manner in which some children have been treated under our current system is nothing short of criminal. Representative Zoe Lofgren, a member of this Subcommittee, is about to introduce legislation that we strongly support on this issue. The legislation will be identical to S. 121, bipartisan children's legislation that was introduced last January by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).

Implementation of these recommendations would have the salutary benefit of actually reducing INS detention costs while treating the vulnerable among us in a more compassionate and humane manner.

Alternatives to Detention. Sixty percent of the more than 22,000 INS detainees currently areheld in local and county jails. The rest are detained in INS facilities, Bureau of Prisons facilities, and private facilities. In anticipation of the increasing numbers of detainees, the INS has requested over 1600 additional "average daily state and local detention bed spaces" and 127 additional detention-related officer and support positions for fiscal year 2002. We are concerned with this requested increase, and would like INS to consider alternatives to detention which are more cost-effective and more humane.

Many of those detained by INS do not present a danger to themselves or their communities and are not a flight risk. Detaining such individuals wastes valuable federal resources that could be put to better use. Detention is not only costly in terms of dollars; it is costly, as well, in terms of human suffering as people are needlessly separated from loved ones. Often, the person in detention is the breadwinner for United States citizen and/or lawful permanent resident children or spouses. In these instances, the individual in detention, the family members, and the communities all suffer.

The Church acknowledges and recognizes the right and duty of the government to provide for the public safety and welfare of its citizens. This obligation requires that certain dangerous individuals in removal proceedings should be held in detention pending a resolution of their proceedings rather than permitted to remain in the country at large. But along with this duty should be an obligation to assess whether each individual in detention is actually a threat to the safety of the country. Human rights considerations, respect for basic dignity, and the practicalities of cost and efficiency mandate that individuals in proceedings who are not threats to the public safety should not be detained. Along this vein, we believe that those who are not threats to society and are not flight risks should be released from detention. Of particular concern are asylum seekers and indefinite detainees, both of which are groups which the INS has discretion to release.

In addition to providing a more humane and compassionate response to individuals currently detained, viable alternatives to detention for deserving individuals could save millions of dollars in detention costs and free up costly detention space for more urgent uses. For these reasons, Mr. Chairman, I urge you, on behalf of the U.S. Bishops, to earmark at least $20 million from existing funds to support a nationwide program to provide alternatives to detention for individuals who are not a danger to the community and not likely to abscond.

We know that workable alternatives to detention exist. For example, the INS recently funded a pilot project which allowed for the supervised release of more than 500 noncitizens in three categories: asylum-seekers, individuals in removal proceedings due to a criminal conviction, and undocumented persons apprehended at work sites. The results were remarkable. Ninety-one percent of supervised noncitizens in the project appeared in court compared to 71 percent of noncitizens released on bond or parole. Sixty-nine percent of Appearance Assistance Program (AAP) supervised participants complied with final orders of removal compared to 38 percent of a group released on bond or parole. The project showed that supervision costs only $12 per day, as compared to the $61 cost per day for INS detention. (2)

There are also other successful models for alternatives to detention including one operated by Catholic Charities in New Orleans that finds jobs, housing and needed counseling for released asylees as well as long-term detainees. Of twenty-five asylum seekers released from this program, only one has been returned to custody since 2000. The INS supports this project and praises the results. I ask, Mr. Chairman, that an article from the New Orleans Times-Picayune on the program be included in the record.

Based on the budget provided for the supervised release pilot ($2 million a year for one site), we project an expansion of the pilot to the ten areas with the largest detention populations would cost $20 million but could provide significant savings in the FY 2002 INS budget. (3) We urge the subcommittee to consider providing funding for an expansion of these projects to reduce costs and allow those who are no threat to society to stay out of detention.

Unaccompanied Alien Children. Mr. Chairman, we are particularly concerned about the increasing numbers of unaccompanied minors being held in INS detention. We believe that unaccompanied minors in removal proceedings are deserving of special treatment and that the INS should place as many as possible with family members, in foster care or in privately run shelter-care facilities. Yet a large percentage (approximately 30 percent) are still regularly detained in county or municipal juvenile correction centers, despite the fact that many of these minors have not committed any crime, are not considered flight risks, and do not present disciplinary problems. Detention in these jails greatly impairs the minor's access to counsel, and the inherently harsher conditions of confinement can result in the minor being too demoralized and/or discouraged to seek help or to participate meaningfully in court proceedings.

Unaccompanied minors enter the United States under a variety of circumstances. Some seek to reunite with family members, others are asylum seekers who have experienced persecution, some are children who have been smuggled into the country and are at risk of being caught again by smugglers and forced into sweatshop labor or worse. Whatever their circumstances, these children deserve special care. The guiding principle in placing these children in appropriate settings should be the best interests of the child. Therefore, we believe that the care and placement of unaccompanied minors apprehended by the INS should be provided by child welfare agencies experienced in serving the special needs of children. Unaccompanied minors should not be held in any type of secure facility unless absolutely necessary for the child's or society's safety. When used to detain unaccompanied minors, secure facilities should protect these children from potential dangers and separate them from criminal offenders. Mr. Chairman, I ask that a study on the plight of immigrant and refugee children published by the U.S. Catholic Conference's Migration and Refugee Services be included in the record.

Mr. Chairman, we are gravely concerned with the recent transfer by INS of responsibility for unaccompanied minors to the detention and removal division. We believe that this change is potentially a conflict of interest, since those charged with enforcement responsibilities will also be charged with providing child welfare services. In our view, this responsibility should be housed elsewhere, perhaps in the Department of Justice, and staffed by child welfare experts.

This Subcommittee will soon have before it legislation that Representative Zoe Lofgren is planning to introduce that would make comprehensive reforms in the manner in which unaccompanied alien children in United States custody are treated. The legislation will be virtually identical to S. 121, the "Unaccompanied Alien Child Protection Act of 2001," which was introduced in the Senate by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Bob Graham (D-FL). We respectfully ask the subcommittee to consider this issue within the context of your oversight responsibilities, as well as consider this legislation.

Legal Orientation Presentations. In addition to the many other problems faced by individuals in INS detention, these detainees often carry the added burden of being without easy or affordable access to legal representation. Many of the facilities where they are held are in remote locations, far from legal help. Persons in INS detention do not have access to government appointed counsel, and, because most are indigent and cannot afford a lawyer, more than 90 percent go unrepresented. "Legal orientation" presentations, which provide detainees with a briefing on their rights under U.S. law, could offer hope to these unrepresented individuals as well as improve efficiencies in the immigration system, help identify detainees worthy of relief, and reduce detention costs.

We cannot underestimate how much is at stake for these individuals. All are in danger of losing their right to live in the United States. They also are in danger of being separated from their families. Some are in danger of being returned to countries where they may face persecution and/or death. Without legal help, most individuals in INS detention are unclear as to what the process before an immigration judge entails, what relief may be available to them or how to pursue it.

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs), like the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.(CLINIC) try to represent people detained by the INS. Unfortunately, because of restricted resources, most people go unrepresented. NGOs have found that the most effective way to screen people in detention to determine who needs a lawyer is through group legal information presentations.

In the summer of 1998, the Department of Justice (DOJ) funded a modest pilot project, through the Executive Office for Immigration Review, that provided legal orientation presentations to detainees in three sites. The project sought to determine whether informing INS detainees of their rights would have any impact on representation rates, the efficiency of the deportation proceedings, or INS detention expenditures.

The DOJ found that the "legal orientation presentations" benefitted detainees in ways that also benefitted the INS and the immigration courts. They enabled detainees to receive accurate legal information before their hearings with the Immigration Judge. They helped detainees expeditiously determine whether they had potential relief available. They also greatly increased the number of individuals represented as the screening agencies could determine which people had strong claims and needed a pro bono lawyer to assist them further. In addition, they helped those without relief to reconcile themselves to removal. Immigration Judges, in turn were able to complete more cases in a summary fashion and benefitted from immigrants who came to their hearings informed about the process and the law. The Department of Justice has found that the above benefits allow the legal orientation program to increase the efficiency of both the INS and the immigration courts.

Such programs could result in substantial savings to the government. The DOJ report recommended the expansion of the project, stating that it improved efficiency, reduced detention costs and increased levels of representation. The report found that detainees who received "rights presentations" spent four fewer days in detention than those who did not. By expanding legal orientation presentations to other INS detention facilities, the DOJ estimated that over $8 million in detention costs would be saved annually nationwide. (4) While the DOJ report noted that "[b]ased on case data from the pilot period, the rights presentation has the potential to save both time and money for the government while also benefitting detainees," it also stated that the most significant barrier to replicating the rights presentation program is funding. (5)

Therefore, Mr. Chairman, I urge the Subcommittee to direct the INS to use existing funds to provide funding to make legal orientation presentations available to aliens in detention so as to improve deserving detainees access to relief, increase the efficiency of the system, and reduce the overall cost of detaining aliens.

Family Reunification and Immigration Benefits Adjudication

The Catholic Church has long taken the position that family unity should be the driving force behind our immigration policy. Family reunification should remain the cornerstone of our national immigration system. All families, including immigrant families, should be supported in their efforts to re-unite or remain together, and to be self-sufficient.

The U.S. bishops make note of three developments under this Subcommittee's jurisdiction that make it more difficult for immigrant families to reunite and remain together in the United States.

Family Preference System. The U.S. Bishops believe that the family preference system should appropriately affirm values important to our society and provide the types of immigrants that benefit this nation. In this regard, we are deeply troubled by the long periods of time legal immigrants in the U.S. must wait before being reunited with immediate family members living abroad. Currently, legal permanent residents must wait at least three years and, in some cases, more than twelve years, to be reunited with spouses and children living abroad. (6) The waiting periods for other family members, such as parents and siblings, are even longer.

Backlogs in Immigration Benefits Adjudications. Although, these lengthy waits are, in part, a result of the numerical limitations on family-based immigration, they could be substantially alleviated by increasing the processing times of applications for immigration benefits, especially naturalization. For many long-term residents whose naturalization and adjustment of status applications are backlogged, the approval of their applications would mean a much speedier reunification with their immediate family members. For those awaiting naturalization, they will be able to reunite with their families much more quickly once they become U.S. citizens because, as citizens, they will not be subject to the numerical limitations. For those awaiting adjustment of status, they cannot even apply for reunification with their family members until their applications are approved.

The processing times for adjustment applications have averaged 69 months in some parts of the country. (7) At the beginning of fiscal year 1999, the average time for the processing time of a naturalization application was 28 months. (8) Although the average processing time for naturalization applications has decreased recently, many individuals still wait far too long to have their applications adjudicated. Such backlogs encourage undocumented immigration when family members honor their commitment as a spouse or parent by choosing to join their loved ones prior to receiving a visa.

While we are encouraged by President Bush's call for $500 million to be dedicated to reducing the backlog in immigration benefits over the next five years, we are concerned that this amount is grossly insufficient to meet the Administration's stated goal of reducing waiting times for all immigration benefits to six months. We are further concerned that the majority of the $100 million funded for this purpose in FY 2002 is coming from fee accounts and funding that has been carried forward from a prior year rather than from direct appropriations. It is our understanding that the Administration's budget provides only $45 million in "new money" for the critical task of reducing the backlog. Another $20 million is to come from revenues generated by the new premium processing fee, a yet untested source of revenue.

We are deeply concerned that the current FY 2002 funding for reducing the INS backlog in adjudications does not include $100 million in new appropriations. Even this amount is unlikely to be sufficient to address the serious backlogs in adjudications, particularly in light of the increased workload the INS will face in adjudications as a result of the LIFE Act, the increase in H1-B visas, and the extension of TPS to Salvadorans. We are further concerned that, as the premium processing fee is a new program, the projection of the revenue it will generate may be overly optimistic.

We therefore urge you to work with the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, State, Judiciary to ensure that the additional new funds are appropriated for FY 2002 to begin the task of reducing the INS adjudications waiting time to six months or less. By providing the necessary funding in the INS budget to process all immigration benefits, particularly naturalization and adjustment of status applications, in a more timely fashion, we will facilitate the family reunification we, as a nation, so highly value. Moreover, we believe these funds should be directly appropriated rather than generated from fee accounts, and that the funds should be deposited into the "Immigration Services and Infrastructure Improvement Account," a no-year account that was created by Title II of P.L. 106-313, the "Immigration Services and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2000."

Permanent Restoration of Section 245(i) of the INA. Mr. Chairman, as you know, last year, Congress provided for a temporary extension of the deadline for aliens to file immigration petitions and applications and still make use of Section 245(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). As the Subcommittee well knows, Section 245(i) allows undocumented family members of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents to adjust their status while here in the United States if they are otherwise eligible and have a visa immediately available rather than having to leave the country in order to do so. Without the ability to use Section 245(i), those family members would be required to travel abroad in order to obtain legal status in the United States. In many cases they would have to wait three or ten years before returning to the United States because of changes to the INA made by the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA).

This temporary extension of the filing deadline for making use of Section 245(i) was April 30, 2001. Our dioceses throughout the United States were deluged with requests for assistance with 245(i) applications. Unfortunately, there was not sufficient staff to respond to all requests, and many individuals who met the requirements of this extension were not able to benefit from it because of their inability to obtain legal assistance. More importantly, now that the April 30, 2001 deadline has passed, no one will be eligible for benefits under 245(i), and families will be forced to separate for years before re-uniting or to live together with some family members in an undocumented status.

Mr. Chairman, the Subcommittee has several bills before it that would extend the April 30, 2001, deadline. We support those measures and urge the Subcommittee to move expeditiously to enact an extension of the deadline. At the same time, the U.S. Catholic Bishops believe that Section 245(i) should be a permanent provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as it is crucial to supporting immigrant families and promoting the goal of family reunification. Furthermore, the permanent restoration of 245(i) would help to provide funds to the INS for carrying out its adjudicatory functions, as each 245(i) applicant must pay a $1000 penalty to the INS which is used for adjudications. Thus, the permanent restoration of 245(i) would not only promote the value of family unity within our immigration policy, but also would provide needed funds to INS to help alleviate its backlog in immigration adjudications.

Border Enforcement

The Church recognizes the right and the responsibility of sovereign states to control their borders. We, therefore, understand that adequate funding and training for the border patrol functions of the INS is necessary to carry out the nation's immigration enforcement function. However, we are deeply concerned that necessary steps be taken to ensure that the human dignity of those involved (border patrol agents as well as those attempting to cross the border) is respected and enhanced. We support efforts to make the border patrol more sensitive to the human rights of those undocumented persons it encounters through the use of independent monitoring mechanisms. We also support efforts to promote sensitivity in local communities to the human rights of migrants.

Over the last several fiscal years, funding for Border Patrol agents has increased dramatically, ballooning from $354 million in 1993 to over $1.2 billion dollars in 2002. The Administration's FY 2002 budget submission would increase the number of Border Patrol agents by 570 to a record level of more than 10,000 agents. At the same time, since the advent of Operation Gatekeeper in 1995, more than 1600 migrants have died in the deserts and mountains of California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. (9)

The bulk of the INS budget is dedicated to Enforcement and Border Affairs. For FY 2002, the agency is requesting $171.6 million in new funds and 1206 new positions, including an additional 570 Border Patrol agents to support its border management strategy. Among the initiatives the INS plans to fund is the continued deployment of intrusion detection technology and additional intelligence resources.

The FY 2002 budget provides an additional 570 Border Patrol agents in each of fiscal years 2002 and 2003. One of the consequences of having so many new members of the border patrol is a lack of selectivity and training. Compounding the problem is the high attrition rate among Border Patrol agents. Of particular concern is the degree to which border patrol agents have been trained in civil rights and human rights matters. There continue to be reports of civil rights violations along the border, including reports of American citizens who might not "look American" being harassed by border patrol agents. (10)

Mr. Chairman, the increased border enforcement by the United States since 1994 has increased the risk factors for migrants crossing the border, driving them into more dangerous terrain and into the hands of smugglers. As a result, in recent years the number of deaths of migrants along the border has risen. (11) While we do not condone or encourage undocumented migration, we nevertheless advocate that the basic human rights of migrants, whatever their legal status, be upheld.

Mr. Chairman, on behalf of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, we believe it is time for Congress to examine and review U.S. enforcement policy on the U.S.-Mexican border more closely. It is clear that increasing enforcement personnel along the border does not necessarily dampen the will of persons to come to this nation in search of work and a better life, though it can make their journey far more dangerous, and even deadly. (12)

We believe that new policy options should be considered. We also ask that INS be directed to train and monitor personnel to respect the civil and human rights of migrants they encounter.

The Cuban/Haitian Resettlement Program

Throughout our history the United States has been a beacon of hope to those fleeing political oppression in the form of abusive and totalitarian governments. In the 1980s and 1990s we offered safe haven to many individuals fleeing the anti-democratic governments in Cuba and Haiti. To ease their transition into the United States, the Cuban/Haitian Primary/Secondary Resettlement program (CHPSRP), funded by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and operated by nonprofit organizations, provides initial processing, orientation, family reunification, case management, and employment referral services for Cubans and Haitians who have been paroled into the United States by the INS.

The purpose of the CHPSRP program is to provide resettlement services for Cuban and Haitian entrants, including unaccompanied minors, who enter the United States without documentation and are subsequently given permission to remain in the United States temporarily ("parole"). Without the program, thousands of Cuban and Haitian entrants and unaccompanied minors paroled by INS would be released directly into communities without any support or supervision, where they would further strain the already overburdened state and local social service system. Because there exists no line-item appropriation authority for this program, the CHPSRP must rely on user fees paid by immigrants for adjudication services, an unstable and unreliable source of funding which contributes to rollbacks in the program.

The INS has cut funding for family reunification cases under the CHPSRP, threatening services to Cubans and Haitians who enter the United States and who have relatives in the country. For example, the INS has cut the period in which services are offered to individuals from 90 days to 30 days as well as eliminated a one-time direct assistance grant to assist individuals with basic necessities. The reduction in the service period could eliminate the following services past one month after entry: employment referrals and counseling, individual counseling, life-skills training, English instruction referrals and social service and health care referrals. Given that employment authorization processing normally takes much longer than 30 days, the provision of follow-up services beyond that time period is vital to ensure that Cuban and Haitian entrants reach self-sufficiency. The elimination of the direct assistance grant, a small amount which helps defray the costs for basic necessities while an individual waits for up to four months for employment authorization, will have a harsh impact on individuals, families, and communities.

The impact of these cuts is far reaching. Because the majority of Cubans and Haitians served under this program (about 8,000 a year) enter the United States in the South Florida region, Florida will be disproportionately impacted by the cuts. Seventy percent of Cuban/Haitian entrants are family reunification cases, with at least fifty percent living in South Florida. Without follow-up services and direct assistance, Cuban/Haitian entrants will likely turn to the social welfare system for support, further burdening state and federal governments. Without full funding of the Cuban/Haitian program, Cubans and Haitians will have difficulty adjusting to their new home, preventing them from giving their special skills and contributions to their community and state. Based on this need, the U.S. Bishops support line-item appropriations funding for the Cuban/Haitian program in the FY 2002 budget.

INS Reorganization

Finally, Mr. Chairman, the Bishops wish to address the critical issue of INS reorganization. Currently, there exists no clear distinction between the service/adjudication mission of the INS and the enforcement mission. As a result of this lack of separation of functions, in many cases enforcement officials are also charged with adjudicatory responsibilities. For example, while some INS inspectors belong to the enforcement side of INS, they hold broad and unreviewable adjudicatory authority. A separation of functions, governed by a central authority with clout and shared support services, would help bring clarity of mission to the adjudication and enforcement functions, resulting in more efficient adjudications and more accountable enforcement.

A central authority, preferably located in the Department of Justice, is critically important to ensure that legal and policy decisions are consistent between the bureau charged with enforcement and the bureau charged with service/adjudications. Because of the increasing profile of immigration in our country, a high-level person with some clout within the Executive Branch is needed to run the nation's immigration functions. Such a person should have increased access to Executive branch officials, the authority to speak for the Administration on immigration issues, and increased budgetary authority. Upgrading the INS within the federal system would also increase its ability to attract quality managerial talent.

Mr. Chairman, I also urge you to make funding changes a part of INS restructuring. The costs of operating INS are borne by taxpayers but also by customers who are forced to pay fees for certain services. Many "service" functions, such as naturalization application processing, are paid for by fees which are beyond the financial means of many INS customers. The adjudication/service side of INS should not be funded solely on the basis of fees collected from INS' customers. Any reorganization of the INS should ensure that appropriated funds are available to supplement the Examination Fee Account used now to pay for services. We recommend that Congress appropriate funds into the Backlog Reduction account, created through legislation passed in the 106th Congress. The account was created as a revolving fund, to be used at the discretion of the Attorney General, to supplement funding for adjudication services.

Mr. Chairman, we also believe that, within any INS reorganization, the Asylum Division should remain intact and serve as a model for other parts of the agency. Asylum adjudicators require highly specialized knowledge and skills which are distinct from those of other INS adjudicators. Prior to the creation of the Asylum Corps in 1990, asylum determinations were supervised and performed by INS officers who also adjudicated other types of immigration benefits. The creation of the Asylum Corps has dramatically increased efficiencies in adjudications of asylum claims and allowed asylum officers to remain focused on the asylum mission. The asylum division should serve as a model for other important functions of INS, such as the refugee program. For example, the effectiveness and integrity of the refugee program would be enhanced by modeling it on the Asylum Corps, with a dedicated corps within a single line of authority integrating policy making and policy implementation aspects of the program.

Finally, Mr. Chairman, we strongly recommend that the responsibility for caring for unaccompanied minors who come to our country be transferred outside of INS, preferably to a new office within the Department of Justice. These children, often smuggled into ports of entry, are traumatized and often physically or mentally abused when they enter our country. Currently, however, the majority are placed in INS detention facilities or juvenile facilities with criminal offenders for months, and, in some cases, years. INS recently transferred care and custody of these vulnerable children to the Detention and Removal branch of the agency, a clear conflict of interest

which gives those charged with detaining children discretion over release decisions. We urge Congress to investigate this recent decision and direct changes in how INS handles unaccompanied alien minors.


Mr. Chairman, the United States must continue to be a leader in welcoming immigrants to our land of opportunity and treating them with respect, dignity and justice within our great nation. On behalf of the U.S. Catholic bishops, I would like to conclude with a summary of the recommendations I have discussed for improving the immigration process in the United States, through INS funding of critical programs and services:

  • The INS should actively engage in the search for alternatives to detention for deserving aliens. This can be accomplished first, by revisiting our mandatory detention laws and second, having the Subcommittee make clear to the INS its support for the small amount of funding that would be necessary to operate alternative programs. Furthermore, the Subcommittee should work with the Appropriations Committee to ensure that such funding is available to the INS.

  • The INS should fund and permit the operation of "legal orientation" presentations, which would increase the efficiency of the immigration system, help identify INS detainees worthy of relief, and reduce detention costs.

  • The Subcommittee should move swiftly to enact Representative Lofgren's "Unaccompanied Alien Child Protection Act," legislation she will soon introduce that will be identical to S. 121, bipartisan introduced in the Senate by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Bob Graham (D-FL).

  • The Subcommittee should act to ensure that family reunification remains the cornerstone of our immigration policy. It can do this by reviewing our family preference system to ensure that it is offering a meaningful opportunity for families to reunify, using its oversight and legislative authority to ensure that the INS is adequately addressing the backlogs in immigration benefits adjudications, including working with the Appropriations Committee to ensure adequate funding for those activities; and instituting Section 245(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act as a permanent part of our immigration law.

  • The Subcommittee should ensure that funding for border enforcement include training in civil rights and human rights matters for border patrol officers. Additionally, the Subcommittee should pursue more comprehensive policies for addressing undocumented migration.

  • Line item, no-year appropriation for the Cuban/Haitian resettlement program should be included in the INS FY 2002 budget.

  • The INS should be reorganized to separate the adjudication and enforcement divisions with one central authority and give the agency a higher profile within the Department of Justice. In so doing, the Subcommittee must act to ensure that there is adequate funding for the new agency to carry out its service mission and to manage any transition that is necessary.

Each of these recommendations, Mr. Chairman, is offered respectfully, recognizing that all of us involved in the complex issues of migration - whether government officials, private agency personnel, or the faithful - are doing our best to address the challenges of migration in our increasingly globalized world.

Mr. Chairman, it is the view of the U.S. Bishops that we, in the United States, must renew our commitment to welcome newcomers to our shores and to offer them humane and compassionate treatment. By doing so, we serve our own vital interests and act as an example to other nations.

On behalf of the nation's Catholic bishops, I thank you and your colleagues on the Subcommittee for allowing me the opportunity to present our views and for your leadership on this issue of vital national importance.

1. National Conference of Catholic Bishops, "Resolution on the Pastoral Concern of the Church for People on the Move," November 11, 1976, as quoted in One Family Under God, NCCB Committee on Migration, September, 1995, p.7

2. Testing Community Supervision for the INS: An Evaluation of the Appearance Assistance Program, Final Report of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, August 1, 2000.

3. According to the evaluation report of the pilot project, it costs the INS $3,300 to provide supervised release to each asylum seeker compared to $7,300 to detain an asylum seeker. For those removable for criminal offenses, supervision costs $3,871 compared to $4,575 per detained individual.

4. "Evaluation of the Rights Presentation," Anna Hinken, U.S. Department of Justice, Executive Office of Immigration Review, p. 12.

5. "Executive Summary."

6. "Visa Bulletin," United States Dept. of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs, Number 30, Volume VIII, March 8, 2001. (Dept. of State Publication 9514)

7. "A Blueprint For New Beginnings - A Responsible Budget for America's Priorities,"U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., 2001, p.85.

8. "INS Achieves 2-Year Naturalization Program Goals," News Release, U.S. Dept. of Justice, Immigration and Naturalization Service, November 15, 2000.

9. "Death at the Border," Eschbach,, International Migration Review, Vol. 33, No. 2 (Summer 1999), p. 430.

10. See e.g., "'Driving While Brown' Called an Added Risk in Border Areas," San Diego Union Tribune, July 24, 2000; "Judge Stopped Twice on Way to Court," Houston Chronicle, October 1, 2000; "Amtrak Border Patrol Practices Examined: Issue of racial profiling raised," by Karen Ivanova, Great Falls Tribune, May 25, 2000.

11. Eschbach, Hagan, and Rodriguez, Causes and Trends in Migrant Deaths along the U.S.-Mexico Border, 1985-1998,, University of Houston, Center for Immigration Research, March 2001.

12. "Immigrants face border badlands," Phil Magers, United Press International, April 17, 2001.

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