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< Back to current issue of Immigration Daily < Back to current issue of Immigrant's Weekly

[Congressional Record: September 5, 2001 (House)]
[Page H5372-H5374]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:cr05se01-110]                         
 
                       CURRENT IMMIGRATION ISSUES

  The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Kirk). Under a previous order of the 
House, the gentlewoman from Texas (Ms. Jackson-Lee) is recognized for 5 
minutes.
  Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas. Mr. Speaker, first let me offer my deep 
appreciation and sympathy, appreciation for Floyd Spence's life and 
sympathy to his family.
  Mr. Speaker, there is no question that we have been expecting new 
immigration agreements to be announced when the Mexican President, 
Vicente Fox, visits Washington this week. Instead, we have the White 
House issuing a statement that they expect a comprehensive U.S.-Mexico 
immigration reform package in the next 4 to 6 years.
  Since their elections last year, both President Fox and President 
Bush have pressed immigration to the top of their agendas. President 
Bush has stated that he is willing to embrace a more inclusive vision 
of America, one that would welcome the talents and contributions of 
immigrant communities all over this Nation, hardworking, tax-paying 
immigrants coming from places as far away as Poland, England, Brazil, 
Guatemala, Singapore and other places that people would be interested 
in coming to the United States.
  It is disappointing that both Presidents believe that reform will 
take so long to broker. Immigration is extremely complex; however, we 
cannot delay dealing with the issues involved. The time has come to 
bring these people out of the shadows and allow them to bask in the 
sunlight of mainstream American life. The time has come to educate the 
American people, to make them stakeholders in improving the lives of 
all Americans and those who access the American dream. Given the 
momentum the two Presidents have generated up until now and given the 
expectations, if they do not take advantage at this moment, they will 
have missed an historic opportunity.
  By pushing back a reform in immigration policy, President Bush is 
losing sight of the millions of hardworking, tax-paying immigrants who 
have lived in this country for a number of years and have contributed 
to the economic prosperity of our Nation. What the White House is doing 
with our immigrant community is nothing more than gesturing, lip 
service designed to attract badly needed Hispanic support to the 
Republican fold. We cannot wait 4 to 6 years for real immigration 
reform. The time has come for a change in U.S. immigration policy.
  The Democratic Principles on Immigration provides this necessary 
immigration reform by rectifying current problems in immigration 
policy. The principles of the statement are family reunification, 
earned access to legalization, border safety and protection, enhanced 
temporary worker program, and ending unfair discrimination against 
legal immigrants.
  A policy based on these five principles will bring stability to the 
lives of millions of people. In addition to strengthening the national 
economy, such a policy would honor family values, reward hard work, 
provide worker protections and enhance civil rights. It would also 
benefit people who have come to the United States from every corner of 
the globe. Any new program

[[Page H5373]]

to expand the number of guest workers in the U.S. should be considered 
only after hardworking, tax-paying immigrants already in this country 
are legalized and it must provide guest workers with full labor and 
civil rights and a clear path to legalization.
  Furthermore, the Statement of Immigration Principles reflects the 
Democratic Caucus philosophy and core values of family reunification, 
bringing mothers and fathers together, families with children, 
fundamental fairness and economic opportunity. Furthermore, the 
immigration principles stand by the people who fuel the economic engine 
that drives the American economy and the people who play a vital role 
in our communities and culture. America's immigrants need redemption 
for what our Nation's policies have forced them to go through and 
Americans who are already here need to be recognized that they too need 
job training and enhanced economic opportunity. We do not separate the 
immigrant community from our hardworking Americans as well.
  We need to empower our immigrant communities so that they can earn a 
living wage that will help provide for their families. By doing so, we 
are giving hardworking immigrants the chance to become permanent 
members of our society rather than continuing to treat them like 
second-class citizens. If President Bush is serious about immigration 
policy, I wish to join him as the ranking member on the immigration 
committee. He needs to remember that immigrants helped build this 
Nation and that they too are a part of our Nation's prosperity. We must 
stop the antiimmigration forces in the Republican Party and elsewhere 
and begin to work together and build America together. Four to six 
years is absolutely too long.
  And if we are to improve our immigration policy, we must restructure 
the INS, an agency with conflicting priorities and mission overload. 
Thousands of individuals can attest to the unclear lines of 
accountability and poor intra-agency communication and coordination and 
the enormous backlogs. Talk to any Member of Congress and find out how 
many years and hours and days that they wait in order to access 
immigration services for their constituents, people who actually want 
to access legalization and do the right thing. Customers are 
frustrated. There is no doubt that the INS needs to be restructured 
because it lacks good customer service.
  I have introduced the Immigration Restructuring and Accountability 
Act of 2001, H.R. 1562, which includes the objectives of improving 
accountability and performance. It creates a proper balance between 
enforcement and services. To achieve the goal of restructuring and 
reorganizing the immigration function fairly, effectively and 
efficiently, H.R. 1562 replaces the current INS with two new and clear 
subordinate entities, one for immigration services and one for law 
enforcement, within one agency. H.R. 1562 separates the enforcement and 
service functions of the INS into the Bureau of Immigration Services 
and the Bureau of Immigration Enforcement. Services and enforcement 
would have separate and clear lines of authority at all levels, from 
field to headquarters, so current INS regional and district offices 
would be eliminated and replaced with separate networks of immigration 
services and enforcement area local offices.
  Finally, Mr. Speaker, as I close, let me simply say, we have got to 
address this question head-on, help our hardworking immigrants, and 
restructure the INS. That is a real policy. I ask for President Fox and 
President Bush to ensure that we work together.
  There is no question that we have been expecting new immigration 
agreements to be announced when the Mexican President, Vicente Fox, 
visits Washington this week. Instead, we have the White House issuing a 
statement that they expect a comprehensive U.S.-Mexico immigration 
reform package in the next four to six years.
  Since their elections last year, Fox and Bush have pressed 
immigration to the top of their agendas. President Bush has stated that 
he is willing to embrace a more inclusive vision of America, one that 
would welcome the talents and contributions of immigrant communities.
  It is disappointing that both Presidents believe that reform will 
take so long to broker. Immigration is extremely complex; however we 
cannot delay dealing with the issues involved. The time has come to 
bring these people out of the shadows and allow them to bask in the 
sunlight of mainstream American life. Given the momentum the two 
presidents have generated up until now, and given the expectations, if 
they don't take advantage at this moment, they will have missed an 
historic opportunity.
  By pushing back a reform in immigration policy, President Bush is 
losing sight of the millions of hardworking, tax paying immigrants who 
have lived in this country for a number of years and have contributed 
to the economic prosperity of our nation.
  What the White House is doing with our immigrant community is nothing 
more than gesturing--lip service designed to attract badly-needed 
Hispanic support to the Republican fold.
  We cannot wait four to six years for real immigration reform. The 
time has come for a change in U.S. immigration policy.
  The Democratic Principles on Immigration provides this necessary 
immigration reform by rectifying current problems in immigration 
policy. The main principles of the Statement are family reunification, 
earned access to legalization, border safety and protection, enhanced 
temporary worker program, and ending unfair discrimination against 
legal immigrants.
  A policy based on these five principles would bring stability to the 
lives of millions of people. In addition to strengthening the national 
economy, such a policy would honor family values; reward hard work; 
provide worker protections; and enhance civil rights. It would also 
benefit people who have come to the U.S. from every corner of the 
globe.
  Any new program to expand the number of guest workers in the U.S. 
should be considered only after hard working, tax-paying immigrants 
already in this country are legalized--and it must provide guest 
workers with full labor and civil rights and a clear path to 
legalization.
  Furthermore, the Statement of Immigration Principles reflects the 
Democratic Caucus philosophy and core values of family reunification, 
fundamental fairness and economic opportunity. Furthermore, the 
immigration principles stand by the people who fuel the economic engine 
that drives the American economy and the people that play a vital role 
in our communities and culture. America's immigrants need redemption 
for what our nation's policies has forced them to go through.
  We need to empower our immigrant communities so they can earn a 
living wage that will help provide for their families. By doing so, we 
are giving hard-working immigrants the chance to become permanent 
members of our society rather than continuing to treat them like second 
class citizens.
  If President Bush is serious about immigration policy, he needs to 
remember that immigrants helped build this nation and that they too are 
a part of our nation's prosperity. The anti-immigration forces in the 
Republican Party should not dictate the future of millions of hard-
working men and women seeking better opportunities.
  We cannot wait four to six years to lead to a positive, fair and 
meaningful difference in the lives of these millions of hard-working 
families is too long. Current immigration policies must be recrafted as 
soon as possible to reflect our core values of family unity, 
fundamental fairness, and economic opportunity. Consequently, the 
Democrats will fortunate the Statement of Immigration Principles into 
legislation.
  In addition to reforming our immigration policy, Congress must 
address the much needed restructuring of the Immigration and 
Naturalization Service. Despite the fact that INS has experienced a 
significant expansion in its budget and staff, the Agency continues to 
be the most mismanaged agency in the US government.
  INS is an agency with conflicting priorities and mission overload. 
Thousands of individuals can attest to the exacerbation of unclear 
lines of accountability and poor intra-agency communications and 
coordination. One result has been for the Agency to allow lengthy 
backlogs to develop for processing matters such as citizenship 
applications, visas, and a host of other immigration benefits.
  There are accounts of delayed cases that cause two and three 
fingerprint clearances, lost files, mistaken information on the 
computer that causes INS to believe that a person is naturalized when 
they are not. Others account extreme delays in inputting fingerprint 
clearances in the computer so that applicants can be interviewed and 
delays in Service Centers sending files to District Offices. 
Unbelievable to many is the fact that INS sends receipts to inform 
applicants of the time frame which their application should be 
adjudicated; however, these time frames are frequently, if not almost 
always, wrong.
  Furthermore, the Agency lacks good customer service. Many INS offices 
around the country are understaffed and the staff is inefficient and 
mismanaged. In addition, there is an obvious lack of training that most 
employees receive.

[[Page H5374]]

  There is no end to the frustration felt by customers.
  There is no doubt that INS needs to be restructured. The INS must 
dedicate itself to changing the manner in which it addresses the needs 
of people who require, deserve and pay for--in the form of fees and 
taxes--the services that it is charged with fulfilling.
  What remains in question is when will we restructure INS and how will 
we restructure the agency? The first question has a simple response. 
Restructuring is long overdue. We need to commence restructuring 
immediately.
  As ranking member of the Subcommittee on Immigration and Claims, I 
have introduced legislation of how INS should be restructured. This 
legislation, the Immigration Restructuring and Accountability Act of 
2001 (H.R. 1562), includes the objectives of improving accountability 
and performance. Furthermore, it creates a proper balance between 
enforcement and services. It also provides an effective way to direct, 
coordinate, and integrate enforcement and service functions.
  To achieve the goal of restructuring and reorganizing the immigration 
function fairly, effectively, and efficiently, H.R. 1562 replaces the 
current INS with two new and clear subordinate entities--one for 
immigration services and one for law enforcement--within one agency. 
H.R. 1562 separates the enforcement and service functions of INS into 
the Bureau of Immigration Services and the Bureau of Immigration 
Enforcement. Services and enforcement would have separate and clear 
lines of authority at all levels, from the field to headquarters. So 
current INS regional and district offices would be eliminated and 
replaced with separate networks of immigration services and enforcement 
area local offices. Not only will restructuring in this manner enhance 
enforcement of the Nation's immigration laws and improve the delivery 
of services, but it will greatly improve the ability of the INS to 
perform its duties effectively and efficiently and will increase 
accountability.
  In addition, a strong, centralized leadership for immigration policy-
making and implementation would be created. This position would be 
within the Department of Justice and called the Associate Attorney 
General for Immigration Affairs. This single voice is needed at the top 
to coordinate policy matters and interpret complex laws in both 
enforcement and adjudications, so as to ensure accountability and 
effective implementation.
  The single executive would report to the Attorney General and be 
responsible for (1) integrating immigration policy and management 
operations within the Department of Justice, (including coordinating 
policy-making and planning between offices so as to ensure efficiencies 
and effectiveness that result from shared infrastructure and unified 
implementation of the law); (2) maintaining the crucial balance between 
enforcement and services; and (3) ensuring a coherent national 
immigration policy. It is crucial that a single, high-level Department 
official speak for the Executive branch on matters involving 
immigration policy and that this official have the authority to direct 
and manage our immigration system to ensure that immigration policy and 
management is fully integrated and coordinated.
  H.R. 1562 also mandates that immigration enforcement and services 
functions must be supported by a set of shared services, including 
records, technology, training, and other management functions.
  Finally, it is important that the service/adjudication as well as the 
enforcement function is fully funded. All offices need to have stable 
and predictable sources of funding. Appropriated funds must supplement 
user fees so as to improve customer service, offset the costs of those 
adjudications for which no fees are charged, and fund all costs not 
directly related to the adjudication of fee based applications.
  I urge my United States House of Representative colleagues adopt this 
legislation. The INS desperately needs restructuring. We must continue 
to fight to solicit not only promises of better services from the INS, 
but actual, better service. We must compel the agency to redouble its 
efforts to assist immigrants rather than simply increase the fees that 
it imposes on its customers.

                          ____________________




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