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U.S. House of Representatives

Committee on the Judiciary

F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr., Chairman

_______________________________________

                                                                         www.house.gov/judiciary


News Advisory

For immediate release                                                            Contact: Jeff Lungren/Terry Shawn

November 6, 2001                                                                              202-225-2492


Sensenbrenner Statement Introducing Legislation Shaking-up the INS by Splitting it in Two

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. - House Judiciary Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr. (R-Wis.) and Immigration and Claims Subcommittee Chairman George W. Gekas (R-Penn.) today introduced legislation to split the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) into two separate agencies. Chairman Sensenbrenner’s statement follows:


           “Today, Congressman George Gekas and I are introducing legislation to shake-up the INS by splitting the Agency into two separate agencies. We’re all aware of the well-documented complaints about the INS: poor customer service, large backlogs of visa and other petitions, lax border enforcement, lost files for prospective immigrants, and continued mismanagement. In short, the INS is failing to treat the good guys fairly and failing to keep the bad guys out. The “Immigration Reform and Accountability Act of 2001" seeks to change this by restructuring an agency burdened by mission overload and entangled chains of command.


           “The U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform, chaired by the late Barbara Jordan, concluded that the INS suffered from mission overload. The Commission explained that the INS must give equal weight to more priorities than any one agency can handle. Such a system is set up for failure and, with such failure, further loss of public confidence in the immigration system.


           “This bill creates within the Justice Department an ‘Agency for Immigration Affairs’ that would be headed by a new Associate Attorney General for Immigration Affairs. This new position elevates the immigration agency to the level that it deserves in the Justice Department. In addition, the bill promotes good management by requiring that the Associate Attorney General have ten years of experience in managing a large, complex organization.


           “This Agency would include each of the components that handle immigration issues within the Justice Department. Currently, five components under the Justice Department perform immigration functions. To create uniformity and clarity in national immigration policy, it makes sense to bring all of those functions under one Associate Attorney General for Immigration Affairs. This bill does that.


           “The bill would establish two bureaus under the Agency: the Bureau of Immigration Services and Adjudications and the Bureau of Immigration Enforcement. Each bureau would be headed by a director with ten years of experience in his or her respective immigration mission, including five years of management experience. Each bureau would also have its own set of offices to focus on and carry out its respective mission, including policy, counsel, budget, and statistics.


           “It has never been more obvious than now that we need a dedicated law enforcement agency headed by a law enforcement expert to deal with border security and criminal and illegal aliens. When 250,000 illegal aliens have been ordered deported yet are now missing and cannot be found by the INS, a new way of doing business is in order.


           “We also need a dedicated services agency headed by an expert in customer service to give legal immigrants the treatment they deserve. I want people to have a positive experience with the U.S. government when they are playing by the rules and coming to America to work or reunite with family members.


           “Although this legislation divides enforcement from benefits, we recognize that both bureaus, as well as the Executive Office for Immigration Review, have an overlapping need for certain resources. For example, all three bureaus should use the same computer databases. Both the service and enforcement bureaus need access to an alien’s file. Accordingly, this bill creates an Office of Shared Services to allocate and coordinate resources needed by all of the Agency’s components, such as facilities, information resources, and records.


           “We’re all familiar with the INS’ chronic service problems and lengthy application backlogs – 4.9 million as of the end of September. Getting a green card application adjudicated can take up to two years. Furthermore, processing of immigration applications is inconsistent throughout the country. Under the current broken system, aliens and their attorneys, when they reach their wit’s end with the INS, approach their Representatives and Senators, seeking help to speed up INS processing of their applications. My district office in suburban Milwaukee receives six times the number of INS complaints as it does about the IRS. Thankfully, our staff often can help immigrant constituents, but immigrants deserve a good service advocate within the agency.


           “To address this problem, we create an Office of the Ombudsman to monitor and improve the benefits side of the agency. The Ombudsman must have a background in customer service and immigration law to handle common problems with the INS and to recommend better operating methods. This new position will infuse more accountability into the immigration agency and put more focus on the important service side of the agency.


           “Finally, the bill requires the Attorney General to establish an Internet-based system that will permit people with applications filed with the Agency to have access online to information about the processing status of the application. The INS currently is awash in paper, using and, too often, losing aliens’ paper files. An on-line system would: (1) cut down on the long lines of people waiting each morning in front of district offices to pick up forms and check on the status of their filed applications; (2) decrease the number of phone calls made to the INS by people trying to get information on the status of their case; and most important, (3) would help prevent the INS from losing aliens’ files.


           “This legislation represents a strong and determined effort to improve both border enforcement and the service side of immigration. Enactment of this legislation – combined with solid leadership and management reforms – will improve our border security and make the delivery of immigration services more family and immigrant-friendly.”


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