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

Chairman Gekas, Congresswoman Jackson-Lee, members of the Congress, distinguished members of the Panel, ladies and gentlemen, I greatly appreciate this opportunity to share my views and perspectives which I have acquired during my roughly 30 years as an immigration officer.  I began my career as an Immigration Inspector assigned to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City.  During the course of that assignment I was detailed for approximately one year to an examinations unit known as the I-130 Unit.

 

In August of 1975 I became a Special Agent.  I rotated through virtually every squad within the Investigations Branch of the INS at NYC during my tenure as a Special Agent.

 

In 1991 I was promoted to my ultimate position of Senior Special Agent and assigned to the OCDETF Unit (Organized Crime, Drug Enforcement Task Force).  This assignment required that I worked closely with other agencies to investigate, apprehend and prosecute aliens who were involved in narcotics trafficking and related crimes.  

 

The INS is responsible for enforcing laws that govern the entry of aliens into the United States as well as those laws that are involved in the granting of a variety of immigration benefits to aliens who are in the United States. It was in the latter mission, that the INS apparently sent notifications to two terrorists that they were granted permission to attend flight school in the United States, 6 months after they carried out their suicide missions in our country.

 

The fact that the system failed in such an embarrassing and public way should serve as alarm that the INS has many serious problems which can no longer be ignored.  We are in a state of war and if we are to safeguard our nation, we first need to secure our borders and our ability to enforce those laws which govern the entry of aliens into the United States, as well as their continued presence in our country.  These problems cannot be solved easily, but they must be solved effectively, our nation’s very survival is at stake!

 

Although I did, at one time, act as an examiner, my experience with the process of adjudicating applications is not current.  However, I can tell you that from what I have been hearing and reading, the INS appears to have created an unwieldy system to carry out this important aspect of the service side of the operation.   Besides displaying ineptitude, this failure by the INS calls into question the procedures that the adjudicators follow.  We need to determine if they are required to check the name on each and every application against a data base similar to the one that the Immigration Inspectors at ports of entry utilize, to determine if the alien named in the application is wanted by other law enforcement agencies or is otherwise ineligible to receive the benefit they are applying for.  We also need to know if there is any meaningful quality control built into the system to make certain that the examiners are in total compliance with established procedures. 

 

We also need to determine what, if anything, is done by the INS in seeking to uncover instances of fraud in the filing of applications for immigration benefits.  The obvious goal of criminal aliens, once they enter the United States, is to be able to remain in the United States without fear of being deported.  The easiest way to accomplish this goal is through fraud, whether it is by engaging in a marriage of convenience, obtaining a fraudulent labor certification, or submitting a claim for an immigration benefit that the alien in question would not be entitled to if all of the material facts in his or her case were known.

 

It is often said that you only get one opportunity to make a first impression.  Generally speaking, the first laws that aliens entering the United States encounter are those laws that the INS is supposed to enforce.  When the INS fails to effectively, consistently and fairly enforce these laws, we are sending a very dangerous message to aliens seeking to enter the United States.  In effect we are telling them that not only can they expect to get away with violating our laws, they can anticipate being rewarded for violating our laws!

 

The apprehension of aliens who are illegally in the United States is the sole responsibility of the Special Agents.  These dedicated employees are also tasked with the many additional responsibilities including uncovering fraud, uncovering alien smuggling rings, working cooperatively with other agencies in various task forces.  We have recently heard that the INS is going to need to develop an effective departure control system and track foreign students in the United States and presumably arrest those who violate their status.  Currently, according to published statistics, there are fewer that 2000 Special Agents of the INS nation-wide.  At the present time, there are approximately 100 Special Agents to cover the southern half of the state of New York, including New York City.  Who is to carry out these vital missions?

I have come to think of the INS law enforcement program as a tripod.  The Border Patrol is responsible for enforcing the laws between ports of entry, the Immigration Inspectors are charged with the responsibility of enforcing the laws at ports of entry and the Special Agents are supposed to back up both of the other two divisions.  Each of these components of the enforcement program needs to be emphasized equally.  Just as a camera’s tripod needs to have three legs of equal length, the enforcement tripod needs to rest equally on each of its three legs. If you shorten one of the legs on your camera’s tripod, it falls over. This is the reality of the INS enforcement program. If we do not also boost resources allocated to the interior enforcement mission, the entire enforcement program becomes ineffective.  . 

 

We need to have many more Special Agents.  We also need to have an agency that functions effectively.  At present, each district office operates more as a franchise than as a component of a paramilitary organization.  While I agree that each office needs to have some autonomy to take regional variations into account, the over-all functioning of the agency should stress a direct chain of command from Headquarters to each and every field agent through out the United States. 

 

I welcome your questions.

 


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