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Splitting INS Functions - Better Late Than Never
by Jose Latour

Like a punch drunk old boxer in the waning years of his career, the INS is struggling to reinvent itself before Congress delivers a final knockout blow. With the Attorney General stepping in for an eight-count last Wednesday, we are now sitting back to see what happens next.

As you may have heard, John Ashcroft announced last week that the INS will be restructured to clearly define its two distinct and conflicting missions: the processing of new immigrants and enforcement of immigration violators. According to the plan, a single INS Commissioner will remain, but he or she will oversee two distinct bureaus: "Immigration Services" and "Immigration Enforcement." Separate command chains and administrative infrastructures will feed upward to the INS chief.

Under the Immigration Services branch, permanent residency processing and renewals, naturalization, political asylum processing, and other administrative forms will be handled. It will essentially handle all of the "benefits" applied for which relate to an immigration right or privilege under the law. The Immigration Enforcement division (and I am calling them by these names for identification purposes only since they have not really been officially titled yet) will deal with the unpleasant stuff, such as airport inspection, national security, illegal entry, deportations, criminal aliens, and so on.

According to the initial information released, over 30 district and regional directors will be eliminated as part of the overall change. Presumably, these dual-mission positions will be replaced by directors specifically addressing either Enforcement or Immigration Services branch responsibilities, but that is just my speculation. As far as I know, the House proposal submitted by Representatives Gekas and Sensenbrenner to eliminate the INS altogether and create two new agencies (discussed last week in a Port of Entry column - click here for the article) remains on the table and under consideration. Sensenbrenner was quoted by USA TODAY as saying that the plan does not go "far enough for the rescue mission that is needed." I haven't been privy to the details that he has, and he may indeed be correct, but it sure sounds a LOT better than the bill the two Representatives have written. AILA and I are 100% in agreement on that... for a change. (-;

According to what INS has told AILA, the plan will be implemented within 30 days, but the bulk of the changes won't be completed until Sept. 30, 2003.

Guys, I have to tell you, I have SUCH a problem with that last little fact. We can take down a terrorist supporting misogynist regime in three months and pass a hotly debated national airport security bill in a couple of weeks but it takes us OVER TWO YEARS to shuffle around a bureaucratic agency?? If I were a Congressman, I'd be FUMING at that timetable and it is precisely that type of red tape garbage that has gotten INS where it is today. What on God's green earth can possibly take over two years to implement? It is totally inexcusable, and I seriously hope this can be swiftly re-calendared lest the House bill gain momentum. If I were Sensenbrenner, I'd be standing in front of the media saying "Sure they can fix it... It's going to take them TWO YEARS to implement phase one..." Presto, the House bill becomes law.

The solution INS is looking at implementing is at least a decade late. It SHOULD have happened a long time ago, before September 11th. It should not be a reaction to what is happening in the world. It could have been a proactive measure designed to better service the needs of incoming U.S. immigrants and the U.S. citizens, residents, and employers who petition for them. The motivation for enforcement of deportation and exclusion laws might have prevented September 11th, but that's pure speculation. At least we seem to have finally learned our lesson.

The change will not require massive geographic relocation of personnel nor strategic shifts in manpower but, rather, shifts in job duties. For example, there will be INS teams at airports who will handle incoming passengers (enforcement) and INS teams in major cities who will handle adjustment of status cases (benefits). N'er shall the T'wain meet! And that shall be good. Two years... For cryin' out loud, give me a break.

Get off the stool, ya big lug, put your mouthpiece in, and get it together. If you can do what you say you are going to do this round, you can KO this poorly thought out House Bill before things get even uglier in the ring...

About The Author

Jose Latour is the founding partner of Jose E. Latour and Associates, P.A., a Gainesville, Florida based business immigration practice working primarily with the IT industry and foreign investors. JELPA is an A/V rated firm whose web site,, is one of the Internet’s most visited immigration sites. The firm was named “ONE OF AMERICA’S TOP TEN INTERNET/VIRTUAL COMPANIES” in the 1999 Inc. Magazine and Cisco Systems “Growing with Technology Awards.” Mr. Latour served as a U.S. Diplomatic and Consular Officer in Mexico and Africa before entering private practice and today divides his time between his law practice, writing, flying, and his music.