San Diego Union-Tribune

Page A-7

27-Jan-2001 Saturday 

Bush to propose splitting of INS into enforcement, service units 


By JOE CANTLUPE
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE 

WASHINGTON -- President Bush wants to carry out what his predecessor and Congress have talked about doing for years: break up the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

A White House spokesman said yesterday that Bush intends to propose a "restructuring" of the $4.6 billion agency. The INS has been repeatedly criticized by Democrats and Republicans as suffering from mission paralysis.

Bush is expected to propose legislation that would divide the INS into two agencies: one to deal with enforcement issues, such as protection of the Southwest border; the other to handle service matters, such as naturalization programs for immigrants.

"It is a top priority and we are moving forward on this," said Scott
McClellan, a White House deputy press secretary. "(Bush) is committed to priorities that he laid out in the campaign, and that includes restructuring the INS."

No timetable has been set, McClellan said in an interview.

Bush is likely to face opposition from immigration advocates who opposed previous Republican-sponsored bills to split the agency.

Critics contend that breaking the INS apart could create dual bureaucracies and may shortchange service programs in favor of law enforcement.

"It's like curing an intensive-care patient by sending him to the
graveyard," said Frank Sharry, executive director of the National
Immigration Forum, in criticizing an unsuccessful Republican INS breakup plan last year.

Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, joined with Republicans last year in
proposing a measure to break up the INS. Specifically, lawmakers pushed a bill in which the INS would be split into a bureau of immigration services and a bureau of immigration enforcement. Both entities would remain part of the Justice Department, but otherwise would be independent.

Clinton offered a more modest approach that would keep the agency intact while achieving an internal separation of the INS' service and enforcement functions.

No compromise was reached. But both sides said the INS needed reform.

Reyes said breaking up the agency appears to be the only real solution to the bureaucratic woes of the INS, ranging from an inability to stem illegal immigration to massive backlogs in citizenship applications.

"I'm optimistic with the Bush administration we'll get the opportunity to seriously restructure the agency," said Reyes, a former Border Patrol chief in El Paso.

"We have an agency that now is so conflicted, so big and bureaucratic, it can't do the job well," Reyes said.

Stressing his preference for an aggressive approach, Bush said during the campaign that "creation of a separate service agency will do much to improve the culture of service at the INS."

Having observed the agency's problems as governor of Texas, Bush also said he would propose funding increases of $500 million over five years for the INS. He said he wanted to finance staffing increases and employee incentives for better service.

McClellan declined to spell out details of the Bush plan as president.

He said he wanted to finance staffing increases and employee
incentives for better service.

McClellan declined to spell out details of the Bush plan as president.