San Diego Union-Tribune
November 15, 2001
INS splits enforcement, service functions
Agency overhaul will centralize authority in the nation's
By Marcus Stern and Toby Eckert
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE
WASHINGTON -- The Immigration and Naturalization Service,
hoping to head off a congressional effort to break up the agency,
overhauled itself yesterday by separating its enforcement and
"Our objective is to build a leaner and more efficient,
mission-focused department capable of meeting the threat of
international terrorism, while at the same time fulfilling our
traditional justice function of upholding the rule of law and
protecting the freedom of all Americans," Attorney General John
Ashcroft said at a news conference.
By taking the step, the agency also hopes to defuse criticism that
it is suffering from mission overload in trying to serve
immigrants' needs for green cards, work permits and citizenship
while also policing the nation's borders, ports and workplaces.
The plan has been under discussion for years, but it gained
impetus after the Sept. 11 attacks when the investigation
revealed that several hijackers had lived in the United States
with expired visas.
The reorganization outlined by INS Commissioner James Ziglar
and Ashcroft will have little direct impact on most of the
agency's 29,000 employees. However, it will centralize more
authority in the agency's headquarters in Washington and leave
some senior bureaucrats in the field wondering about their role
with the agency.
The plan creates separate national bureaus of enforcement and
The enforcement bureau will be divided into nine areas, one of
which will have its headquarters in San Diego. The service
bureau will have six areas, one of which will have its
headquarters in Laguna Niguel.
The San Diego district of the INS will expire, bureaucratically
speaking. But as headquarters of one of the nine enforcement
areas it will oversee border inspectors at ports in Southern
California and Arizona. The Border Patrol and detention officers
in San Diego become far more autonomous, answering directly
to Washington rather than local administrators.
The reorganization comes as the White House reportedly is
weighing a broader move that would consolidate federal
agencies responsible for border security. President Bush may
propose a merger of some sort early next year, homeland
security chief Tom Ridge told The Washington Post.
Rep. William "Mac" Thornberry, R-Texas, has proposed
transferring the Coast Guard, Customs Service and Border Patrol
to a new National Homeland Security Agency. Sen. Joseph
Lieberman, D-Conn., has proposed similar legislation.
Meanwhile, the INS reorganization will begin taking shape within
30 days, Ziglar said. However, Congress is likely to have a big
say over just how much of it ultimately comes to pass.
Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., chairman of the House
Judiciary Committee, is leading an effort in Congress to break
the INS into two separate agencies. That effort is fueled by
complaints of chronic backlogs in services and continuing
breakdowns in enforcement.
Ziglar said the reorganization he is undertaking, which keeps the
agency under one roof, is not specifically intended to pre-empt
Sensenbrenner or Congress.
"Administrative restructuring . . . does not get in the way of what
the Congress may want to do in the long term with respect to the
Immigration and Naturalization Service. If anything, I think it
probably facilitates what Congress wants to do, and we're
looking forward to working with the Congress on that," he said.
The New York Times News Service contributed to this report.