June 7, 2002
Proposed changes are massive, and have critics
By JOE CANTLUPE JERRY KAMMER and TOBY ECKERT
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE
WASHINGTON – President Bush's vision of an "agile, fast-paced
and responsive" consolidation of border agencies faces
opposition from critics who warn that it could trigger
congressional feuds, mushrooming bureaucracy and
uncertainty for thousands of federal workers.
"The battle now begins," said Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn.,
chairman of the Governmental Affairs Committee and a
supporter of the White House plan. "I expect that there will be
opposition from the bureaucracies that will be put in place
under the new secretary and from members of Congress who are
close to those bureaucracies."
Under the White House plan, the Immigration and
Naturalization Service and Customs Service would be absorbed
along with other federal border agencies into a new $37.4 billion
Department of Homeland Security with about 169,000 workers.
In keeping with a growing consensus in Washington, the INS'
enforcement and service functions would be split up within the
Thousands of Border Patrol agents, INS and customs inspectors,
and Coast Guard employees would end up in a Border Security
division of the new department.
Meanwhile, INS employees who process applications for green
cards, work permits, citizenship and other immigration benefits
would end up in a separate Immigration Services division.
The State Department would continue issuing visas through its
worldwide network of consular offices, but in conjunction with
the Immigration Services division.
Currently, the INS is part of the Justice Department, the
Customs Service is part of the Treasury Department and the
Coast Guard part of the Transportation Department. What's
more, 88 congressional committees and subcommittees have
some degree of jurisdiction over various components of
"I would say that the war on terrorism has just extended to the
war on turf," said Rep. Jane Harman, D-Redondo Beach. "My first
reaction is that the plan is bold and courageous and will require
the expenditure of personal political capital by the president to
make it happen."
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, a member of the House immigration
subcommittee, worried that the plan might be a bit too bold,
saying it would add a big layer of bureaucracy to the federal
Rep. Bob Filner, D-San Diego, said he worried "about our border
getting lost in this big, new bureaucracy."
Immigration advocacy groups expressed concern that the
services provided by the INS to immigrants could become less
of a priority in a Department of Homeland Security.
"This isn't going to help us at all," said Judith Golub, a policy
analyst at the American Immigration Lawyers Association. "We
would be very concerned about an agency whose goal is to keep
people out. We don't think you should equate security with
keeping people out."
A midlevel INS official, who declined to be identified, said, "I
think INS officials at the highest level are very much against this.
But when you talk to people on the front lines, they are very
much for changes, because of all the competing priorities right
now, all the interagency disputes, questions about who has more
But federal labor union leaders expressed skepticism.
"Shuffling of boxes doesn't make it more efficient," said T.J.
Bonner, a San Diego-based agent who heads the Border Patrol
"Having one huge agency overseeing dozens of others could be
unwieldy. Here you have a troubled agency like the INS and now
you fold it into something else, and then somehow you do away
with the problems? There are a lot more questions than