As presently organized, the Immigration and Naturalization Service
is responsible for a set of diverse, challenging and in some ways contradictory
tasks. And with the attacks of 9/11 and President Bush's subsequent
plan to make the INS an important part of the Department of Homeland
Security, these responsibilities may well be become even more difficult.
Right now, for example, the INS's functions include the following:
the travelers entering or attempting to enter the United States through
more than 300 official ports of entry.
permanent and temporary immigration to the United States, including
individuals seeking legal permanent resident status, those who wish
to become citizens and nonimmigrant visitors like tourists and students.
Identify and remove people who have no lawful immigration status in
the United States.
Like the FBI and DEA, the INS today is an investigative arm of the
Justice Department. Assuming President Bush's reorganization plan is
approved by Congress, the INSalong with the Coast Guard, the Animal
and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA), the Federal Protective Services
(GSA) and several other agencieswill become a part of the Border
and Transportation Security Branch of the Department of Homeland Security.
In FY 2001, the INS had 31,971 full-time employees. Three out of four of these employees (24,233) were classified as enforcement personnel. The largest component
of enforcement, with 9,651 employees, is the Border Patrol. As suggested
by its name, this group attempts to prevent illegal migrants from slipping
into the United States, most frequently across the border from Mexico.
Immigration inspectors, 4,691 of them, make up the agency's second largest
occupational group of the INS. They are mostly assigned to the country's
ports of entry, checking travel documents and searching for contraband.
The agency's 3,909 detention enforcement officers operate centers where
detained individuals are held. A fourth major group in the agency are
the criminal investigators responsible for developing criminal cases
against illegal immigrants, smugglers, providers of fraudulent documents
and other violators. In 2001 there were 1,974 of them. Other enforcement
personnel include: immigration agents, adjudications officers, detention
and deportation officers. This fifth component of the agency's enforcement staff
consisted of 4,008 general enforcement and support personnel.
The raw tallies of agency's work product are impressive. In a recent
year, the INS reports it conducted more than 500 million inspections
at the nation's ports of entry. According to other agency data,
the INS said that in FY 2001 data there were 185,132 "total removals."
But, as noted in a steady stream of reports by the General Accounting
Office, assessing the actual impact of all of these inspection, patrol
and enforcement activities is extremely difficult. The INS itself estimated
several years ago that there were between 4.6 and 5.4 million undocumented
immigrants living in the United States and that time the number of the
undocumented individuals was growing at about 275,000 a year.
Whatever the actual impact of the INS enforcement and regulatory efforts,
beginning in the mid-1980s a new wave of public concern about illegal
immigrants resulted in the White House and Congress pumping more and
more money into the agency. One result: a major jump in INS staff. The largest increases were seen in the number of Border Patrol agents. From
1975 through 1984, while there were modest increases in the actual number of
agents, the growth kept pace with the general population size so that there averaged about 10 Border Patrol agents for every million in the general population. This began changing in the mid to late 1980s so that by 1993 there were 15 Border Patrol agents for every million in population. Since then the growth in hiring has accelerated. By September 2001 there were 9,651 Border Patrol agents on the payroll -- or 34 agents per million in the general population. Indeed, with personnel turnover and the growth in authorized positions, the INS as of July 15, 2002 had upwards of two thousand positions it had not been able to fill, even though the agency had already hired 1,146 agents during fiscal 2002.
Over the years the agency has suffered from repeated corruption problems,
management failures and political embarrassments. Year after year, dozens
of INS employees have been arrested for taking bribes and related crimes.
In 1991, Attorney General Dick Thornburgh became so concerned about
the state of the agency that he stepped in and removed a number of senior
managers. More recently, independent audits determined that a flawed
citizenship process had resulted in thousands of immigrants being naturalized
without proper criminal background checks. Congressional critics of
a few years ago, led by Representative Lamar Smith, Republican of Texas,
asserted the problem had developed partly because of a desire of the
Democratic administration to put new voters on the roles before the
1996 presidential campaign.
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