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Sensible reform for INS

It looks as if the days of good cop/bad cop at the Immigration and Naturalization Service are finally coming to an end.

A proposal that President Bush campaigned on was overwhelmingly approved last week by the U.S. House of Representatives. It would restructure the INS so its commissioner oversees two separate bureaus. One would enforce immigration laws and the other would provide services to immigrants, such as helping them obtain citizenship.

Assuming the measure clears the Senate, no longer would the same agency patrol the border to keep out illegal immigrants, and at the same time serve as the go-to agency for immigrants seeking to work and live here legally.

INS critics rightly note that the agency did neither of those tasks very well. The primary focus in recent years has been in tightening up the borders, still highly porous. Just look at the still-high level of illegal immigration and the embarrassing paperwork gaffes in issuing student visas for terrorists involved in the 9-11 attacks.

Meanwhile, paperwork processing for immigrants trying to follow proper procedure continues to be backed up, with 5 million applications reportedly pending. This causes endless frustration for the immigrants, their families, and employers.

Ironically, processing delays only encourage illegal immigration by those fed up with the wait.

Housing dual functions under one agency can intimidate immigrants, deterring some from doing the right thing by seeking government permission to live and work here.

The two new agencies to be created will still have to share information to make sure both do their jobs right. And it’s important that, as a starting point, only current INS resources be apportioned between the two agencies. Any funding growth beyond that for either bureau should come because Congress expects more results, not simply to cover unwarranted increases in overhead resulting from the restructuring.

Still, the woeful state of the INS is undeniably a situation in which two bureaucracies would be better than one.

– Dennis Webb, News Editor


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