House Passes INS Reorganization Bill
Senate Needs to Step In To Address Concerns
Washington, D.C.- The House today passed H.R. 3231, a bill that would reorganize the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). American Immigration Lawyers' Association (AILA) commends Representatives Sensenbrenner and Conyers for their hard work to reform a deeply troubled federal agency. The final measure the House passed today takes some positive steps, but leaves other important concerns to be addressed. AILA strongly supports a reorganization of the INS that works. A successful reorganization plan must put someone in charge with clout. It must separate, but coordinate, adjudications and enforcement functions. It also must provide adequate funding for both arms of the reorganized agency. AILA looks forward to working with the House, Senate and the Administration on an improved reorganization plan that will address the agency's many problems.
"INS reorganization is not just about changing a government bureaucracy. It is about people's lives," said Jeanne Butterfield, Executive Director of AILA. While H.R. 3231 separates the two functions of the INS, enforcement and adjudications, the bill does not give the person in charge sufficient authority to do the job nor provide the necessary coordination between the two functions. AILA supports the separation of enforcement and adjudications functions, but for such separation to succeed also supports the creation of one strong central authority in control and effective coordination between the two functions.
"Our immigration function needs someone in charge, one voice to speak on immigration," said Ms. Butterfield. "Coordination is as important as separating the two functions," continued Ms. Butterfield. This coordination is largely lacking in H.R. 3231 because there is no high level official with authority over the two bureaus who would be able to integrate shared information systems, policies, and administrative infrastructure, including personnel and training. The two bureaus could end up working at cross-purposes, with its leaders sending conflicting messages on policy matters dealing with complex laws. The absence of coordination can lead to inconsistent opinions and policies, and can result in each bureau implementing a law differently.
"INS reorganization is not an academic exercise. Having no one in charge and little coordination can lead to unfortunate situations taking place daily. We need to get it right," continued Ms. Butterfield. We call on the Administration to make clear that the House bill is the beginning of the process and that it will look to the House and the Senate to improve on this effort, especially with regard to enhancing the authority of the person in charge.
AILA looks forward to working with Senators Kennedy (D-MA) and Brownback (R-KS), other Members of Congress, and the Administration on a reform of the INS that makes sense and makes good on the promises made by both the Administration and Congress.
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