Cite as "AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 02021371 (posted Feb. 13, 2002)"
National Immigration Forum
February 1, 2002
I am honored to have been
invited by the National Immigration Forum to speak about immigration
policy and INS’ expanded role in the aftermath of September 11. I applaud Frank Sharry, Angela Kelley, and all the Forum
staff for their leadership in recognizing both the importance of this
moment and the critical need to continue, as the conference title
suggests, “Moving Forward in a Time of New Challenges.”
Before I begin, I want to
congratulate Senator Kennedy for being named recipient of the Forum’s
newly established “Promise of Liberty Leadership Award.” During his forty years in Congress, Senator Kennedy has been
a tireless and highly effective champion of immigrants and refugees.
My only concern about him being named the first person to receive
this award is that the Forum may have set the bar too high for future
Today, I want to talk about two key issues.
The first is security and how enforcement, particularly related
to border security, has evolved since September 11th.
The second is children. Before
I get to those topics, I would like to touch on something that has been
in the news recently and to provide assurance to those who care as
deeply as I do about America's commitment to refugees.
Concerns have been expressed that because of the late start and
the security enhancements added on refugee processing due to the events
of September 11th that the ceiling of 70,000 refugees set by the
President for this fiscal year simply could not be met.
I want you to know that we have designed a realistic plan to
address this issue. Among
other things, it includes detailing a significant number of INS
personnel to conduct refugee interviews worldwide with a goal of meeting
70,000 admissions this year. I
realize that this will be a difficult task and that we must overcome
some logistical barriers and rely to a great extent on our partners in
the State Department in achieving this, but I believe
this is so important that we must try. And try we will. I intend to work
closely with newly appointed Assistant Secretary Gene Dewey on this and
other important refugee matters.
As you know, I was
recruited for this job. However,
had I known what I know today, I would have pursued the job.
This job provides its occupant with an opportunity to make a
positive difference in the lives of millions of Americans and millions
of potential future Americans, and, in the process, to help shape the
future of our Nation. My
enthusiasm for this job has been fueled further by the realization that
the overwhelming majority of INS employees are -- counter to the
widespread criticism I heard -- hard-working professionals who are
deeply dedicated to fulfilling the awesome responsibilities given to
them by the American people.
Meeting our responsibilities to the Nation has never been
easy, and the tragic events of September 11 have made it even more
difficult. These events
have profoundly changed the climate and culture in which INS and other
agencies operate. I came to
this job with the philosophy that the United States ought to welcome
immigrants – to do everything within our power to ensure that our
country remains a beacon of hope and freedom for people around the
world. Even in the face of
deadly terrorist attacks, that belief not only is unshaken, it is
I have said it before, and I will say it again, and
again: The events of
September 11 were caused by evil, not by immigration.
Therefore, efforts to enhance our national security must focus on
identifying and thwarting those who are intent on tearing us down, not
on preventing the many millions worldwide who are eager for an
opportunity to join us in building our Nation.
We can and will protect ourselves against people who seek to harm
the United States, but we cannot judge immigrants by the actions of
swift, dramatic action are understandable; no one wants a repeat of what
happened on September 11. However,
it is imperative that our response be guided by a commitment to do what
is right and effective, not by what makes us feel better at the moment.
The most effective way to prevent terrorists and other
criminals from exploiting our country’s openness for nefarious
purposes is to build productive partnerships with those who share the
values we cherish. Even
before September 11, INS was working to enhance our level of cooperation
and coordination with other federal agencies, as well as with our
international counterparts and private sector institutions.
Here are just a few examples of the joint efforts that make our
Nation more secure:
have worked with the FBI and other members of Joint Terrorism Task
Forces to pursue thousands of leads related to the September 11
are working with the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign
Assets Control to identify and freeze the assets of terrorist
organizations and their various front groups, and to pursue removal
proceedings, when possible, against principals and directors of
those organizations and fronts;
are working with the State Department to expand ongoing data sharing
to ensure that immigration inspectors have access to the
Consolidated Consular Database, which includes visa information and
photos of visa holders. As
a result, this information is now available at all U.S. ports of
entry, and we have trained our inspectors on how to use it to detect
and prevent fraud;
after September 11, INS, the State Department, and Justice began
working on new criteria for scrutinizing visa applicants, which are
now in place. Additionally,
we agreed to accelerate a planned reassessment of six countries
participating in the Visa Waiver Program.
On-site visits to each of these countries have been completed
and recommendations are being drafted;
two weeks ago, INS hosted the first U.S. Border Patrol-Native
American Border Security Conference.
This event brought together leaders and law enforcement
officials from 19 tribes, whose lands are adjacent to our borders,
to meet with representatives of the Border Patrol, the Bureau of
Indian Affairs, and other agencies to explore ways to strengthen
security along the Southwest and Northern borders;
December, Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge and Canadian Minister
of Foreign Affairs John Manley signed a Smart Border Declaration,
which includes 30 initiatives aimed at enhancing security along our
shared border. INS
played a major role in shaping this agreement.
Governor Ridge also will be traveling to Mexico to engender
broad-based approval for strengthening of our joint security,
building on recent INS cooperative efforts with the Mexican
Coast Guard, Customs, INS, Department of Energy, and the Department
of Defense have been working together diligently to improve
container inspection and tracking.
The agencies will coordinate development of chemical,
biological, radiological and other nuclear detection devices to
increase our inspection capability;
the list goes on and on.
result of the events of September 11, we have redoubled our
collaborative efforts with other agencies to ensure that students,
visitors, and others who come to the United States temporarily, abide by
the terms of their admission. Our
message is loud and clear: Flouting of U.S. immigration laws must and
end, INS is entering the names of the some 314,000 “fugitive
aliens,” or absconders, into the FBI’s National Crime Information
Center database. It is a large project that will require significant
resources, but I believe it is important that we do this -- we want
visitors to our country to understand that we expect them to stay here
on the terms under which they are admitted.
I want to make it clear, however, that this is not a “sweep.”
These individuals have been accorded due process.
They appeared before immigration judges, went through the appeals
process, and now face a final order of deportation.
Instead of complying with the law, however, they have chosen to
“jump bail” and abscond. This
must not continue.
initiative highlights an important point about how the laws of our
Nation operate. That is,
with rights come responsibilities.
The law provides the right to challenge deportation, and in many
cases to seek affirmative relief, through a judicial process.
With that right comes the responsibility to respect and obey the
final decision, even an adverse decision.
Acceptance of that responsibility is crucial for a legal system
to maintain credibility.
also working with the State Department, Department of Education, and
more than a half dozen other federal agencies to carry out the
Presidential Directive on student visa abuse issued in early November.
Among other things, we have been directed to implement a foreign
student tracking system. Development
of this system, which we began prior to September 11, is well underway,
and we expect to begin implementation this summer.
those are just a few of the collaborative efforts with which INS is
engaged. We are committed to
identifying and pursuing all possible opportunities to work
cooperatively with other federal, state, and local law enforcement
agencies in order to protect U.S. citizens, immigrants, and bona fide
visitors to this great country.
would like to note that my second topic – children – also has
protection and security as its basis. In particular, I want to tell you about efforts to improve
protection and security of two groups of juveniles within our
jurisdiction most directly affected by immigration: those adopted
internationally and those in INS detention.
First, on international
adoptions: let there be no doubt that it is the best interest of each
child that governs all our deliberations and actions in this area. Our laws leave no ambiguity on this point.
Under The Hague Convention on
Intercountry Adoption and the corresponding Intercountry Adoption Act of
2000, INS is obliged to protect the best interest of each child.
This includes ensuring that children are not taken from their
birth parents through fraud, duress, or sale.
Meeting this obligation is paramount,
and it takes precedent over any responsibility we have to help U.S.
citizens complete international adoptions.
problem we see in Cambodia and Vietnam right now, and saw previously in
Romania and Guatemala, is that Americans travel abroad and adopt a child
only to discover that the child does not qualify as an orphan under the
terms of the Immigration and Nationality Act.
This happens when INS and State Department are not provided the
necessary information about a child early in the process, thus
preventing us from determining with certainty if a child, offered for
adoption, is, in fact, an orphan.
If child trafficking is involved, we cannot grant a visa no
matter how forcefully a foreign government puts its imprimatur on the
adoption. I hope that every
American would agree with that moral and legal imperative.
the growing volume of evidence of child selling and kidnapping that we
are finding in some countries, I make no apologies for INS’ stance on
questionable adoptions. Nevertheless, I understand the overwhelming heartbreak
prospective parents feel when they discover that they can’t bring a
child to the U.S., a discovery that usually comes after great financial
and emotional expense.
have instructed my staff to re-examine existing adoption procedures to
determine how they can be modified to prevent, if not eliminate, these
heart-wrenching circumstances. The Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption and the
companion Intercountry Adoption Act point us in the right direction.
Under that treaty, a child must be “pre-approved” as
adoptable and eligible to immigrate before a family meets and
adopts the child. I don’t
intend to wait for formal implementation of the Treaty.
I intend to fashion a system that accomplishes that goal now.
addition, we must work aggressively with foreign government officials,
as we are in Cambodia and Vietnam, to establish a comprehensive system
with integrity and accountability, a transparent system where children
will be properly identified and the circumstances of their adoptions
investigated up front. Before
any American family travels abroad they should know whether the
potential adoptee satisfies immigration requirements.
I would like to ask the National Immigration Forum for its
assistance on this issue, and to aid in the development of a better
system – one that works.
as INS is committed to protecting children who are adopted
internationally, we are equally resolute in our commitment to protect
unaccompanied juveniles in our custody. At my Senate confirmation hearing, I promised to make the
welfare of unaccompanied minors a top priority.
Today, I am pleased to announce a new initiative on juvenile
long-overdue project is based on two fundamental principles:
First, identifying and addressing juvenile concerns require that
INS adopt a multi-disciplinary, “holistic” approach to all of the
children and young adults involved in immigration proceedings.
Detention is just one aspect of the issue. Second is the well-established principle that it is generally
in the child’s best interest to be reunited with his or her family.
Obviously, unaccompanied minors who have been victims of abuse or
neglect may need U.S. protection to ensure that they are not returned to
an abusive environment. Absent
evidence of such a threat, however, we should work toward developing a
system that quickly reunites children with their families, in the United
States or abroad.
As part of this new initiative, I commit INS to:
- Minimizing the need for
the detention of unaccompanied minors;
- Seeking alternatives to
such detention whenever possible; and>
- Ensuring that juveniles
have access to all benefits and services to which they are entitled.
INS is taking a number of steps to fulfill these commitments.
- Establishing an Office of
Juvenile Affairs directly under the Commissioner, which will begin as
soon as we receive concurrence from the relevant appropriations
- Bolstering the agency’s
long-standing effort to implement the Flores settlement, which as
many of you know, arose out of challenges to INS’ juvenile detention
policies and, in 1997, resulted in the development of remedial
detention, processing, and release procedures;
- Implementing as quickly
as possible the recommendations of the Office of the Inspector General
with respect to the treatment of unaccompanied minors in INS custody;
- Appointing specially
designated Juvenile Affairs Officers who will be responsible for the
treatment and care of children under their supervision;
- Revising the 1998
guidelines on children’s asylum claims to reflect recent developments
in law and policy, and providing supplemental training following
publication of the guidelines;
- Developing field guidance
that address ways in which parole and withdrawals may be used, in
appropriate cases, as alternatives to placing unaccompanied minors in
- Reviewing current
juvenile shelter care standards and existing procedures for handling
special juvenile applications and for determining age.
Office of Juvenile Affairs will coordinate the provision of timely,
appropriate services to all juveniles in INS facilities worldwide.
It will also ensure that inadmissible juveniles are returned to
their families, when appropriate, and with the utmost compassion and
dignity. We are now in the
process of identifying and implementing best-practice models for service
delivery, with an emphasis on family reunification and comprehensive
case management. Having the
Office of Juvenile Affairs report directly to me will guarantee
consistency, accountability, and integrity in the agency’s treatment
is also what the Flores settlement sought to establish.
With the settlement set to expire this spring, some of you are
undoubtedly worried that it will be “business as usual.”
I can assure you that such concerns are totally unfounded. We are
committed to codifying the Flores settlement, and have published
a proposed rule to do so. Two
weeks ago, we re-opened the comment period on the proposed rule to allow
additional public input. I
urge you to submit comments before the period closes on March 15.
Your feedback will be vital to ensuring our best response on this
important issue. Our
commitment to codifying Flores is further underscored by our
efforts to expand the juvenile management information system developed
as part of the settlement.
Although the Inspector General’s investigation found that INS
districts, Border Patrol sectors, and Headquarters were in substantial
compliance with the Flores agreement, it also identified a number
of areas where INS could improve. We
welcome this thorough review of our juvenile detention program and
concur with the shortcomings identified, including the lack of
comprehensive standard operating procedures and the need to hire
additional staff to work directly with minors.
Additionally, INS will
review existing juvenile detention shelter care standards and make
revisions where warranted. We
will review and update existing policies, including the use of
restraints and strip/pat searches, and provide additional training and
guidance as necessary. I
know that many people cringe when they hear the words “restraints”
and “strip search” used in connection with juveniles. But we must
recognize that some of the juveniles we deal with don’t fit the ideal
of “sweet, innocent” kids. Rather,
some are violent young adults who have criminal records and serious
psychological problems. They
must be treated accordingly, for their own safety and for the safety of
Such concerns are just one
of the many factors that creates the diverse needs within our juvenile
detention population. To
address individual needs more appropriately, INS will appoint specially
designated juvenile affairs officers, who will be responsible for the
treatment and care of children under their supervision.
As full-time case managers, they will be assigned a caseload
small enough to allow them sufficient time to facilitate appropriate
placement or return to their family.
One difficulty we
frequently encounter when deciding what is appropriate placement for a
juvenile is determining age – stemming from false reporting, language
barriers, and other circumstances.
I have ordered a review of current procedures – dental exams
and x-rays -- used to determine the age of an individual in our custody
to see if we can develop, in consultation with the Public Health
Service, a more refined method. This
would better ensure that those under the age of 18 are treated
appropriately and are protected from adults misrepresenting their age.
As I mentioned earlier,
children who have been victims of abuse, neglect, or abandonment require
special protection, and they can receive this by applying for special
immigrant juvenile classification.
INS is reviewing existing procedures for handling these cases,
and we will soon publish a proposed rule clarifying application
procedures. In the interim, I am directing all INS district offices to
review their records regarding applications for consent and forward to
Headquarters all requests that have been pending for more than three
My vision for children's
issues does not end with these proposals.
I am committed to providing the Office of Juvenile Affairs with
the resources and support it needs to reach the goal we share: ensuring
that all juveniles are treated with compassion and dignity.
I am also committed to investigating the future of children's
issues within our immigration framework.
I will continue working with other components of the Justice
Department and other agencies to develop alternative approaches to
adjudicating children's claims. I
also invite members of Congress and the advocacy community to
participate with me in discussions of how best to serve the interests of
juveniles in our care. And
in that vein, I want to recognize Senators Dianne Feinstein and Michael
DeWine for their leadership on this issue.
With so much attention being focused on our response to September
11, it is easy to neglect the considerable progress INS has made in
carrying out its “routine” duties, which I quickly discovered are
anything but routine.
I want to share some statistics that reflect significant
improvements made in the delivery of services, an area where the INS has
been criticized in the past. In
FY 1999, the average wait for adjustment of status applications was 30
months. Today, it is down to 13 months.
That’s because we are now completing 75,000 applications a
month, triple the number processed three years ago.
For business case processing – employment and H1-B visas, the
average wait in 1999 was 8 months.
It is now just two months. And the average waiting time for the
processing of naturalization applications, which was two years or longer
in 1999, has been cut by more than half.
We, however, need to do better.
INS remains committed to achieving the six-month processing
standard set by President Bush.
Naturalization is a vital area where I envision INS doing
much more than it does now. I’m
not referring to a further reduction in waiting times. That’s a given. I'm
referring to the need for INS to make the naturalization process more
meaningful for applicants and to assist potential new Americans in
becoming full and equal participants in our society.
Compared to some other nations, we generally do not offer
significant assistance to those who we want to bring into the mainstream
of our values and society. I'm
pleased to see that the Forum has already recognized this need to do
more, and, toward that end, established the Center for the New American
As Commissioner, I want INS to become more involved in the
assimilation process. I want to identify areas where we can encourage
immigrants to become more active in civic participation, more schooled
in our Constitution and system of government, and to be better prepared
to speak, read, and write English in a rapidly changing American
society. This can and should be done in a spirit of cooperation and
goodwill. But it is something that I believe must be done.
Some believe that our migration talks with Mexico have been
forgotten in the wake of September 11.
I assure you that is not the case. Earlier this week Assistant
Secretary of State Mary Ryan and I hosted a group of high-level Mexican
officials to discuss ways of moving forward on a range of immigration
and security issues. Agendas
for future meetings were discussed. We should move forward in this area, not because it is
in Mexico's interest, but because it is in America's national interest.
The fundamental reality is
that U.S. employers need Mexican workers.
These workers are important to the U.S. economy both today and,
most importantly, in the future. If
we can find a way to move a substantial portion of the current illegal
flow from Mexico into legal channels via a temporary worker program and
can combine that with new, cooperative law enforcement arrangements with
Mexico, it could benefit the U.S. economy, substantially reduce illegal
migration, and enable the Border Patrol and other law enforcement
personnel to concentrate on dangerous criminal and potential terrorist
activity on the border and in the interior of the United States.
These are substantial national interests.
I believe that one of the best ways to enhance our security is by
breaking the backbone of the criminal underground that profits from
smuggling human beings into the United States.
I know many of you are
interested in the fate of legislation to extend 245(i).
I want you to know that the Administration remains supportive and
will continue to work with the Congress to pass legislation is this
Many factors will determine whether my
vision for INS becomes a reality, but none presents a greater obstacle
than the agency’s current structure.
This Administration recognizes that the existing structure
impedes improved performance, and has developed a plan to change it.
The plan is not tinkering at the edges, but represents a major
restructuring that, with the help of Congress, can be achieved
Our plan splits INS’ enforcement and
services functions into two distinct bureaus
-- the Bureau of Immigration Services and the Bureau of
Immigration Enforcement -- but they are kept under one roof, with a
single head of the agency. Our
current region and district structure will be replaced with separate
area structures for services and enforcement, with the Bureau of
Immigration Services divided into six geographic areas and the Bureau of
Enforcement into nine enforcement areas.
Additionally, to improve accountability, we are creating an
Office of Customer Relations in the services bureau and an Ombudsman in
the enforcement bureau.
This new structure will provide clarity of
function -- something INS has sorely lacked -- while enhancing
accountability and professionalism.
We are also confident that the plan will create an opportunity to
modernize our systems, make our procedures more efficient, and adjust
intelligently to the increased workload the agency has, and will
continue to face, in both services and enforcement.
It is not just you and other INS’
constituents who deserve a better agency; so do our employees.
They are great people – motivated, dedicated, and highly
professional. I have a pact
with them that we will openly admit to weaknesses and failures and fix
In closing, I would like to offer some
personal reflections on our national identity.
Fear is something that we have always disdained.
Courage is our signature. Taking
risks on new people and new ideas fuels our drive to achieve and
maintain a society that is the envy of all history.
Practicing and protecting freedom has given wing to a reality
about which men of yore could only have fantasized.
If fear blinds our eyes to the new and the untried, and freedom
is relegated to the ash heap of history, we will stumble into an abyss
from which there is no return.