For immediate release:
October 9, 1998
Contact: LaVita Strickland
Phone: (202) 216-2404
HASTY INS OVERHAUL WOULD SPELL CHAOS FOR NATION'S IMMIGRATION SYSTEM
Washington, D.C. Representative Harold Rogers (R-KY) appears to have cut a deal late last night on legislation that would severely undercut the mission of the current Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). This hasty attempt to overhaul an important agency of the federal government is a prime example of irresponsible legislating that would, if implemented, have dramatically negative consequences for American citizens, business, and on this country's relationships with foreign governments.
This irresponsibility is compounded by the fact that neither the Senate nor House have adopted a position on INS reform. Such reform has not been part of ongoing discussions as this Congress approaches adjournment, and appears to be the relentless preoccupation of a lone Member of Congress, Representative Rogers. "Credible reform of the nation's immigration system is being held hostage by a lone Congressman's obsession with tampering with an agency already beleaguered by lack of resources, massive backlogs and conflicting congressional mandates," according to the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) which strongly opposes Representative Roger's plan, H.R. 4264 [PDF].
"Hasty overhaul of the current immigration system without constructive consultation would throw the INS into chaos for years to come. This plan escapes any semblance of rationality and casts doubt as to whether any real reform could be accomplished under this scheme," said Jimmy Wu, President of AILA. "It simply would make a bad situation worse."
Noting that the House has held no hearings on INS restructuring, AILA Executive Director Jeanne Butterfield commented that "an issue of this import merits much thought and discussion. Massive reorganization, without bipartisan consensus and thoughtful consideration, would set back the delivery of immigration services to American businesses and families for at least a decade. Leaving an undertaking of this proportion to back-room, middle-of-the-night deal making is ill-advised and undemocratic."
AILA strongly opposes H.R. 4264 because it not only threatens to throw enforcement into chaos, but it fails to address the service side of the immigration function. H.R. 4264 poses serious consequences for families seeking to reunify, naturalization candidates seeking to participate in civic society, asylum applicants seeking refuge from life-threatening conditions in their country, and American businesses' ability to compete globally. "With pressing needs in these areas," added Ms. Butterfield, "such silence is deafening."
The Administration strongly opposes the Roger's reorganization proposal. In recent months, the INS, an agency whose size surpasses that of four Cabinet-level agencies, has undertaken its own restructuring plan. The INS plan would create two parallel operating divisions for enforcement and adjudications, both of which would report to a Deputy Commissioner below the INS Commissioner.
"We are a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants," Ms. Butterfield concluded. "Effective and fair law enforcement along with consistent and timely service are twin goals that can be achieved only after careful deliberation. Congress would be wise to step back and take a careful look at this ambitious task."