AILA Press Release on INS Interior Enforcement


Contact: LaVita Strickland
Office: (202) 216-2404


New Interior Enforcement Strategy Signals Agency’s Efforts to
"Work Harder and Smarter"

WASHINGTON, March 30. The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) today said efforts announced by Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) Commissioner Doris Meissner to refocus the agency’s interior enforcement strategy were steps in the right direction. The new strategy, aimed at producing maximum results with limited resources, shifts focus from worksite enforcement and turns instead to dismantling underground criminal and smuggling networks that shuttle undocumented workers into the United States to employers who contract for them. This enforcement strategy shift was the product of consultations with the nation’s top law enforcement agencies.

"Rather than merely treat the symptoms, the INS is seeking to apply the right medicine where it will do the most good," said AILA Executive Director Jeanne Butterfield. "The INS has recognized the importance of dealing with the illegal immigration issue systematically at the front end, rather than simply responding midstream to circumstances already spun out of control," Ms. Butterfield added. "This move demonstrates that the INS is not only working harder; it’s working smarter."

An immigration provision enacted in 1986 called for penalizing employers who knowingly hire undocumented workers. Enforcement has consisted largely of targeting innocent employers for paperwork violations and worksite raids, which have proven ineffective and have routinely resulted in the physical, verbal and psychological abuse of foreign-looking workers.

"Worksite raids are often traumatizing and destabilizing to families, communities and businesses who are targeted by the INS. And paperwork violation citations harm the innocent, not the knowingly guilty employer. The INS decision to crack down on employers who knowingly use illegal networks to hire employees is a more efficient and effective way to enforce the immigration laws. We hope that movement in this direction signals the end of a practice that is too often violent and violates the constitutional rights of immigrants and U.S. citizens alike," said Ms. Butterfield.

In response to Representative Lamar Smith’s attack on the INS’ new strategy, Ms. Butterfield stated, "Mr. Smith’s zero-tolerance policy toward INS’ reforms, as recommended by top law enforcement experts, is a short-sighted, extreme stance that carries long-term consequences. True INS reform cannot be brought about through constant micro-management of the agency. Mr. Smith and his colleagues should support carefully measured efforts like the new INS strategy that respond directly to real problems."

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 98101658.