House votes to abolish INS, create two new agencies
- By Wilson P. Dizard III
- Apr 26, 2002
The House of Representatives yesterday voted to do away with the Immigration and Nationalization Service and turn over border enforcement and immigration services to two bureaus of the Justice Department. By a vote of 405 to 9, the House passed HR 3231, the Barbara Jordan Immigration Reform and Accountability Act of 2002, named in honor of the chairwoman of a 1997 commission that found INS overwhelmed by enforcement duties.
The legislation followed by a week the Senate's passage of the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act. The House already had passed the border security bill in a slightly different version whose discrepancies are to be resolved by a conference committee.
The bill passed yesterday creates a post of associate attorney general for immigration affairs to oversee a new Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services and a new Bureau of Immigration Enforcement.
The Bush administration earlier this week announced its support for HR 3231, though it disagreed with some details. Companion legislation in the Senate has not taken final form.
Rep. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and one of the authors of HR 3231, told a press conference that IT improvements are critical to both his bill and the border security bill. "There is a requirement to automate" in both pieces of legislation, Sensenbrenner said. "Most people who are standing in line at INS offices are seeking information. If this is online or available by phone, they will not have to wait for hours. Automation is a key."
Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, expressed concern about INS officials' technology skills. "Management is part of the problem," Conyers said. "We not only don't have high-tech systems but don't have managers that can deal with high technology."
Rep. George Gekas (R-Pa.), who chairs the House Judiciary Immigration Subcommittee, said he is confident the differences among the House, Senate and administration "are not insurmountable conflicts. Everyone is in agreement that restructuring is necessary."
Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, the ranking Democrat on the Immigration Subcommittee and a backer of the House bill, said, "I think we can proceed now that [INS] is abolished."
Asked why the administration changed its position only in the last few days on legislating a new INS structure, Sensenbrenner said, "I cannot count the number of conversations I had with Attorney General Ashcroft, telling him that an administrative change would not work. It required an act of Congress to abolish the INS." Sensenbrenner said he also had discussed the matter several times with President Bush.