Testimony of the Immigration Director's Association
Good Morning, Mr. Chairman and distinguished members of the Subcommittee. I appreciate this opportunity to share with you the views of the membership of the Immigration Director's Association (IDA) on "Alternative Proposals to Restructure the Immigration and Naturalization Service."
The IDA membership consists of the senior field managers at the INS Districts, Suboffices and Services Centers. Membership is limited to Directors, Deputy Directors and Officers in Charge.
Simply stated, the IDA association supports a plan which keeps the Immigration Service integrated at both the central office and field levels. The functions performed by the immigration service are too interdependent and necessary to each other to be separated into competing agencies or cosmetically split internally by building "walls" and then putting "windows" in the walls.
Lest you think we favor the status quo with regard to the need for change, let me make clear that nothing is further from our position. The IDA agrees with Chairman Rogers and those persons that have pointed to our lack of responsiveness, failure to be accountable, need for improved services to the public, need for enhanced enforcement and in general a need to improve our performance commensurate with our growth and growing responsibilities.
We also agree that interest groups on both sides of the "enforcement" and "benefit" programs should expect stronger commitments to those respective functions both as to funding and to the "culture" which befits those activities. To that end, we support further recognition of the development of a more equitable application of resources by being responsive to the needs of our clients on both the "enforcement" and "benefit" aspects of our work.
Without exploring each and every reason which has brought this restructuring issue to the forefront of this honorable committee, I would like to examine with you one area of concern which I believe has generated much interest to illustrate why the INS should remain joined.
The naturalization of persons in the United States is one of the important functions of the INS. To the average person outside INS, naturalization is viewed as a "benefit" function rather than an "enforcement" function. In 1996 faced with a substantial increase in naturalization applications the INS put great emphasis on speeding up the naturalization application process. This speeded up process in large measure was taken out of normal district operations where "benefit" and "enforcement" are joined together. The naturalization process was placed in an environment where timeliness of processing was first and foremost. Because there was not the "enforcement" emphasis present in this new environment the normal proper scrutiny may have been shortchanged. It was the absence of "enforcement" in the process which precipitated the current naturalization challenges.
All of the INS officers by necessity of the work they perform wear two hats - one of providing service to the public while at the same time being ever mindful of their responsibility to enforce the Immigration laws of this country as set out by Congress.
Much as a police officer is called upon to be both a law enforcement officer and service provide so are the women and men of the Immigration Service.
-- Asylum officers must of necessity, for failure to state a credible or fradulent claim, deny more applications for asylum then they approve.
-- Immigration Inspectors rapidly admit many more people to the United States then they turn back, yet it is the terrorist they are trained to intercept.
-- Adjudicators responsible for the integrity of the application for permanent residence and naturalization, must continually be on the lookout for fraud and criminal conspiracies.
-- Investigators often are the only avenue of protection for those who are the victims of criminal enterprise.
If the agency is split into various other agencies or even of there is an internal cosmetic split with "walls" and "windows" there is substantial concern the current balance between "benefit" and "enforcement" will be lost. Conflicts between the two will arise with the benefit manager interested in rushing cases to closure to reduce backlogs while the enforcement manger's concern will not be tempered with the compassion needed when dealing with persons who are the victims of a criminal enterprise.
The stated advantage of having a field manager focus on benefits and a separate field manager focus on enforcement in the same geographic area in reality is a real disadvantage. With separate organizational structures these managers will of necessity spend much of their productive hours in conflict with each other, with no one empowered to resolve the conflict.
Historically District Directors have worked closely with Congressional Offices as well as with other local organizations to insure the best possible immigration service. If INS is split into various agencies or split by an internal "wall" with "windows" the public and Congress will no longer know who is responsible nor who they can turn to for help.
The IDA knows much criticism has been leveled in recent months on the fact that our backlogs are unacceptable, that our processes are flawed, and that we have become less accessible, less responsive, and less accountable. The IDA agrees that changes should and must be made. However, a radical change in structure or "splitting" up of INS will probably only add to our shortcomings. Much of our current condition stems from rapid growth of the agency as well as the volume of work. Having said that, the IDA believes our problems are surmountable.
The IDA believes the necessary changes have less to do with structure and have more to do with providing strong, enlightened leadership, and direction at all levels of the INS. Many of the Booze Allen recommendations are valid, however, even Booze Allen agrees processing and policy changes are much more important then a restructuring and none of them need be accompanied by a wholesale structural change.
With a wholesale restructuring of INS there will be a significant increase in costs associated with separate, parallel and stovepiped "enforcement" and "benefit" activities and facilities. The IDA believes the funding increase could be better spent on the operations of the INS rather then building new organizations.
Much has been written and spoken concerning the need to separate the "enforcement" and "benefit" functions of INS in order to enhance the respective functions and to better serve its objectives and clientele. The proponents of breaking up the INS, or separating the functions apparently believe that these enhancements cannot occur without dismantling or drastically rearranging the long standing organizational structure of INS, a structure which was ironically designed to keep these functions together as a means to balance and complement one with the other.
Indeed, each of those advocates who favor separating the functions argues that their interests, "benefit" or "enforcement" are suffering because of the affiliation with the other. "Enforcement" advocates say they are inadequately funded and less professional than if they were made autonomous, while the "benefit" supporters believe the INS culture is too enforcement minded resulting in a less kindly attitude on the part of our employees in one or more aspects of dealing with applicants. We need not point out those occasions when circumstances have driven the affairs of Immigration policy as well as our workloads to major reprogramming and reprioritizing of INS resources and emphasis. Certainly, the dynamics of hundreds of thousands of unanticipated additional citizenship applicants, brought to light the need for wholesale policy changes and an introspective review of our practices on a national level with tremendous impact on local operating practices and personnel not to mention the public. Cubans, Haitians, amnesty, asylum, terrorism, sanctuary, Chinese family planning, Salvadorans, Guatemalans, Nafta, fingerprints, counterfeit proof green cards, protect jobs for Americans, all words and terms heard in recent months, have meant change, reaction, reprogramming, and sometimes disruption to INS management.
Thus, the IDA supports the suggestions put forth by the firm of Booze Allen, to 1. Develop clear lines of accountability; 2. Create customer-oriented capabilities; 3. Build professional capabilities in law "enforcement" and "benefit", and to 4. Uphold the immigration laws of the U.S. as intended by Congress.
However, we believe each of the above goals can be readily achieved as proposed by Booze Allen and others by addressing clearly identified lines of communication, processing, accountability, training and if necessary retraining, and related management deficiencies at all levels, without restructuring. Nothing in restructuring, will facilitate the changes necessary, nor will a restructuring better accommodate the changes necessary. Restructuring will be costly and have other negative effects, such as duplication of supervisory levels. Restructuring will only place further obstacles in the way of implementing effective efficiencies.
The IDA believes that reducing backlogs, improving our effectiveness in "enforcement" and "benefit" becoming more responsive and efficient and in general becoming a better managed agency, can be best accomplished by concentrating our efforts on those factors.
Some of the practical problems associated with a restructuring which go beyond change for change sake include:
. By INS's own estimates, a restructuring will take 3-5 years.
. Present processes and procedures, already in need of improvement will be fraught
with uncertainty and confusion during any restructuring thus translating to more
inefficiencies and frustrations to the public for several years.
. Major efforts in INS to solve the Citizenship situation - our current top priority - will
lose focus and in fact extend backlogs and delays.
. Technological information and support systems already behind schedule will be
. Congressional and other public inquiries to local offices on individual cases will
necessarily have to be duplicated, redirected or rerouted to separate organizations having
related but bifurcated responsibilities.
. Jurisdiction and turf issues will be intensified.
. Flexibility in the management of resources necessary to meet local demands and
crises will be eliminated with the creation of separate "stove pipe" organizations with
separate reporting lines.
. Consideration of equities in the "benefit" side of INS in connection with an
"enforcement" case will be extraordinarily difficult to coordinate for example presently
an apprehended illegal alien with a claim to an entitlement or benefit is processed with a
view of all areas of INS. Restructuring will separate such related decision processes and
complicate such consideration.
. Fraud will not be emphasized because the adjudicator's concern with the reduction
backlogs will turn the focus from detecting fraud.
. "Enhancing" enforcement under the guise of making it more professional by limiting
crossed opportunities for other employees will have the opposite effect of eliminating a
very large applicant pool of qualified persons who are now eligible for those career
. Multiple spokespersons for INS in a geographic jurisdiction will result in confusion
for outsiders, the media, the Congress and our own employees.
. Enforcement tempered with compassion which is what our present structure provides,
will give way to separate single-mindedness; for example recognition that present
worksite enforcement is intended to be cooperative in nature with employers and that the
illegal alien is often a victim will be less apparent in a pure enforcement culture.
. The notion that investigators must be in an organizational chain of command that is
uncontaminated by non-investigative management personnel handling "benefit" functions
conjures up images of a law enforcement entity without restraint.
. Large scale reprogramming of funding from "enforcement" to "benefit" or vice versa
needs to be curtailed but it is not necssary to split INS to accomplish this.
. Management problems created by managers should not be attempted to be solved
by organizational structure changes. Instead managers at all levels should be the focus
of where the solution lies; and they must be held accountable for their actions.
. Resources need to be fairly dispensed to all field offices.
. Develop a cadre of career managers to assist in the management of INS at the
central office level.
An INS which has a long standing, time tested and effective organization providing essential balance and flexibility to the management of our INS laws and regulations during several past changes and world events, should not hastily be changed in response to contemporary problems. Instead we need to fine tune, not take a meat cleaver to the existing management structure at all levels.
A low cost simple, efficient, and ready to go now approach to insure proper emphasis be placed on "enforcement" and "benefits" within INS is needed. The IDA recommends that the a dual deputy concept be utilized at all organizational levels. One deputy to oversee enforcement operations and a second deputy to oversee benefits. This should be established at the Headquarters, Regional and District levels of the INS.
This organization will not require a major overhaul of the INS but will be responsive to many of the present concerns. "Benefit" and "Enforcement" will be independently administed but not independently of each other. Maintain a moderating level manager over both will recognize that a "benefit" officer is an enforcement oficer when looking for a terrorist or other criminal and that an "enforcement" officer is a benefit officer when dealing with those who cannot fend for themselves.
The Immigration Director's Association feels very strongly that the very essence of our present structure with "enforcement" and "benefit" together, is what ensures the proper balance and flexibility within our organization essential to our ability to be responsive to the incredible dynamics of Immigration policies. The flexibility both locally and nationally is what over the years has been sought and encouraged by those persons external to INS as necessary to address constantly changing needs. Whether it be on a very narrow issue or single case or in a wide sweeping policy issue, INS's present structure under one roof has been seen as more accessible and able to be responsive to such needs. Indeed, this often means that the Agency is pulled in different directions by interest groups whose missions are much more focused and frankly more narrow that the Agency's overall responsibilities. It is precisely on those occasions that INS must maintain a balance within its overall responsibilities of both "enforcement" and "benefit".