19 February 2003
Byliner: Under Secretary Hutchinson on Safety Measures at INS
(USA Today 02/19/03 op-ed) (490)
(This column by Asa Hutchinson, under secretary for border and
transportation security at the Department of Homeland Security, was
published in USA Today February 19. The column is in the public
domain. No republication restrictions.)
Improvements Are Coming
By Asa Hutchinson
The historic difficulties of the Immigration and Naturalization
Service can be traced to a myriad of shortcomings, from limited
resources to fundamental weaknesses of organization. The men and women
of the INS are dedicated and hardworking, but President Bush and
Congress have recognized the need for a new approach. As a result, on
March 1, the INS as it is organized today will no longer exist, and
its functions will move into the Department of Homeland Security. This
is the first step toward improving both citizenship services and the
enforcement of our nation's immigration laws.
It is fair to ask whether this reorganization of INS enforcement and
services will be enough to solve the problems of the past. I believe
it will, and I believe people will see improvements right from the
One of the problems to fix is that many key employees lacked access to
the information they needed to do their jobs effectively. That's about
When INS functions are housed in the Department of Homeland Security
alongside the other border-enforcement agencies, barriers to
information-sharing will immediately come down. We will take steps to
arm immigration and customs inspectors with the timely information
they need to carry out their No. 1 priority: to find terrorists or the
implements of terror before they can do harm to Americans.
Another problem to address is the decision-making process at our ports
of entry. Right now there are three port directors looking through
trifocal lenses aimed at protecting our borders. These three port
directors report up three different chains of command to three
different Cabinet departments. We will take immediate steps to unify
the chain of command, so key immigration and customs officers take
their direction from only one manager. This immediately will improve
communications and increase accountability.
The first steps will be small, but over time we intend to make
additional reforms and to significantly increase the automated tools
available to officers who enforce our immigration laws.
We will be working to ensure that immigrants are here in compliance
with our laws. Those who are, we welcome with open arms. Those who are
not, we will deal with fairly, but firmly.
In short, I believe the reforms we intend to implement at the
Department of Homeland Security beginning March 1 will result in
better enforcement of our immigration laws and more timely and
predictable services for people who want to legally come to the United
States to work, study or visit.
(Asa Hutchinson is undersecretary for border and transportation
security at the Department of Homeland Security.)
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
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