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Law and INS poised to again bolster border security, staff

In response to some well-publicized mistakes and inefficiencies on the part of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), Congress has responded with directives designed to enhance securit...

In response to some well-publicized mistakes and inefficiencies on the part of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), Congress has responded with directives designed to enhance security and border enforcement.

There have been many proposals to enact changes in border enforcement, but all of them require funding and personnel.

In April, the INS announced that it was seeking to hire 8,000 new employees in a wide variety of positions. Since that time, the number has increased to 10,000.

The vacancies were designed to be in place for the 2003 U.S. fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, 2002.

The INS has personnel stationed across the U.S. and around the world.

Currently, the INS has 33 districts, 21 border patrols sectors, three regional offices, five service centers and eight asylum offices. There are also three overseas district offices and 33 sub-offices.

INS responsibilities are generally divided between two major functions: services and enforcement.

The service function is handled primarily by two categories of employees. Adjudication officers are responsible for determining whether an applicant qualifies for the benefit (visa, work permit, etc.) for which he or she is applying.

Immigration information officers assist the hundreds of thousands of people who need assistance in determining the procedures and benefits associated with the INS laws.

Most of these services are rendered at offices that do not have direct contact with persons seeking entry to the U.S.

Personnel at the borders and other ports of entry are generally associated with the enforcement function.

Immigration inspectors screen all travelers arriving in the U.S. by land, air or sea.

Border patrol agents are responsible for controlling areas between ports of entry.

These agents concentrate on the war against drugs and attempts at illegal entries at locations other than official ports of entry.

Detention and deportation officers have the responsibility to ensure the safe, secure and humane treatment of foreign nationals as they await removal or other disposition of their cases.

The preliminary budget for the 2003 fiscal year calls for the INS to hire 4,000 new officers above the 10,000 for 2002.

This increase in personnel ties into the enhanced security measures put in place over the past year.

The INS is trying to add inspection personnel at all ports of entry.

In the past, some remote ports of entry have been staffed by one individual; the INS has committed to have a minimum of a two-person staff present at all times at even the smallest port of entry. At the larger ports of entry, an increase in inspection personnel will open up more inspection lines.

While increased personnel can result in convenience in the way of shorter lines, it is clear that convenience is not the motivating factor for the decision.

The INS has recognized for the past several years that it cannot institute an efficient entry-exit program or a tracking system of people admitted to the U.S., without the necessary personnel and equipment. As the new personnel are introduced into the system, we can also expect to see new technology in the way of inspection equipment and INS documentation.

Over the past year, the INS has enhanced its criminal record retrieval capabilities significantly, and the INS and FBI are not cooperating with shared databases of criminal record and fingerprint data.

The U.S. Social Security Administration has also instituted procedures to verify lawful work authorization with the INS before issuing a social security number to a non-citizen.

However, I expect announcements to be made from time to time that show progress toward enhanced INS documentation and tracking capabilities. But new measures often take time to implement.

For example, I reported two months ago that the U.S. Department of State had announced that all Canadian landed immigrants will be required to obtain visas for entry to the U.S.

Previously, landed immigrants who are nationals of U.K. Commonwealth countries, were visa-exempt to the same extent as Canadian citizens.

Although this measure was announced in June, it has not been put into effect, and no effective date has been announced. n

– Daniel Joyce can be reached at Hirsch and Joyce, Attorneys at Law, at 716-564-2727.

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