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September 11
A Year Later

Advocates oppose proposal for INS


Opponents of the Bush Administration proposal to place the Immigration and Naturalization Service within the proposed Department of Homeland Security argue that an overburdened bureaucracy designed to combat terror would be ill-equipped to deal with day-to-day immigration issues.

They also worry about the message that would be sent should the government equate immigration with terrorism. Testifying in June before a House subcommittee, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops migration and refugee policy services director Kevin Appleby said placing the INS within the Homeland Security agency “would send a stark and clear message to the world that the United States views foreign-born persons, generally speaking, with suspicion and fear and not as neighbors who bring skills, culture and faith to benefit our communities, towns and cities.” Further, said Appleby, “placement of all INS functions into the new Homeland Security Department also could prove detrimental to the civil rights of persons who ‘look or sound’ foreign.”

Specifically, Appleby questioned whether the INS’s Office of Children’s Services should be placed within the Homeland Security agency. “The proposed Department of Homeland Security would be poorly equipped to assume custodial care of unaccompanied children, lacking specific child welfare expertise or experience in handling children.”

Appleby and other advocates were persuasive. The homeland security bill approved by the House in late July moved the enforcement and border protection functions of the INS to the Homeland Security Department, while immigrant service functions would remain at the Department of Justice. Care for refugee children would fall under the more child-friendly Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement.

Most everybody, it seems, is pleased. Said House Judiciary Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis.: “These reforms will end the INS’s mission overload and ensure that immigration services will receive the resources necessary to treat legal immigrants with the professionalism that they deserve.”

The Senate is expected to take up legislation, approved by its Governmental Affairs Committee, to establish a Homeland Security Department when it resumes legislative work this month.

National Catholic Reporter, September 6, 2002