Reconcilable Differences? An Evaluation of Current INS Restructuring Proposals
For more than a century, policymakers and practitioners have debated the structure and purpose of the U.S. immigration system, but in the aftermath of recent breaches the momentum necessary for reform has arrived. Although there is much consensus among the leading proposals on the table, none consolidates all immigration functions under a single, independent agency. The failure to consolidate all immigration functions under a single agency and subsequently, to delineate a clear and unified immigration policy is the subject of this policy brief. In it, authors examine the main reasons for this oversight, outline key challenges that must be overcome, evaluate the leading proposals currently being discussed, and offer recommendations on how to proceed.
The brief outlines the main failures of the current Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), namely in the area of policy coherence and rules, efficiency and accountability, and suggests that these problems may only be remedied by a complete overhaul of the manner by which the INS is currently organized. The brief finds that although key points of consensus exist in each of the current proposals – that of the Administration, Sensenbrenner-Gekas, Kennedy-Brownback, and of the Office of Homeland Security – the current discussion does not go far enough. Rather than blurring and weakening the functions of the immigration agency as many of the proposals suggest, the authors underscore the importance of strengthening the authority of the immigration agency in order to achieve a clear and uniform immigration policy.
In light of the current debate, the authors recommend the Bush Administration and Congress to: table the Office of Homeland Security’s proposal; use the Kennedy-Brownback bill as a baseline for developing a restructuring roadmap and reorganizational outline; create an expert advisory panel to collaborate with the Commissioner on the reorganization of the entire immigration system; and make available to the Commissioner all resources necessary to proceed with the restructuring.