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Reforms changing way INS does business

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Immigration and Naturalization Service will be restructured to improve its enforcement and service functions in line with a commitment made last year at the urging of President Bush, Attorney General John Ashcroft said Wednesday. Many of the changes are aimed at field operations.

"The INS must become both a stronger deterrent to our enemies and a better servant to our friends," Ashcroft said at a news conference.

INS Commissioner James Ziglar added, "The initiatives that we're announcing today are the first steps in the reform of the INS, and represent significant structural changes aimed at creating a clear division between the agency's service and enforcement missions and creating better-defined chains of command."

Among the changes are:

-- Creating a more direct chain of command for the U.S. Border Patrol. Instead of communicating through district and regional field offices, the 21 Border Patrol field leaders will report directly to Border Patrol Chief Gus de la Vina in Washington. This is aimed at enhancing national security by allowing de la Vina to rapidly deploy personnel and resources to areas of crisis.

-- Consolidating and streamlining field-detention programs by creating a direct line of reporting to the head of detentions in Washington.

-- Establishing an Office of Juvenile Affairs reporting directly to the commissioner, so the INS can meet the special needs of unaccompanied minors who become its responsibility. The INS will provide specially trained personnel and services to help the children.

-- Creating the positions of chief financial officer to handle fiscal management duties and chief information officer to improve and integrate agency databases and improve information sharing.

-- Creating a field advisory board as a liaison between Washington and field components.

In addition, Ashcroft said he soon will announce changes designed to clarify and streamline the INS chain of command in providing services to immigrants.

The changes were prompted by the INS' explosive growth, Ashcroft said. More than 500 million inspections are conducted at ports of entry each year. In the last eight years, the INS has handled more naturalization inspections than in the previous 40 years, he said.

Since 1993, the INS workforce has doubled and its budget has nearly quadrupled.

Congress also is considering several measures aimed at beefing up INS enforcement, Ashcroft said.

Proposals include making personal identification documents more tamper-resistant, enhancing the alien application screening process and doing more to monitor foreign students and exchange visitors to ensure they don't violate their immigration status.




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