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IN THE NEWS – March 23, 2002: INS Re-Organization - 2002-03-22

This is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program, IN THE NEWS.

President Bush is considering ways to re-organize the agency that enforces laws about foreigners coming into the United States. The agency is the Immigration and Naturalization Service known as the I-N-S. It is part of the Justice Department.

One proposal reportedly calls for the I-N-S to join with the United States Customs Agency, which is part of the Treasury Department. The Justice Department would control the new agency. Such a move would require the approval of Congress, which already is considering several bills to re-organize the I-N-S.

The purpose of the re-organization would be to establish more control over who enters the United States. Both the I-N-S and the Customs Agency work to protect American borders.

The Immigration and Naturalization Service is responsible for enforcing laws connected to the admission of foreigners into the United States. That is the Immigration part of the agency. The I-N-S also deals with requests from foreigners for United States citizenship. That is the Naturalization part of I-N-S. Both supporters and critics say these responsibilites of the I-N-S are difficult to balance. It works to help immigrants enter and stay in the country. And it works to keep out people who are trying to enter the country illegally or who might be a danger.

The I-N-S has more than thirty thousand employees. They work at about one-hundred offices throughout the world or at border patrol stations.

I-N-S workers supervise the more than three hundred land, sea and airports of entry in the United States. They carry out hundreds of millions of inspections of individuals arriving at these ports each year.

The I-N-S Border Patrol also guards thousands of kilometers of border between the United States, Mexico and Canada. Each year I-N-S agents arrest hundreds of thousands of people trying to enter the United States illegally.

Other I-N-S employees deal with requests from foreigners seeking immigration services. The United States receives millions of such requests every year.

There has been growing criticism of the I-N-S since the terrorist attacks against the United States. Four of the September eleventh hijackers were in the country illegally. Critics also say the I-N-S does not closely supervise the activities of hundreds of thousands of foreign students in the United States.

Tom Ridge is the Director of Homeland Security for the United States. He argues that border control issues involve too many agencies including the Coast Guard and the Transportation Department. He says the agencies do not necessarily communicate with each other.

Mister Ridge and other supporters of a re-organization plan say it will increase government control of who enters the country and help prevent terrorism. They also say it will save money.

This VOA Special English program, IN THE NEWS, was written by Caty Weaver. This is Steve Ember.