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Ashcroft Announces Greater Separation Between Service Part and Enforcement Part of INS

Aired November 14, 2001 - 13:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: We are going to move quickly over the Justice Department now, where the attorney general is with the INS commissioner. Let's listen to John Ashcroft.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

JOHN ASHCROFT, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Today I am announcing a critical element of this reorganization that serves both our anti- terrorism and fulfills President Bush's pledge to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the nation's immigration system. We are unveiling a restructuring plan for the Immigration and Naturalization Service that fundamentally reforms the agency by separating its service function from its enforcement function. This will begin implementation during the next 30 days.

The Immigration and Naturalization Service has struggled to perform two often competing missions -- the first mission of welcoming new immigrants to America and the second mission of seeking to protect our borders by enforcing immigration laws. In addition, the INS has suffered from insufficient accountability between field offices and the headquarters and a lack of consistent operations and policies.

The terrorist attacks of September the 11th underscored in the most painful way for Americans that we need better control over individuals coming to our shores from other nations. We remain a nation committed to welcoming America's friends from abroad, but we have a new determination not to see our welcome abused by America's enemies.

The restructuring plan being announced today provides a framework that will allow the INS to better address its dual priorities of serving new immigrants and enforcing the nation's immigration laws.

Under the plan, clear and separate chains of command for the agencies service function and the enforcement function are created. Efficiency is improved by eliminating layers of management between field offices and headquarters. And accountability is promoted by providing overall direction under a single agency head, the INS commissioner.

I thank President Bush for his leadership on this issue. Because he spoke out early and forcefully on the need for INS reform long before the attacks of September 11, we've been able to move quickly to put a plan into place. In fact, I want to thank and commend Commissioner Ziglar for having delivered this INS restructuring plan to me in early September, before immigration reform gained new urgency as a result of the terrorist attacks.

I also want to recognize Congress long standing commitment to reforming the Immigration and Naturalization Service. I thank Congress for its efforts, and I look forward to continuing to work with the members of Congress to see to it that all the necessary reforms for our immigration system are made.

Our objective, both for the INS and for the Department of Justice as a whole, is to refocus on our core mission and responsibilities. America is a nation of immigrants. Our commitment to maintaining controlled but open borders not only is enshrined in our laws, but it's deeply embedded in our national character. We cannot and will not allow those who would come to our country with evil intent, the intent to destroy freedom and to destroy the country and the openness which this country represents, we cannot allow them to be here.

Under the restructuring plan being announced today, the INS will continue to serve and assist new immigrants to the United States. The INS will also be an important part of our effort to prevent aliens who engage in or support terrorist activity from entering our country. It will, in addition, detain and, in some cases, deport terrorist aliens already in our country, terrorist aliens that have violated immigration laws.

The restructuring of the immigration institutions we undertake today will make the INS a better servant to our friends and a greater obstacle to our enemies. In the war on terrorism, our greatest allies are those individuals, both overseas and here at home, who have been exposed to our culture of freedom, those who have experienced the transforming that takes place when an individual's God-given potential is nurtured and respected in liberty as it is here in America.

We act today protect the lives and safety, not just of Americans, but all of those who believe in this idea and ideal of freedom and all of those who have sacrificed to live amidst the blessings of freedom.

I personally am an individual who recognizes the value of immigration. Three of my four grandparents were immigrants to the United States of America. They came here because they believed that, in America, individual liberty and dignity were so profoundly respected, and the opportunity was so pervasively available, that an individual here could make tomorrow better than today.

This the ideal of America which we will protect, and we will never cease to protect it. When Emma Lazarus wrote the poem for the base of the Statute of Liberty, "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breath free the wretched refuse of your teaming shores, send these, the homeless, tempest tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door," she understood the value of liberty.

She understood its catalytic impact; that it was, in fact, the character of that liberty that defined the potential of humanity. And it was defined more favorably here than anywhere else. It must continue to be defined favorably here.

And what we do today is a way of reinforcing this concept that America welcomes those immigrants who come here to promote, build, elevate, dignify and lift up freedom. But it will not -- our nation will not welcome those who come to destroy freedom and whose confidence is not in liberty, but is in the kind of subversion of liberty which the terrorist promotes.

I'm pleased very much in this endeavor to be able to work with Jim Ziglar, who is working aggressively and in ways that are to be commended to provide this new framework for restructuring for the Immigration and Naturalization Service of the United States of America. He deals with a challenge that is far greater than most understand.

Well over 500 million people a year cross the borders of the United States of America. And he and those who work with him, do yeoman's work in their efforts to make sure that we promote the safety, integrity, liberty and freedom of the American people. His arduous effort to provide a plan for reorganization and improving our service to those who would come here and be a part of America is commendable indeed. And I thank him.

And it's my pleasure to introduce him at this time -- Jim.

WOODRUFF: Attorney General John Ashcroft introducing the INS commissioner, but the point of this meeting is to unveil a restructuring of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. And, frankly, you couldn't have put it any more clearly than what the attorney general just said. We want to be able to it bring in those to this country who would lift up freedom, but we don't want those in, who would, in his words, "destroy freedom. We want it make the INS a better servant to our enemies, but we want to provide a greater deterrent to our enemies.

And he's announcing, without going into the details, a separation, a great without going into details a greater separation at the INS between the service part of that agency on the one hand and on the other part, the enforcement part. We were told that these proposals surfaced in early September, but clearly they have been given much more urgency by the terror attacks of September 11th.

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