Maloney, Wiener, and Colleagues Urge INS to Address Resource and Staffing Shortages at New York and New Jersey Offices
Representative Maloney said that while "not even the best people, equipment or processes will prevent another 9/11, the current inadequacies in the Immigration and Naturalization's enforcement capacity certainly invite the opportunity for another terrorist attack. Local INS offices are on the front lines of immigration enforcement and we cannot allow them to be understaffed or ill-prepared to carry out their mission."
Representative Weiner said, "The attack on the World Trade Center may have been unforseen, but it's clear now that New York City is a target for terrorists. For INS to remain understaffed and ill-trained is asking for a repeat nightmare. We need the best trained, most fully staffed INS offices in the country."
The INS must balance a dual-mission of adjudications and enforcement. While the INS serves an important function in processing applicants for entry into the United States, its role in security has increased in prominence since 9/11. These heightened demands make appropriate staffing levels all the more important to the carrying out of its missions. Asking the INS to pursue its directives without adequate resources or ample staffing would pose a serious threat to the safety of both INS officers and the public.
In the letter, the representatives highlight several areas of concern, including:
. Until recently, the Garden City office had no enforcement capacity. As a result, thousands of files were shuffled to and from the New York office by truck. This meant that if the applicant was flagged as a result of IBIS, the officer would not know until after they had left the interview.
. There are not nearly enough computers and trained officers to perform the required Inter-Agency Border Investigation System (IBIS) checks. This means that in efforts to maintain normal processing levels, the INS may unknowingly interview a criminal for processing of various application, allowing them to literally slip through enforcement fingers.
. The Absconder Initiative Program for removal of aliens with final orders of deportation is not adequately operational in New York due to a lack of staff and resources. The New York District currently has a non-detained deportation docket of over 160,000, which they have narrowed to 1400 of the most dangerous individuals. These cases are to be worked by only 12-15 officers with extremely limited operational resources as well.
. New York lacks the staff and resources to follow the procedures for detention and removal established for other INS offices. The New York District currently has nowhere to hold those determined for deportation, so they are released with instructions to report for removal. Only 5% of those instructed to report for removal do so, and those subject to mandatory detention are detained and transported to other districts, a strain on an already undermanned detention and deportation program.
. The attrition rate for INS officers is increasing rapidly as experienced officers leave the INS at record rates, in search of better wages at the FBI and the Federal Marshal Service. Without sufficient compensation and benefits, the INS will continue to lose its most experienced officers and professionalism at the INS will be increasingly compromised.
. Staffing in New York has actually shrunk since 9/11 as a result of the Varick Street SPC closing and high attrition rates, despite the additional investigations and background checks mandated by Headquarters. There are fewer INS agents in New York district offices at precisely the time of need for greater emphasis on immigration security.
The letter was signed by Representatives Carolyn Maloney, Anthony Wiener, Major Owens, Carolyn McCarthy, Steve Israel, Michael McNulty, Nita Lowey, Charles Rangel, and Ed Towns.