Reconfigured, INS still faces challenges

The Immigration and Naturalization Service may have been better equipped than some agencies to make the move to the new Department of Homeland Security, according to a senior official in the department.

INS had been subject to scrutiny long before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks over how its organization suited - or didn't suit - the dual mission of controlling illegal immigration while aiding legal aliens looking to live in the United States or become citizens.

This was from George Bohlinger, executive associate commissioner for management at the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, at a Wednesday breakfast at the FOSE trade show.

To better pursue its two missions, INS has been divided into three bureaus and combined with elements of the U.S. Customs Service as part of the Department of Homeland Security. Bohlinger's enforcement bureau is one element; the others are the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services and the Bureau of Customs and Border Inspection.

One of the biggest challenges facing the enforcement bureau is how to establish the identities of people in other countries who wish to come to the United States.

Proving the validity of source documents, such as birth certificates, called feeder documents, is part of the challenge, said Scott Hastings, chief information officer of the bureau. A new directorate of science and technology at DHS will serve as a resource for the enforcement bureau to establish standards for such documents.

Identity verification also raises international issues. U.S. embassy officials in other countries have no way to verify documents presented by people seeking a visa to come to the United States.

"How far can we extend our border? How close to the source [of the information] can we get?" Hastings said.

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