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INS under the roof of Homeland Security

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LEAD-IN BY HOST KATHRYN BINOVI: The U.S. Legislature is in heavy debate over stipulations of the Homeland Security Act of 2002. Craig Byrnes reports:

STORY: The US House of Representatives has passed a bill to the Senate that would include the INS in a future Department of Homeland Security.

Drumming up support for this plan on the way back to Capitol Hill Tuesday, District 18 representative Sheila Jackson Lee spoke on the issue.

"I'd like to have immigration services along with enforcement and we need immigration services because we need them talking with each other we need to be able to decipher people who are coming over to this country to do good and not taint them. And the way to do that is to have these agencies talking to each other and communicating with each other. I think the best way to have them talking with each other is being under the same roof."

The INS has been under intense scrutiny since September 11th last year after discovering the hijackers that flew the planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were in the United States on student visas.

A spokesman for republican Congressman George W. Gekas, chairman of the house subcommittee on Immigration and claims, discusses the passing of the Homeland Security Act.

"The bill that was passed by the house that Congressman Gekas voted for, moves the INS to the new Homeland Security Department. That is the place for securing our borders. It is a matter of homeland security. The INS itself has been poorly run and has suffered many problems that both the American citizens and the immigrants that have to go through it have had to deal with. And so anything you can do to clean it up and to streamline it is a good idea."

With the INS under the Homeland Security Department, the changes it stands to gain range from increased funding to immediate access to electronic data from US law enforcement agencies and the intelligence community.

It is because of this extended power that Dr. Jamal Assad, a member of the Houston chapter of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, or MPAC, has feelings of fear towards an INS encompassed in the Homeland Security Department.

"This is a little bit scary here. If this act adopted completely by INS the problem is going to be another military institute. What I mean by that is, if somebody for example violated his or her visa one or two days, instead of deporting him, they are going to handcuff him or her and put them in jail maybe one or two or three years under the so-called secret evidence and he or she may be completely innocent just because of visa violation. Leave the criminal behavior for the FBI, for the military, for the CIA and leave INS alone. "

According to an Amnesty International Report, there were 1,200 non-US nationals from Muslim or Middle Eastern countries arrested within 6 months of September 11th. Of these, 300 remain in jail for unspecified reasons.

This is Craig Byrnes KPFT News, Houston

E-mail Craig Byrnes at craig_uh@yahoo.com.