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INS may split under the roof of Homeland Security

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LEAD-IN BY HOST DAVID STILES: Sparks continue to fly on Capitol Hill as Congress debates a wide Variety of issues to be included in the Department of Homeland Security. One major topic of concern is civil liberties of Immigrants and the american people, with more here's Craig Byrnes:

STORY: The proposed inclusion of the Immigration and Naturalization Services in the Department of Homeland Security has spurred much debate around the country in recent weeks. The Homeland Security Act passed by the U.S. House of Representatives differs from an alternative proposed by Democratic Sen. Joseph Lieberman from Connecticut.

Lieberman's proposal would abolish the INS by splitting its benefits and enforcement powers. Although President Bush has threatened to veto the bill if certain executive hiring and firing privileges are not granted, he is in favor of an INS split.

Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for the Whitehouse Office of Homeland Security, explains the Presidents stance.

"The President has proposed since his campaign that the Immigration and Naturalization Service be split in two, one sections for enforcement, and one for services, because he knows that services needs to be improved, and backlogs need to be eliminated. The president will make sure as he always has done that immigrants rights are not abused."

The concept of an INS split is not new. The former INS commissioner under the Clinton Administration also advocated such a split. Houston immigration attorney Maurice Hew, Jr. describes the former commissioner's agenda.

"For years, basically what she was touting, is that she was going to congress every year and telling congress that basically the immigration service needed to be split up in terms of enforcement and benefits ... with enforcement you have more of a police attitude and unfortunately the immigration service has a police attitude also in the benefits section."

According to some lawmakers an INS split is essential to national security.

Leslie Phillips, spokesman for Sen. Lieberman provides an overview of the reorganization of immigration services.

"INS is an agency that is rife with problems and need of dramatic reform and Senator Lieberman's legislation will do more than just move INS from one square to another, it would in fact reform many of the problems that are in effect now."

Annette Kim, a local Korean immigrant puts into perspective the process of dealing with the INS.

"Even though I kept my visa status always current and legal, staying in the States and applying for the different types of status were pretty scary and made me nervous. It is impossible to talk to anyone within the INS if I had any questions about the procedures and wanted to know the status of my application."

Hew, a Houston immigration attorney, expects that the immigration process will become more complicated under the Department of Homeland Security.

Annette Kim discusses her concern about the complicated process.

"I think if homeland security is involved in the immigration procedure it will make even worse for potential immigrants to apply for any status. If I am still in Korea and pursing graduate studies I might have considered other English speaking countries which had less restrictive rules instead of the states."

A vote on the Homeland Security Act is expected by the end of the year.

Craig Byrnes and Everett Perdue, KPFT News, Houston

E-mail Craig Byrnes and Everett Perdue at craig_uh@yahoo.com and jang023@msn.com respectively.

This story was broadcast on September 13, 2002.