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Nominee to head INS is no newcomer to Washington

May 02, 2001|By JESSICA ROCHA, Special to this newspaper

WASHINGTON (MNS) — The man President Bush wants to head the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service is a relative unknown in immigration circles, but he's no newcomer to Washington.

James W. Ziglar works closely with the Senate and its staff as Senate doorkeeper and sergeant-at-arms, ensuring that proper protocol is followed in managing the Senate administrative staff.

"Among immigration advocates, we're all in the same boat in that we don't have a lot of information about his management background," said Aisha Qaasim, legislative staff attorney for the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. "We want to know where he stands on certain key immigration issues, and I don't think we will have the opportunity to know that until he begins to work in his official capacity."

While he has no immigration experience, Bush said Ziglar's management experience would be an asset to the INS, which the president has repeatedly stated is in need of organizational reform.


"Jim Ziglar is an experienced manager who will work diligently to reform the INS. His history of overseeing large organizations and tackling management challenges makes Jim an excellent choice as commissioner of the INS," Bush said.

An INS commissioner with no immigration experience is not necessarily considered a bad thing. Neither is it unusual. In 1989 President George H. Bush nominated St. Louis County Executive Gene McNary to the post. McNary was considered a loyal Republican but had no experience in immigration either. And McNary's predecessor was a Pacific Telephone lawyer.

"Sometimes a smart person coming in from the outside can see things that the others can't," said Georgetown University law professor Alexander Aleinikoff, an expert in immigration law. "It seems that a smart person who is a good manager can get up to speed in an appropriate amount of time."

While Kelley agreed a good manager who surrounds himself with qualified experts could be effective, she said the times have changed since the elder Bush nominated McNary.

Unlike 12 years ago, "we have an agency in crisis," Kelley said. "The president himself has said we need to reorganize the agency."

Ziglar, who is from the same town in Mississippi as Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, was nominated by Lott for his current post and was elected by the Senate. Between 1991 and 2000, he donated just over $50,000 to Republican candidates nationwide. A lawyer and former investment banker, Ziglar served the Reagan administration as assistant secretary of the interior for water and science from 1987 to 1988, becoming Senate sergeant-at-arms in 1998. Ziglar also was managing director of PaineWebber Inc., an investment firm.

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