Expectations high for new INS chief despite immigration background

August 21, 2001|By MARINE COLE, Special to this newspaper

WASHINGTON (MNS) — The newly appointed commissioner of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, James Ziglar, has no background in immigration issues, and the amnesty plan for almost 4 million Mexican illegal immigrants President Bush proposed will add administrative work to the INS.

Still, there are high expectations for his ability to manage the INS.

"He knows nothing about immigration," said Angela Kelley, deputy director of the National Immigration Forum, an organization supporting immigration, but "he is a person with good management experience."

Originally from Mississippi, Ziglar started his professional career as a lawyer in 1973. He joined the investment banking industry in 1980, where he has spent most of his career. Ziglar first worked for the federal government in 1987 as assistant secretary of the interior for water and science.

Kelley thinks Ziglar, who started the INS job on Aug. 6, will surround himself with experts in immigration. He already appointed Stuart Anderson as an associate commissioner for policy and planning, a key policy development position. Anderson worked as a director of immigration research and analysis on the Senate subcommittee on immigration. He also worked with Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., a pro-immigration legislator.


Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, an organization that favors selective immigration, said Ziglar was appointed primarily for his management skills and it is an important goal to reorganize the immigration service into two branches, administrative functions and enforcement functions.

"The previous commissioner, Doris Meissner, probably knew more than anybody who's had that job, but she didn't fix the service, either," Krikorian said.

Meissner had been dealing with immigration issues since the 1970s. The Bush plan to grant amnesty to illegal immigrant workers will create a new burden for the INS, with new applications and added administrative work, Krikorian said.

"They already can't deal with what they have now," he said. "Mr. Ziglar has been set up for failure despite his talents he's going to bring to the job."

Ziglar previously was the sergeant at arms and doorkeeper of the Senate, a nonpartisan position that is the chief law enforcement officer and principal administrative manager for the Senate.

Both Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., and Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., supported his nomination for the position at the INS.

"He has a strong power base in the Senate," which might help communication between Congress and the INS, Kelley said.

Last week Ziglar visited the Washington district office of the INS to introduce himself to employees and customers. He talked about the INS treating people with courtesy and respecting the dignity of the public.

"He said all the right things," Kelley said.

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