INS and Care of Immigrants

Frank del Olmo has, in his 18 years of writing about immigration, always had the problem of separating fact from fantasy, but his "Put Care of Immigrants Into New Hands" (Op-Ed Page, April 18), is so loaded with inaccuracies and misconceptions that it is painfully obvious that his lengthy residence in The Times' ivory tower has taken its toll and he has all but lost contact with the subject.

Let us dissect his first big whopper. Del Olmo, with all evidence decidedly pointing to the contrary, comes to the outlandish conclusion that the Immigration and Naturalization Service's administering of the amnesty program was "haphazard," implying, of course, that it was a failure.

Even the most vocal critics of the INS have had high praise for the extremely successful effort extended by the INS in administering this unprecedented program.

More than 3 million illegal aliens applied for amnesty as a result of INS' massive and finely tuned program across the nation. It is significant, too, that fully 85% of these applicants came directly to INS, bypassing church, community groups and qualified designated entities, to sign up, dispelling completely the so-called "fear of INS factor" clamored by our detractors. Phase II of amnesty is now in high gear and we are predicting an equally successful effort.

INS has clearly demonstrated during the past two years--Del Olmo notwithstanding--that it has matured to the point that it can plan and carry out even the most difficult programs.

Then, Del Olmo quixotically wonders if lawful immigration duties shouldn't be transferred to another agency. "Why fix the wagon when it ain't broke?" INS smoothly and efficiently processed last year approximately 660,000 lawful immigrants, refugees and other entrants into the United States. Status changes and citizenship applicants have only a minimal waiting period and most all backlogs have been brought under control.

As to the new reform law, Del Olmo is among those doom-sayers, who from the beginning, have said employer sanctions won't work. As a matter of fact, first signals indicate the opposite. Nobody said it would work overnight miracles. Let's not rush to judgment lest we get egg on our face. Certainly, this is an extremely important step forward.

A single border agency would be "worthwhile," Del Olmo says, but he lays its death to bureaucratic finagling. He deftly avoids commenting on the Mexican viewpoint of such an agency. Down there it was seen as a hostile act tantamount to militarizing the border.

As further evidence of his dated thinking, Del Olmo blithely observes that INS doesn't need any more Border Patrol agents to control our border. That shoot-from-the-hip type analysis is what allowed a flood tide of illegal aliens into the United States during the mid- and late-1980s.

If the Border Patrol had had enough agents, just to seal off the El Paso and San Diego corridors alone, we could have stymied illegal entry by the hundreds of thousands.

Finally, Del Olmo says our aging population and lowering birth rate will put us in a bind because we will need more young foreign workers.

He apparently has forgotten that the immigration reform bill took this fact into account. The H-2A (guest worker) program has been streamlined and any employer who needs foreign labor can get it with a minimum of difficulty.

All of this makes one wonder: Where have Del Olmo and The Times been for the past two years?

HAROLD EZELL

INS Regional Commissioner

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