Steven Camarota, Director of Research, Center for Immigration Studies
Russ Knocke, Director, The Office of Public Affairs, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Department of Homeland Security
T.J. Bonner, President, National Border Patrol Council
Shawn Zeller, Correspondent, Government Executive Magazine
Brenda Neuerburg, President, National INS Council
STEVEN CAMAROTA: I want to thank you all for coming this morning to discuss the changes that have happened in the last year since the INS went out of business. My name is Steven Camarota and I’m Director of Research at the Center for Immigration Studies. The center is a think tank here in Washington devoted to examining the impact of immigration on the United States. In fact, it’s the only think tank in the country doing that is exclusively devoted to that topic.
Now, for many years of course, prior to the demise of the INS, there was a lot of talk of reorganizing and changing it and splitting the service. One of the main types of reforms that got discussed was to split it into two parts, the thought being that many of the problems that afflicted the agency were the result of conflicted mission and problems in its organizational structure. Whether this was true or not is a matter of course of some debate, but most things didn’t – not much happened until after September 11th. At that point Congress did act and it split the INS, or should we say the artist or agency formerly known as the INS, into two separate entities. One is devoted to enforcement and it’s called the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, and the other is called, appropriately, CIS, or Citizenship and Immigration Services. Both agencies of course were placed within the new Homeland Security Department. [Note: INS border functions were combined in the Department of Homeland Security into two enforcement bureaus, ICE and the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection.] And again, the INS went out of existence on March 1st, 2003. That is one year ago this week.
So what’s happened since then? Well, we’ve assembled a panel to discuss this question, and in my view I think there really is not better panel that we could have put together to discuss these changes. We have some people who are very much in a position to know exactly what’s happened, and in most cases, you know, they’re able to speak about that. Let me introduce our panelists to you and then we’ll hear from each of them, and then we’ll open it up for general questions.
To my far left is Russ Knocke. He is Director of the Office of Public Affairs for the Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement. He also served as press secretary for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Thus he has sort of seen both legacy agencies within the INS; that is, the enforcement side and the services side.
To my immediate left is T.J. Bonner. He is head of the 6,000-strong U.S. Border Patrol Union. He has been the head of it for 15 years. He is also an agent who was assigned to the San Diego sector and he has been an agent for more than 20 years.
To my immediate right is Shawn Zeller. He has covered the INS since 2001 for Government Executive Magazine. And unlike many mass circulation general interest publications, which have often covered immigration only superficially, Shawn and his magazine have devoted a good deal of space to discussing the very real challenges of administering our immigration laws. And he himself of course has developed a real expertise on the issue that one does not often see among journalists.
And finally to my far right is Brenda Neuerburg. She is president of the National INS Council, which is – apparently its name has remained the same, right? They haven’t changed that –
BRENDA NEUERBURG: Not at this point.
MR. CAMAROTA: Not at this point. It’s the national union representing 18,000 non-border patrol agents in the former INS, now part of DHS. And she herself is an information officer in Baltimore with many years of experience as well.
So with that I think I’d like to hear from Russ Knocke first, and then we’ll move to the other panelists.
RUSS KNOCKE: Well, thank you, Steven, and I want to thank the center for hosting this panel and for the invitation to be here. My name is Russ Knocke. I’m the director of public affairs for Immigration and Customs Enforcement – I guess two and a half days on the job. Prior to that I was press secretary for Eduardo Aguirre, the first director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. So, as Steve has pointed out, I have been fortunate to see both sides. I also serve as part of the senior staff at the department, so I spend the better part of my day actually at DHS headquarters then the afternoon at now ICE, what was I guess previously, for me, CIS.
This is our first-year anniversary, and it has been a merger and a startup and an acquisition kind of all rolled into one. We believe strongly that the separation of services from enforcement makes sense and you’re going to continue to see the fruits of that separation, not only in the near term but obviously more in the long term. It’s been quite a ride: everything from how do you separate personnel, FTEs, to staplers and paperclips, and obviously managerial guidance to the field, and the whole gauntlet of issues that you might anticipate would be involved with one shop essentially closing down and another one standing up overnight.
Rather than spend a great deal of time, you know, talking about sort of the first year and all that we’ve accomplished because there are many things I think that – the best thing to do would be to get into our dialogue and our discussion here. So what I might do, Steven, is just kind of kick the mic back to you. I’m more anxious to get into the sort of one-on-ones and taking about some of the things that we have done and some of the concerns you may have. Backlog, I presume, is something that’s going to come up. And we’re certainly going to talk about the Border Patrol and the President’s announcement for immigration reform, which I’ll just touch on briefly.
We obviously, as an administration, announced on the seventh of January – the President did – a proposal for reforming immigration in America. The department is essentially working on the legal track of immigration. Obviously Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement deal with sort of those who are no longer on that illegal immigration track, but we do recognize that there are 8 million undocumented people in this country, largely many of whom are contributing to society, but we have to, from a homeland security perspective, know who they are and understand the nature of their intentions. And obviously it will have positive social and economic ramifications we believe as well.
So the legal track – the illegal track, you know, kind of where we’ve been at a year and where we’re headed, lots of great things to discuss. And maybe, Steven, if you don’t mind, I’ll just pass the mic back over and then we can get more into the one-on-one, the debate.
MR. CAMAROTA: Okay. Thank you, Russ. I thought maybe we would hear from the services side first and how things have changed – what’s gone well, what’s not – so I think we’ll hear from Brenda Neuerburg now.
Thank you, Brenda.
MS. NEUERBURG: In introducing myself, I’m the council president for the legacy INS employees – as Steve said earlier, 18,000 employees. We deal with the benefits side. I do have law enforcement officers with me. We’re here today to talk about the anniversary – the one-year anniversary.
Well, as anything, there are always a lot of rough hurdles to get over. And we’ve had our hurdles. The backlogs are tremendous. As always, we don’t have enough people. We’re seeking friends in the congressional arena, and hopefully they’ll be able to allot us monies where we can employ more employees.
One of the concerns that we have that has come out of this one year with the Department of Homeland Security is the privatization. We’re afraid of that because that will take away the experience, if you will, of the INS employees and those who have been with the service in whatever capacity that they’ve been in to use their experience to further protecting the homeland security of this country.
We would like to say that we have the proposed regulations that have just come out and we’re working with those, and that’s been a year. I’ve been on the field service team and we’ve been instrumental in helping Homeland Security come up with some of the information and some of the concerns that we have in the legacy INS. And to be merged with legacy Customs and legacy Agriculture, it’s one face at the border, which I know you’ve all heard. Well, it’s taking some getting used to, if you will. It’s very hard for a legacy INS employee to go into a bag and see that there’s a false bottom, as is a legacy Customs employee to detect fraud in an employee coming across the borders. But we hope to protect the borders and to protect ourselves as citizens of the United States.
I can only tell you that, yes, there are backlogs. Yes, we’re having problems. And I look forward to answering any of the questions that you propose.
MR. CAMAROTA: Okay, well, thank you very much.
I guess we’ll turn now to T.J. Bonner of the Border Patrol Union.
T.J. BONNER: Thanks, Steve. Thanks for the opportunity to talk a little bit about a topic that’s near and dear to my heart. You were kind when you said I have slightly more than 20 years. I have 26 years serving in San Diego, California ,with the Border Patrol. And it’s been a wild ride. When I first came in there were fewer than 2,000 agents patrolling the entirety of our southwest and northern borders. That’s about 6,000 total miles of land border.
Currently there are over 10,000 border patrol agents. Unfortunately, employing the current strategy of trying to overwhelm the problem with numbers, it would take many, many times more than that to control the problem. And you have to recognize that this is not particularly a law enforcement problem. This is a social problem of people coming across the border primarily seeking employment. Now, intermingled within those millions of people – and, yes, millions of people who cross our border every year – the Border Patrol catches over a million people a year. You break that down: every day that means the United States Border Patrol will catch over 3,000 people. The alarming statistic is many more than that get by us. By our best estimate, at least twice that many get by us.
Now, if you stop and do the math you might think, well, wait a second; if that’s really true that would mean that over 2 million people come into the country, slip by the Border Patrol every year, which would mean that in the 18 years since the 1986 amnesty we would end up with 36 million people in this country – 36 million illegal aliens. Well, the reason that that’s not true is because of the pattern of illegal immigration. Many of the people that we encounter we either catch multiple times or the ones who slip by us will work for a few months in the United States and then go back to their country of origin and just repeat that cycle. It’s a revolving door, which explains why there are only 8-16 million illegal immigrants in the country, which is still quite an alarming figure.
And to say that all of these people are contributing in a beneficial way is simply naïve. There are a number of these people who are indeed criminals and some of the people who are terrorists. Bear in mind that the 19 people who attacked our country on September the 11th, 2001, were all foreign nationals, many of them in this country illegally. So we have a serious problem on our hands.
Trying to weed out terrorists from people who are just looking for a job is not an easy task. They have yet to invent the machine that you can aim at a group of 100 people crossing the border and say, nobody there is a terrorist. In fact, the only way that you even have half a chance of ferreting out terrorists from the people who are crossing the border is to catch everybody and come up with a biometric means of identifying these people and then hoping that somewhere in these databases you get a match. And that’s not always possible even with the best technology because some of these people are what they call sleepers; they have never committed a crime, they are not suspected of being terrorists. They come across, lie dormant for a number of years, and then spring into action.
I would differ with Russ in his characterization of this as a merger. He used some words like “corporate merger.” This was a hostile takeover. From the perspective of the
Immigration employees, this was a hostile takeover. As we like to say, we have been “customized.” Everything about our day-to-day life is now the Customs’ way. In fact, even the name of the bureau under which I operate, the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, shows that these people won out in the lobbying wars when the Department of Homeland Security was created.
I don’t want to take up too much time, and I look forward to a lively debate in the question and answer part, but I would leave you with this parting thought: we are no safer today than we were on September the 10th of 2001. Do the math. There are millions of people in this country right now that we know nothing about. It’s naïve and foolish to think that if you grant amnesty to the 8-16 million people here that everybody will come forward and self-identify themselves, allow themselves to be checked. The criminals out there, the terrorists out there, will not do that. They will simply stay underground. All we will do is encourage more people to come into the country illegally.
I lived through the 1986 amnesty. It was a huge mistake then; it would be a bigger mistake now. All we did was encourage more people to come into the country illegally. At that point in time it was estimated that there were 3-4 million people living in the country illegally and that about a half million of them would qualify for amnesty. In fact, at the end of that process, 2.7 million people qualified, many of them fraudulently, for amnesty. And all it did was encourage more people to come in, which is borne out by the fact that we have so many people in the country illegally now and that they continue to pour across in record numbers.
Many of the people that we’re catching now in the Border Patrol are inquiring about the guestworker program. So dangling that carrot out there only served to entice more people to cross the border. I haven’t seen the latest official statistics for the month of February, but the unofficial statistics that took us about halfway through the month of February showed that we had some pretty dramatic surges. Significantly, San Diego was up 35 percent, Tucson was up 31 percent from the previous year, and I don’t know why but Texas was kind of flat. The statistics didn’t show much of a surge, but perhaps that’s due to what I refer to as the “toothpaste phenomenon.” When you take a tube of toothpaste and squeeze with your thumb, it squirts out on either side. And smugglers know how to exploit our weaknesses and they tend to probe certain areas, and if they are successful then they’ll continue in that; if they’re unsuccessful then they’ll go to other areas.
I think my time is up. I will defer to the next panelist.
MR. CAMAROTA: Okay, now we’re going to hear from Shawn Zeller at Government Executive Magazine.
SHAWN ZELLER: Steve, thanks for your kind introduction. I appreciate it.
Before he left the INS in 2002, James Ziglar, who was the second-to-last commissioner at the agency, put together a study, and what he found was that the INS budget would have to grow by a factor of six by 2010 if the agency were to keep up with its workload. That’s not to excuse mismanagement, which certainly was present at the INS, but the agency had a constant battle at keeping up with its workload. There’s no doubt about that. It also had a mission problem. Because of the politicians’ ambivalence about immigration policy, INS was constantly pushed and pulled to get tough on immigration, to ease up on enforcement, to push through immigration applications more quickly, and to screen applications more rigorously. Unfortunately, neither of those problems – the money problem or the mission problem – has gone away, even after September 11th.
For years, even before the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, Congress debated whether or not to revamp the Immigration and Naturalization Service. The consensus was that the enforcement side should be split from the services side, but only 9/11 gave the issue the urgency it needed. At Homeland Security, INS was ultimately split into three, as Steve outlined. Customs inspectors, immigration inspectors, and border patrol guards were put in the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection. Customs and immigration investigators were put in the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The services side of INS was remade as the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services.
The goal of all that was to promote better enforcement and services by separating the budget lines. In the past you had a lot of instances where the budget of the services side was used to plug holes on the enforcement side, and vice versa, and that constantly caused a problem for the INS. The idea was also that enforcement would become more efficient by combining the skills of customs and immigration investigators and by creating one face at the border, a term that you’ve heard mentioned here today.
According to the department, it’s working. And there is some evidence of success. In July, to the consternation of both immigration and customs inspectors, CBP began to cross train inspectors so all can perform both customs and immigration inspections. And the argument about that is that customs inspectors say that their skills are so specialized that you need a particular customs inspector, and immigration inspectors say the same thing, that the law is so complicated that you need someone who is solely focused on immigration law to deal with that. And Brenda went into that a bit. The argument at the department is that it would be more efficient to cross train the inspectors so you could use both in both situations.
Meanwhile, at ICE last May, the department put out a top-10 list of criminal aliens and quickly it captured nine of them. That sounds very good. ICE says this was possible by combining the old INS and customs investigative expertise. And it’s clear that the ICE Bureau has become more aggressive in is interior enforcement. It’s investigating the citizenship status of workers at airports, nuclear power plants, and other critical infrastructure. And the Bush budget for 2005, the budget proposal, which of course isn’t a reality yet, would help ICE further by giving the bureau a boost of about $110 million and 150 new agents. That would be the first boost for interior enforcement in a long while. You may have heard the statistic that 2,000 immigration agents have been charged with enforcing immigration law in the interior for many, many years. That’s a daunting task considering there are at least about 8 million illegal immigrants in the country. At the same time, ICE has begun working with states to help boost enforcement to states. Florida and Alabama have entered into partnerships with ICE where state troopers are deputized to enforce immigration law, and that I think has yielded some good results in both states for enforcement.
In the area of services, however, the merger into the Department of Homeland Security to this point seems to have done very little. Application backlogs, as Brenda said, continue to grow, and while the department wants to raise application fees this year, it would incur $110 million budget cut in the administration’s 2005 budget proposal. In other words, the budget for reduction of backlogs would go from $235 million this year to $140 million next year. And this prompted a number of immigrant rights groups earlier this week to put out a report card giving the administration an F for its work in the services area and lambasting it.
Part of the problem I think is that DHS is still struggling to merge and sort out all of the administrative support functions at Customs and INS that are now part of the Department of Homeland Security. Many, many employees were upset and continue to disparage the decision to split the investigative function from the inspection arm – in other words, to create two separate enforcement bureaus, one for investigations and one for the border. The argument against that is that each relies on the other and should be kept together. It would improve enforcement.
And we heard T.J. Bonner discuss how those at the Customs and Border Protection Division felt that they have been part of a takeover, a hostile takeover, by the Customs department. And I actually – to be fair, I hear the same thing from customs workers who are at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Division, which Customs and Border Protection is now under old Customs management, Robert Bonner and his managers, whereas the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Division is largely under old INS managers. So the customs workers with whom I’ve talked say that their agency was very efficient and good, did its job well, and that now they have to deal with all of INS’s old management deficiencies.
As of last October, the three bureaus were supposed to have their own budget lines divided out, but in many parts of the bureaus, legacy support systems continue to provide services as if we still had a Customs service and an INS. The reason for that perhaps is that for much of the last year, DHS management was focused on designing a new personnel system. I know many of you are actually in town this week meeting with members of Congress to discuss this proposal. It began last April when the Department of Homeland Security set up a design team to come up with a proposal for a new personnel system that would replace the old general schedule and civil service system under Title 5 of the U.S. Code.
DHS was granted authority to do this in their authorizing legislation, which passed in 2002. The proposal, which came out just very recently from DHS management, would essentially set up a pay banding system to replace the old general schedule. Employees would be grouped by their occupation and region, and pay could vary dramatically for a border patrol agent, say in San Diego versus one in Sweet Springs, Montana, based on the cost of living.
Now, another point about the new personnel system proposal is that it would make it easier to fire people. There would be a set of deadly sins that would be established for which the agency could fire workers on the spot, and they could not appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board, which is the federal agency to which most federal employees can appeal disciplinary decisions currently. For other – for poor performance and for other misconduct, employees could continue to appeal to the MSPB, but the MSPB would no longer have the authority to mitigate a judgment. So if they agreed with the guilt or innocence of the employee they would not have the authority to reduce the penalty. That’s something that unions are not pleased about. It would also limit the scope of bargaining, this new proposal. It would make it so that the assignment of personnel work schedules and the use of new technology could not be bargained by the unions, and it would limit the role of the Federal Labor Relations Authority, which currently deals with disputes between unions and management.
To continue, because of all this discussion about the new personnel system, other things have gone by the wayside, such as how to separate out the administrative support personnel who make the trains run on time at the three bureaus where INS employees used to reside – or currently reside rather. I’m talking about human resources people, financial management staff, information technology staff. Big questions remain, such as, what support staff will reside in one bureau and provide services to all three? In other words, which services will be shared and which support services will be divided in three, which in some cases will require hiring new human resources, financial management staff to staff the other two bureaus.
These are questions that need to be answered, but to this point they haven’t been. As one DHS manager told me recently, merging the mission focus parts of the agency – the border patrol, the investigators, inspectors, and adjudicators – was in some ways the easy part. In the meantime, morale remains low. Managers don’t know if they’re staying in their budgets. Investigators aren’t being reimbursed for their travel and expenses in a timely way. I was told here today that some employees are having trouble still with their paychecks. And finding office space is a problem as managers scramble to get all their people under the same roof. My management friend told me he feels like he’s playing a game of jacks at this point. All the jacks are strewn about in front of you and the three bureau managers are trying to pick up the pieces. They certainly have a long way to go.
MR. CAMAROTA: Well, thank you, Shawn. I appreciate it.
We can open it up for questions now. I only ask that you identify yourself and your affiliation, if you have one. I would like to exercise the chair’s discretion and ask the first question. And I'm interested in everyone’s response, actually. We’ve touched on it here.
The issue of morale and turnover has been an important issue for a very long time in the INS – a lot of issue problems of retaining qualified people. With the merger, are there any statistics on that? Have things gotten any better, or has morale actually sunk worse? And how has that affected performance? I’m interested in what all of you think.
MS. NEUERBURG: I’m on the end, so I start. Morale in legacy INS stinks, for lack of a better term. Why? I don’t have statistics at this point but what I can tell you is at one time we employed – or empowered the employees to help come up with some of the policies that we’ve done with INS. They are the ones in the trenches doing the job, so therefore with the union’s help we were able to allow them to share with management what needed to be done and what they should have taken away.
As it stands now, legacy INS has employed a lot of term and temporary employees who don’t know whether they will have a job today or tomorrow. That has to be a – it’s not a good morale booster. And then it’s going into privatization. That too – there are people who’ve worked years and all of a sudden you’re going to privatize their jobs because they think it’s not inherently governmental? This has a low morale – is a low morale booster for the employees. And there’s just the work – there is just so much work. One employee, as I was meeting with him last week, said that his boss says, I don’t care how you get the job done; I don’t care if you stay on the floor. This lady has two children. Did they care about her family? And if she neglects her children, then she’s considered in the legacy INS or any government employee, an unfit mother.
So where do you draw the line? Yes, morale is terrible. You walk in the office and there’s no one to greet you in a decent fashion – just get the job done. You’re surrounded by work, and we don’t have enough people to do it. There’s no morale – or let’s say, for lack of a better term, low morale.
Audience Question: What’s legacy?
MS. NEUERBURG: Well, that’s because legacy is the – since we’ve merged with DHS, the Department of Homeland Security, we’re no longer going to be INS. So we need to use the term “legacy,” meaning the old INS.
Question: The carryover employees?
MS. NEUERBURG: The carryovers.
And let me just – I needed to share this, and one of my colleagues brought it up. With the new proposals, the regulations, there will be no morale. There will be anarchy – (chuckles) – anarchy, for lack of a better term.
Did I answer your question?
MR. ZELLER: One thing I heard earlier this week – I would agree that morale is poor at the agency from what I understand. One thing I heard that may hurt morale even more is that when the inspectors were merged from Customs and INS, the inspectors at INS were GS-12s typically, and the inspectors at Customs were typically GS-13s.
MR. ZELLER: Yeah. Well, one thing that’s come up in this cross training is – the pay within occupational categories. So the hope is that, from what I understand, that they can through this pay banding, sort of eliminate issues like that where the pay between customs and INS staff was different, but now, one would think it should be the same.
MR. BONNER: I’d be happy to address this issue. Morale is lower than I have ever seen it, and I’ve been around a while. I think the most indicative figure for this is the attrition rate. Border patrol over the last three years has averaged over 15 percent of its work force walking out the door. Most of these people are in the infancy of the career. They are leaving on average between two and five years, precisely the point where you want to hang on to these people, because that’s when they’re just starting to come into their own and get a good grasp on the job.
And as Brenda pointed out, one of the reasons that morale – and morale spiked at 20 percent when the air marshals were hiring. So many people are anxious to get out of the Border Patrol. Now it has normalized, if that’s a good term, at 15 percent. And if that’s normal, do the math. That means every seven years, you have a complete turnover in the workforce. That is not healthy. The average experience of a border patrol agent currently is less than three years. That’s frightening. You have kids out there who are just barely understanding how to do their job, and they’re being promoted to positions of responsibility. It’s not a healthy environment.
You need a system that will enable you to hang on – to first of all attract and to hang on to the best and the brightest, and I believe that the new Department of Homeland Security personnel system is just totally wrong. It will not entice anyone to join or stick around, because they have stripped away the most fundamental employee rights that any American should have – the right to show up to work, to do your job, without fear of being fired for some bogus reason.
And with the personnel system that they have devised, people will be – management will have the ability – and you know human nature, it will happen – managers will have the ability to fire people for no reason at all or for the wrong reasons and get away with it. And when that starts to happen, people will bail left and right. People have already started putting – who are eligible for retirement have already started putting in their applications in record numbers, swamping the personnel office. People are out there actively looking for jobs, because they were hanging on to that hope that perhaps, just perhaps, Secretary Ridge would do the right thing and would not abuse that authority that Congress had given him.
Well, I’m here to tell you that there was a – even though the law said that the department and the Office of Personnel Management would decide this, that’s not where it was decided. They were ready to sit down and talk to the unions and roll out the plan in December, and OMB stepped in and said mm-mm, it’s not ready to be unveiled. And so the final product was influenced by the White House, and it is disastrous. It’s going to take years to undo the damage. Once this thing is implemented, you will lose many, many experienced, good, hard-working people, and they’ll never come back. The old saying, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me” – people will not come back. Once they make those career moves, whether it be retirement or whether it be seeking a new job across the street, they won’t come back. And the only way to replace an employee with 10 years of experience is to hire somebody new and wait 10 years. You don’t get 10 years of experience over night. You get it by being out there, day in, day out, doing the job.
MR. KNOCKE: Let me briefly touch on this, if you don’t mind, and then we can move on. Points across the board to really speak to here, and I respect my fellow panelist’s opinion, though I’ve got to say that when we’re out doing town halls with the various principals in the department, the feedback that we are getting is somewhat contrary. We do hear some of these issues. They are raised, and we address them.
However, you know, I don’t know. There’s not a business or an agency or organization out there that does not have HR or personnel issues, does not have constant concerns to make sure that morale is up and that everyone’s on board, and that there’s effective communication, and that employees feel valued and the organization constantly thinking to do everything that it can to retain and obviously attract new, but retain those with experience.
And so I’m certainly going to disagree that the leadership of the department is not doing enough in that regard. We obviously value the employees’ input. As I say, town halls – in fact, there are going to be two today. Asa Hutchinson’s leading one, along with Mike Garcia, Eduardo Aguirre having another one with employees at CIS. That’s where we get a frank and open dialogue in a number of these things. The A-76 issue, privatization, is one that we can certainly talk more about, but it’s – it is an open and fair competitive process. These positions have not been privatized. It’s a competitive process where privatization can be one avenue versus another. And we’ll see how that process goes over the course of the year.
With respect to workload, it certainly is – and yeah, I would agree with my colleagues on the panel that the panel – or the morale of INS in the past was low and needed to be improved, and one of many things that I think that we see whenever work volume increases in any organization. And obviously the stress level of our employees is high, but it’s something that, you know, as a department – I mean, within one year, we’ve taken what we believe are important steps to serve employees and address some of these issues. So Steven, you know, I don’t know if anybody’s got some follow-up or they want to drill it out a little bit more, but –
MS. NEUERBURG: I have follow-up.
MR. KNOCKE: Well, go ahead.
MR. CAMAROTA: Go ahead, Brenda, please.
MS. NEUERBURG: I failed to share with you that I have 34 years of government service. I came with the federal government thinking that that was a secure place to be. I am one of the employees who will be affected by A-76, so I’ve done a serious study on it. It’s my job, or I’m retired. So when you share with the people that these are fair and equitable ways of doing things, I challenge you to get into the trenches, to work down there with the people.
I applaud you for your dialogue, but I must share with you that you’re not in my situation, nor are you in any of these other employees’ situations, and you don’t know what these employees are going through, how they feel betrayed. And the town hall meetings – I am the council president. I’ve been privy to all of them. In addition to that, I was on the field service team where we shared, as T.J. can vouch for, our opinions of how we thought they should do business, to no avail. So let me just share that with you.
MR. CAMAROTA: Well, let me – let me ask this question. How has the president’s proposal – is there concern that it would increase workload already, that they can’t handle – or maybe it is seen as, you know, kind of a new change that may be helpful? Has the president’s proposal, along with all these other things, had any impact on sort of morale? What’s sort of generally been the response of people? Yeah, the amnesty proposal for a guestworker program.
MR. KNOCKE: I’m going to jump right in and first remind everybody that it’s not amnesty. It’s a proposal for immigration reform. (Laughter from audience.) So let’s just out of the gate, we’ll make sure we’re all messaged on that. Certainly –
AUDIENCE: Message the world, because they believe it’s amnesty.
MR. KNOCKE: Well, actually the response from the surveys that we’ve gotten back are contrary to that. It’s not amnesty. It’s a one-time, regulated opportunity.
MR. KNOCKE: Amnesty – look, amnesty does in fact provide an avenue for legal, permanent residency, if by definition, it’s viewed as no immigration – (off-mike) – you know what that means. This is not amnesty.
MR. CAMAROTA: Well, Russ, why don’t – why don’t we just say that I guess my sense is the reason it’s an amnesty is you’re not enforcing a law. You’re making the law comport with people here illegally. But why don’t we call it an amnesty, and you can call it, you know, earned regularization. (Laughter.) No, I don’t mean that in any way – I mean, just kind of agree to disagree on terminology.
It’s not – I would agree it’s not a jackpot amnesty, which is you get a green card, but it is you don’t have to obey the law. You get to stay, no penalty, and someday you might have to go home. That’s kind of amnesty; it’s just not the most generous. I agree it isn’t the most – it’s not what generally Democrats in Congress would have wanted, so it’s not a very generous amnesty, but yeah, I mean, I guess, yeah, a lot of Republicans don’t even want this one. But I mean, I don’t want to – it’s a semantics thing. How about will the president’s proposal – why don’t we just refer to it that way?
MR KNOCKE: That’s a good idea.
MR. CAMAROTA: Okay, the president’s proposal – how has that proposal affected – what – what are you hearing from your employees about how they’ve reacted to it?
MR. BONNER: I’ll take a stab at this one. (Laughter.) Let’s go to Webster’s. Webster’s defines amnesty as a – “an authority pardoning people for whatever reason, a large group of people generally,” and this is an amnesty, I’m sorry. When 8 to 16 million people have broken our immigration laws, and you’re saying, it’s okay, we forgive you, that is an amnesty. And you can say that while this law is just some silly economic thing, you know, it’s not a serious law, it’s not a real crime – well, it’s a misdemeanor for the first offense, and it’s a felony for subsequent offenses.
So if Congress feels that strongly about it, they can change it and say it’s no longer a misdemeanor or a felony, but until such time as they do that, it is illegal to cross our borders without being inspected and to just come in and take up residency anywhere you feel like. I kind of liken it to the tax code. I mean, that’s just an economic thing, and it really doesn’t mean a whole lot, but you don’t see the federal government saying, oh, it’s okay not to pay your taxes, and you as sure as hell don’t see them offering an amnesty and saying anyone who has never paid their taxes, it’s okay, because they know what would happen. It would just encourage everybody to stop paying their taxes. And that’s exactly what this is doing. It’s encouraging everybody to continue to flood across the borders.
But back to your question, Steven, what effect is it having on morale? (Laughter.) It’s just – Border Patrol agents feel that it’s a slap in the face. We have lost nearly 100 agents over the course of our 80-year history in the line of duty, and they’ve been out there enforcing our immigration laws. And for the president of the United States to come out and say you did it all for nothing is so insulting and outrageous to the border patrol agents, who put everything on the line every time they strap on that gun, pin on that badge and go out in the field and enforce the immigration laws. It’s had a devastating effect, if that’s possible, if morale could have gotten any lower, given all the other things that are happening. It has – that perhaps is the straw that broke the camel’s back.
MR. CAMAROTA: Russ, did you want to say anything else? I think you deserve a chance, I think.
MR. KNOCKE: If enacted, if Congress decides to enact the president’s proposal, a critical component of it will be enforcement, not only at our borders but internally. It’s going to be enforcement against employers as much as it’s going to be against the – (inaudible) – of population who chooses not to register.
MR. KNOCKE: So the – I’ve certainly been privy to the debate that’s come from the Border Patrol personnel with respect to how they feel about the president’s proposal and respect their opinion, but disagree on I think how this will impact their functioning, and, you know, again if enacted.
MR. CAMAROTA: Okay. Why don’t we throw it open to questions from the audience? Please identify who you are and your institution. I see a hand right back there. Go ahead.
Q: I’m John Isbister from the University of California. I’d like to follow up on this question about employee – employer sanctions, and I’m following up on a comment that Mr. Bonner gave where you said that border control is vested – (inaudible). I guess my judgment about that is that supposing you could double your efficiency by – (inaudible) – it probably wouldn’t have that much effect on the number of undocumented people in the United States, because the harder you make it to get into the country, the more business haven’t you made for people who leave the country. If they know it’s going to be very hard to get back in, they’re most likely going to – (inaudible).
So you know, it seems to me – I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but it seems to me like the job that you’ve done is just treading water. I mean, you can be better and better and better at stopping people from coming across the borders, but in terms of the impact it’s going to make on the number of undocumented people in the U.S., it probably wouldn’t have much effect. But would that – (inaudible)? Would it be important for – (inaudible) – the reason they’re coming is to get jobs. And – but that’s become completely unsuccessful in stopping the employment, because the employers have found that – (inaudible). And nobody wants to harm them, let alone put them in jail or, you know, services.
And there’s a – this whole paper and the handout here, which documents publications – (inaudible) – against – (inaudible). I don’t see how you guys are going to be able to do this without serious – (inaudible).
MR. BONNER: I could not agree with you more. It’s – we’re shoveling sand against the tide. And the major draw for people for 99.44 percent of the people who cross our borders, the major draw is the jobs. And until we can find a way to turn off that job magnet, people will continue to flock to this country. I mean, look at the poverty, the abject poverty in some of these Third World countries. Mexico, our neighbor to the immediate south – average wage there of people we apprehend, four bucks a day. You know, they can do much better by making that 100-yard dash into the United States.
And until we come up with a way to actually enforce the laws that are on the books, because we have – back in ’86, that was the keystone of the Immigration Reform and Control Act. It was employer’s sanctions. What it failed to do was to give teeth to that law. It relied on the employers to identify people who were in the country illegally and to not employ those people. When we tried to prosecute those employers, there are 70, 80 some odd different documents that a prospective employee can go and present to an employer and say, “This authorizes me to work here,” all of which can be easily counterfeited.
So we go to the workplace, and we say we’d like to see the records that you have, and they produce photocopies of what are obviously to the trained eye, bogus documents, we can’t prosecute those people because they have operated in good faith. What needs to happen is the federal government needs to step up to the plate, come up with a counterfeit-proof of identification that will enable the employer to immediately determine that the person has a right to work.
And it can be as simple as something that scanned through a reader, they get an answer within five minutes. It says, yes, you’re authorized to hire this person. And then you go into the work site, and you check and see how many people are there and how many people that have the authorization to employ, and if there’s a discrepancy, then you fine the hell out of these people much the way the tax code is enforced. They don’t go around and audit everybody, and they don’t put a lot of people in jail, but they put enough people in jail, and they hammer enough people financially that the rest of us are intimidated into paying our taxes. And I’ll be that within this audience there are very few people who are paying their taxes out of a sense of patriotism. Most of us do it because we’re afraid of the consequences of not complying with that law, and that’s the same thing that needs to happen with the employer sanctions.
And I just want to touch on one point of the amnesty before I let this issue die. Russ said that there will be more enforcement. I don’t see how that’s possible. When you look at the president’s proposal budget for FY-2005, he is slashing $18 million from the border patrol’s budget and taking $75 million and diverting that to new technology – censors, surveillance, unmanned aerial vehicles – so where are they going to find the money? And 19 positions are gone out of the border patrol’s allocation. Where does that translate to increased enforcement? Perhaps in the interior, but certainly not at the borders. I don’t see a commitment from this administration to beef up security. I see the amnesty thing as a program that’s designed for business to import cheap, exploitable labor, and I don’t see that that’s in the interest of our country.
MS. NEUERBURG: Let me piggyback on that, too, from the benefit – the services side, benefit side. We have in place a service called asylum. Once they come into the country and they fear for their lives, all they have to do is say, “I fear for my life,” and we give them asylum. This is what legalizes a lot of that, but because we legalize them, it does not negate the fact that they still get paid less than the norm of a U.S. citizen. And as much as that’s the way they’re doing it, these employers still continue to pay them the minimum amount of money that they could possibly pay them to get by. If you’ve ever – and I know that none of you’ve had the privilege – and it’s the privilege because it’s deplorable – have seen how some of these people live behind people in California in shacks and work for us and make money, and this is in the United States.
So yeah, border patrol can try to protect the borders, and they do what they can, they do the best they can, and those folk that get in the country ultimately become legal residents in some form or another, and then they get to stay here. And that’s not good. That’s not good for our country. So it’s going to be – it’s a vicious circle. This is what happened back then. Sorry.
MR. CAMAROTA: Over here. Right here. Rosemary.
Q: Rosemary Jenks, Numbers USA. I have two very quick questions; they should be easy answers. The first one is I want to know what portion of customs and immigration inspectors have actually -- and special agents have actually been cross-trained. And also, I want to know what priority – and I guess this is for Russ – what priority has the department placed on the expansion of the workplace verification system that Congress passed at the end of last year? And is there adequate funding the Bush budget for that?
MR. CAMAROTA: Actually the transcript person asked me to repeat the question, so I’ll do that. One was on workplace verification and its expansion and what position does that have on the budget, and also, how many customs and immigration people have been cross-trained.
MS. NEUERBURG: Who’s going to answer first?
MR. CAMAROTA: Anyone who would like.
MS. NEUERBURG: Okay, you’re correct. In terms of it being a simple question – simple answer, my colleague said zero. I’m going to say 5 percent to give them the benefit of the doubt. In terms of cross-training, there has not been any cross-training, because they don’t have the time. I have one of my colleagues back there raising his hand, and he’s a border – he’s an immigration inspector.
Q: Ma’am, could you explain to us very briefly about the CDs that are being used for training customs offers for immigration work?
Q: What’s the CD?
MS. NEUERBURG: I’m not – he’s an immigration inspector. He can explain it. You explain it to them, why you’re standing.
Q: Well, I could ask Mr. Knocke to describe the type of training that’s being used to train a customs inspector who spends 18 weeks down in – (inaudible) – center or immigration inspector who spends 18 weeks down in – (inaudible) – training center. What are these CDs, the training CDs, and what type of training was being required?
MR. CAMAROTA: The question dealt with how we’re training or cross-training immigration and customs personnel. You used a phrase CD.
Q: Excuse me, CD, disk, or –
MR. CAMAROTA: Oh, okay, okay, I’m sorry. Thank you. Yeah, computer – it’s a computer base. What are the – how are they being trained? That was the question.
MS. NEUERBURG: But before you answer that question, just let me share with you further that the customs inspectors are being trained – cross-trained more so than the legacy INS inspectors because our laws are very difficult.
MR. KNOCKE: Well, you’re exactly right, Brenda. The immigration laws are some of the most complex in the country, and they certainly restrict and preclude on a variety of levels from time to time. With respect to training, it sounds like you have seen the CD, and I have not, so you probably know a little bit more about it than I do. But what I will say is that cross-training is maybe not happening at the level that it should, but it is something that does occur, and there – our employees do have access to a variety of training opportunities.
Q: Sir, you’re a true professional, and I admire you for the courage and fortitude that you have to go through to defend that position. Unfortunately, most airports right now – (inaudible) – customs inspectors are not inspecting anybody other than U.S. citizens. There are some variations to that, and there are some variations at the land borders. However, at the airports, immigration inspectors are still inspecting non-U.S. citizens, and customs inspectors are inspecting U.S. citizens only. We don’t have one face – (inaudible).
MR. CAMAROTA: Just for the sake of the transcript so that we have this, the dialogue in from the audience was that what’s happening is that the legacy customs people are supposed to – are generally inspecting U.S. citizens, but the – and non-U.S. citizens are being inspected mostly by previous INS employees. The problem is is that even U.S. citizens can have fraudulent documents or a person who claims to be a U.S. citizen can, so it’s – this could be – the comments indicated this could be a potential point of weakness in our screening process, that someone can claim to be a U.S. citizen, and the inexperience of the former customs personnel could make it easy for them to enter illegally. Russ, you want to –
MR. KNOCKE: Well, I just – I’m sure you’re familiar with the US-VISIT Program or have at least heard a little bit about it. There’s obviously going to be training that has occurred and will continue to occur as that program ramps up. US-VISIT is an entry-exit control system utilizing biometrics at our ports, so that’s certainly going to be another example of an opportunity for training.
Q: Steve, the second question, the workers verification?
MR. CAMAROTA: Oh, yes, the second question was on workplace verification.
MR. KNOCKE: Yeah, and much like the CD, I’m not going to have probably exactly the answer that you’re looking for, but on that one, I’d be glad to get your card and follow up and get back with you.
MR. CAMAROTA: Another question? Go ahead.
Q: Peggy Sands. I’m a freelance writer, and I’ve read a lot about the temporary issues, so let’s say it’s not an amnesty service, but the temporary workers are – (inaudible) – but the experience with temporary workers is that – or temporary immigrants, like immigrant students, temporary business visas – is that – once they overstay the visa, they’ll never be – (inaudible) -- track. If they don’t do anything wrong, they’re never done. Is there budget in this new proposal, in this new program to track people who have overstayed, who have finished their temporary time here? Is it truly going to be temporary, or is it going to be like everything – (inaudible) – temporary, that’s why people say it’s – (inaudible).
MR. CAMAROTA: The question was will there be additional enforcement efforts and dollars to go after people who overstay temporary visas, whether in the president’s proposal or other temporary visa holders, such as students.
MS. NEUERBURG: Who’s – go ahead.
MR. KNOCKE: Go ahead, Brenda.
MS. NEUERBURG: No, go ahead. I’ll take a second.
MR. KNOCKE: Well, okay, I’ll just take a couple seconds. Because it’s a proposal, Congress still has to act, and if Congress acts, then resources would obviously come with the action. And so at present, the enforcement and interdiction procedures and budgets continue as is; the FY-‘05 budget has been introduced. My numbers are not consistent with some of my panelists here in terms of enforcement and also services and what the budgets are projected to look like in any event.
Yes, there is a commitment to enforcement. There’s a commitment to resources to support enforcement at present if a new piece of legislation that embraced the president’s principles for immigration reform were to come from the hill and he were to sign it. It’s logical that there would be not only operational blanks filled in but budget to support some of those operational budgets.
MS. NEUERBURG: Id’ just like to go on record by saying that, you know, you’re talking about amnesty or lack of. Let me just share with you – are you familiar with a visitor, a B-1, B-2 visitor? They’re overstays. They don’t catch them unless they do something wrong, something illegal. We have no tracking mechanism in place for that, and that’s every day. I don’t know that the budget is ever going to allow us to track.
MR. CAMAROTA: Go ahead, at back over here.
Q: Hi, I’m Cindy Barnes with Senator Sessions’ office. I think the comments have been fine about the temporary aspect, bringing us right back to where we just came from, the employer sanction aspect. If you have someone on a temporary work visa, they are – (inaudible). If they overstay their visa, they’re probably someone who – (inaudible) – working. Therefore if you never have enough employer sanctions or resources to do that, you’re never going to catch the visa overstays where they are, in their jobs all across the country.
One thing I think is important to bring up are the numbers I got from – (inaudible) – from the last two weeks about how many employers they have actually issued notices – (inaudible) – in the last 10 years. The numbers that they gave me for 2003 were 13 notices of intent – (inaudible), 56 fines paid, possibly from – (inaudible). In 2003, they told me that they issued about 56 of those notices and 66 fines were paid, probably from those with intent to fine issued the year before that.
So I think it’s very important to, number one, I’d like you to focus on those numbers and give me an explanation of why they are so what I think is drastically low, and then secondly, let’s talk about the 150 new agents that would come into the president’s proposal. He touts though, even though I love President Bush, as work site certification agents. If you add 150 agents to the current number of 2,000, there’s no such thing as a work site certification agent.
Those agents do many things – alien smuggling, document fraud. We made a list of 20 things they’re responsible for investigating; work site enforcement is usually at the bottom of that list. So I guess I’d like to know with the 150 agents that are anticipated in the budget for work site verification, are we willing for this – (inaudible) – to have them only be work site certification officers and not have all the other responsibilities of being investigators?
MR. CAMAROTA: Thank you. The question dealt with the fact that there’s only a few dozen companies fined for hiring illegal aliens, and the question was concerning the administration’s commitment to enforcement in the new budget. How does it envision its adding some new agents to that, and how does it envision using them?
MR. KNOCKE: The FY – oh, thank you for your question and then explanation as well. The FY-’05 budget includes $41 million for ICE work site enforcement, in addition to $23 million above the FY-’04 budget. That’s a doubling of existing funds, and it certainly – anytime you double resources or pledge for a call for resources from Congress to an issue as specific as work force enforcement it’s an indication of the administration’s commitment.
Q: (Off mike) – commitment of those officers would be work site officers?
MS. NEUERBURG: How do you propose to do that?
Q: I know, I don’t know.
MS. NEUERBERG: Once you get into the word – and I really – I shouldn’t answer this. (Laughter.)
MR. KNOCKE: No, no, no, go right ahead.
MS. NEUERBERG: Let me just share this. I mean, you get a job. Someone comes on that job, and on that given day, something comes up. You no longer are confined to what you were hired to do. They assign you to do that job, because it has to get done, so that’s a falsehood.
Q: I guess that’s – (off mike).
MS. NEUERBURG: That – I shouldn’t have – go ahead.
MR. CAMAROTA: Why don’t we go to another question? This gentleman’s had his hand up for a while.
Q: Well, one of the points that should be addressed here is that we do nothing to limit the number of people that come into the United States that come applying for a federal identification number so that they can become a employer of others. They can open up their own business in the United States as easily as they can go to someone and apply for a job. We see this in a lot of communities. Polish communities, for example, in south Jersey, they come in, and they have cleaning businesses, and they are the employer, and they employ other illegal aliens, so this is another thing. We do not simply employ low-wage workers.
I work for the immigration service and have for 23 years. Actually, I work for the United States people and the lawful citizens, lawful residents in this country, but we do adjustment of status. I have adjusted the status of a doctor who had lived illegally in the United States and practice medicine in the United States as a pediatrician, and he had been here for 20 years. So we don’t just simply adjust it for the landscaper and a gardener and for the maid. We have other people here opening this message, running successful businesses, and taking opportunity away from other people who are in the United States.
MR. CAMAROTA: Your comments are important, but did you have a question that you wanted to –
Q: My question is besides enforcement on work force or work site enforcement, who is doing enforcement in the citizenship and immigration services bureau? Since they have separated the enforcement, the entity out of citizenship and immigration services, there is no way there to apprehend the criminal aliens that are encountered, to arrest the people that we encounter who have orders of deportation against them, and we have several hundred thousand of those, and now CIS –
MR. CAMAROTA: The question was now that enforcement and immigration services have been separated, can – who’s doing enforcement within immigration services when they run into someone who’s obviously violated the laws and so forth since that separation has occurred. Anyone like to answer that?
MR. KNOCKE: Well, it’s kind of an awkward question. I appreciate it, but it’s kind of an awkward question, because a service is a service, and enforcement is enforcement. The quick answer is that there is more than daily communication and interaction with ICE. When the CIS adjudicator realizes that there is an enforcement-related issue in front of them, there’s a question at hand. They go to their – they go through the chain. They go to their supervisor. They – that supervisor immediately and oftentimes the – you know, our personnel are co-located throughout the field. That supervisor immediately reaches out to the appropriate personnel and ICE, and sometimes it adds – it is as simple as – you know, they’re in the middle of the interview and something pops up on the screen, they see something that’s problematic, they’re drilling down a little bit more, invite that individual for a cup of coffee, and meanwhile, someone from ICE comes over, and then it becomes their case, their issue. That’s how it works.
MS. NEUERBURG: There’s a backlog.
MR. KNOCKE: Well, there is a backlog, and I’d love to talk about it actually.
MR. CAMAROTA: You mentioned something about it. That’s fine.
MR. KNOCKE: Yeah, yeah, no, absolutely. One of the – there have been a couple reports out, and then I think there was another one out yesterday talking – that Shawn mentioned, talking about how I think CIS received an F for efforts to tackle the backlog. And one of the things that I believe is frequently misunderstood about the backlog is just how do you define the backlog? The backlog is by definition, at least at CIS, the volume of applications pending that can’t be processed within the six-month window.
Anything after that is – and sometimes we’re precluded based upon immigration law, congressional mandate, whatever the case may be, from tackling certain benefits in a certain amount of time, so anything after that six-month threshold is the applications pending file, meaning that it can’t reasonably be processed within that window. That said, the – the number of applications pending is seven million, not the actual backlog. The actual backlog is right around 3.2 million applications right now. The commitment is to process all benefits by six months or less, across the board, by the end of September 2006. The president’s given us $100 million a year over five years to do that. In fact, for FY-’05, the budget proposal is to increase backlog-specific funding by 60 percent. The first year of CIS was all about national security, was making sure that we work well with the FBI, making sure that we work well with the other enforcement components, law enforcement and intelligence components, and the federal government.
In addition to that, whatever we could, we tried to pick off some customer service initiatives. I think you’d find in some of our key offices like New York, Miami, the lines are almost gone. I mean, sometimes they’re there a little bit in the morning, but they’ve pretty much disappeared, and that was one of the more problematic issues of legacy INS. Those lines have pretty much disappeared. With that, we’re addressing sort of backlog in customer service this year as best we can, so I’d be glad to talk more about backlog if people have questions.
MR. CAMAROTA: Go ahead. (Audio break, tape change.)
Q: (In progress) -- how did the backlog get so big? Did anybody see it coming? And do you think the ‘05 claim is sufficient to deal with it?
MS. NEUERBURG: No, it’s not. And how did it get so big? We don’t have enough employees to do the job and there are lines. Just yesterday, I had an employee call me from Miami and still depressed because they come to work and there’s a line starting at 2:00 a.m. in the morning, and that line never goes down. And they turn people away in L.A. because they have to leave by the end of the day. Did I answer your question?
Q: Well, with regards to that – how – how did it get so big? Did anybody see this coming? Any management decisions that might have impacted it? And Russ, feel free to jump in also.
MS. NEUERBURG: Well, let me just share with –
MR. CAMAROTA: Well, let me – can I restate the question? The question just has to do with the backlog and how did it get so big, whether a decision was made, did anyone see it coming.
MR. KNOCKE: It was – it was already here. The backlog didn’t appear overnight. It’s been around for years and it’s going to be around until September 2006.
MS. NEUERBURG: Let me –
MR. KNOCKE: The volume of applications continues to increase, but really, Ricardo, the way that we go about our business on the services side in the department is fundamentally different than it was on even September 10, 2001. Largely because of national security, there are background checks that take place on the front end of every single application that we process. That’s, you know, more than 7 million applications a year. There are also background checks in the middle of the process and sometimes – almost always at the end of – or just prior to adjudication of an immigration benefit. That means 35 million background checks a year. So that does slow – you know, that does certainly impact processing times, and we’re looking at process improvements to be able to remedy that. I’d be glad to talk with you more about some of those, but there are other issues like NSEERS and the adjudicators that had to go to process some of those functions. Those adjudicators are now back at CIS and they are in fact working to tackle the stack of applications that are in the in-box if you will.
I’m going to disagree with Brenda on the personnel side of things. We take a couple years to ramp up a new employee before they actually get to the point where they’re going to adjudicate. There’s a series of training and exercises that they go through before they’re turned loose. That said –
MR. CAMAROTA: Let him finish this.
MR. KNOCKE: That said, we can double the workforce tomorrow and it wouldn’t have the immediate impact necessary to – if the resources were there, to bring the backlog down by ’05 – you know, September ’06. So, yeah, I’ll be glad, Ricardo – I’ll plan to talk to you more about how we’re going to tackle it. Yes, or Steven –
MR. CAMAROTA: Brenda, did you want to say anything?
MS. NEUERBURG: Yeah, I’d like to say something. I mean – disagree with me. Let me – let me give you – you wanted to know did anyone see it – yeah, we saw it. Employees saw it. They were not empowered to share it – what they were empowered to share it with them but to no avail. You talk about NSEERS just started. It just started with CIS so that has no bearing on these lines that are still there. These lines have been there for years, that’s absolutely correct. And who saw it? The employees. And were they empowered to let them know? They’ve gone to their supervisors but, you know, what are they? They’re just mere employees. They’re doing their job. They don’t know.
MR. CAMAROTA: I think we’ll have one more question then our time is up. Go ahead, right here, please, ask your question.
Q: (Off mike) – pertains specifically to the transition and – are there lots of – lots of factions, lots of influences on the operations of the various government – I guess what I would like to know is specifically due to the transition – (inaudible) – or whether it’s the organization of alignment of CIS that’s outside of what the other two legacy INS components are – are their operational intents good or bad? (Inaudible.)
MR. CAMAROTA: Thank you very much for that question. Our last question is probably the best – you know, the question brings us back to our original discussion, though I think this whole discussion has been very fruitful. What impact has the reorganization itself had on the way the job’s getting done – essentially is the question? What specific things have you seen overall?
MR. BONNER: Well, I suppose the impact can best be measured in terms of what is different today and our effect on the problems that exist because the reason that we were created back in 1924 as the border patrol was to control illegal immigration. Illegal immigration is still very much out of control so, unfortunately, this grand plan of creating this huge bureaucracy did not have its intended effect. If it was supposed to enhance the sharing of information, that has not happened. If it was supposed to result in increased efficiencies so that we could stop illegal traffic at the border so that we could get a better handle on the illegal immigration problem within the interior, it has really had no effect. The tangible effect that it has had is to demoralize a workforce that was already very much demoralized, and so I think that we have in effect jumped from the frying pan into the fire.
We have made a bad situation worse with this combining of a number of different organizational cultures and, in the end, what have we really accomplished? The problems are just as acute as they were before they embarked on this transition and to those who say that, well, you know, anytime you undertake something like this it’s going to take five to 10 years for it to really gel and become effective, I would say we don’t have five to 10 years. We didn’t even have one day because September the 11th changed everything. We have to martial our resources in the most efficient and wise manner and these resources are people in the end. And to the extent that you create any type of system that discourages good people from stepping forward and serving their country, you have done a disservice. And I believe that that’s the final analysis, and that’s why I believe that this department receives a failing mark in all of its aspects. It has not accomplished what the American people were told that it would accomplish.
MR. ZELLER: I want to jump in to say I think T.J. makes a lot of good points and there’s certainly truth to that, but we should remember it’s been only a year. Some things are still being worked out – a lot of things still being worked out. And from – I don’t – of course not working at the agency, I can’t say things definitively, but from what I understand there has been some benefit to the transition that – particularly in the investigative side by enabling immigration investigators to work with customs investigators to share their investigative resources, expertise, databases; that, for example, when they came out with their top 10 list of criminal aliens, they were able to quickly capture 9 of them. When there was a horrible incident I think down in – it was down in Texas where a number of immigrants were being smuggled in -- they were found in the back of a truck dead – the ICE Bureau quickly was able to solve the crime and arrest people who were involved, and they said that the reason they were able to do that so quickly was because they were able to use some customs resources. That may be spin but there’s certainly been some positive things that have gone on as a result of the transition.
At the same time, you hear a lot of examples from T.J. and others at the agency that – that people – inspectors at the border need to be closely aligned with investigators, and by splitting those two into different divisions it makes life more difficult. That when they used to be under the same roof they could talk to each other. And at this point, most of the people still know each other, but over the – as the years pass perhaps that won’t be as easy. So there are, I think, two sides to that debate. Thanks.
MR. CAMAROTA: Anyone else? Brenda?
MS. NEUERBURG: Would you be so kind?
I’d just really like to say baby boomers – at this point we are inundated with the government with baby boomers. They’re on their way out be it for whatever reason. Whether it be the fact that they’re eligible for retirement; because of the new DHS ranks they’re going to leave. That takes experience out of the federal government. That experience is gone.
I’d like to embellish something that he said also and that is that when we were legacy INS, investigations could come over to exams and say listen I’ve got a question. Can you help me with this rather quickly? And that’s what they did. They could do that. Now, if they come over to INS – to an examiner first thing the supervisor or someone will say is we can’t do that. That’s not our job. You have to go over there. You’re ICE, this is CIS. How far have we come? I’ll leave that to you.
MR. KNOCKE: Well, just because it’s probably my last chance to say thanks, I again want to thank the Center for hosting this panel. I think it’s been an important one, a good opportunity for me representing the department to get some feedback and to learn a little bit more about what some of your concerns are. I also want to thank my fellow panelists; while I’ve disagreed with them some, I certainly respect them and value their experience and professional expertise.
How about I give you a couple of numbers? Operation Predator has resulted in the arrest of more than 2,000 child sex predators nationwide. Economic security – more than 1,300 arrests, 700 – more than 700 indictments, more than 500 convictions and a seizure of $154 million in value since DHS was created. On the services side, we have a 1-800 number that each month our customers are invited to participate in a post-experience survey that consistently scores 80 percent customer satisfaction. The lines: that’s an example – looking for the lady from the GAO – but the reduction of the lines is another example of progress made as a result of just a short experience.
Backlog’s up, yes. We’re about to introduce to Congress a revised backlog reduction plan. It – echoing Shawn’s point, has only been a year but I think with the largest reorganization in the federal government since World War II what has been accomplished in a year is really quite remarkable. And so thank you all, again, and thank you, Steven.
MR. CAMAROTA: Well, I just want to thank you all for coming but I especially want to thank our panelists. I told you it would be an excellent panel and it certainly was. Again, it’s the Center for Immigration Studies and if you’re more interested in immigration you can always visit our website cis.org. Thank you again.