The INS continued with its aggressive border control strategy of prevention through deterrence, increasing Border Patrol strength to record levels, boosting its effectiveness with state-of-the-art technologies, upgrading its fleet of vehicles and aircraft, and installing better fencing, lighting, and passive sensors in major border-crossing areas. With the focus on areas of highest border traffic, the strategy was applied most successfully in the following operations.
Staffing in the Border Patrol increased by 615 new agents to almost 4,900, including record high numbers of nearly 1,500 on duty in San Diego and almost 750 in El Paso. Over 40 support personnel were added to the Border Patrol during the year, with more than 60 expected to arrive early in 1996.
As a result of better enforcement, total apprehensions by the Border Patrol increased in 1995 to 1.27 million on the southern border, a 30 percent increase over the total in 1994.
Also, great progress was made in enforcement capabilities and effectiveness along the border by the infusion of new technologies to help INS agents work "smarter". For example:
Border enforcement was strengthened further by additional inspectors and other enhancements at land border ports of entry to prevent entry by people using fraudulent documents, by tougher prosecution policies to crack down on smugglers and other criminal aliens, and by the Department's successful defense of Administration decisions and immigration laws, that preserved the President's ability to effectively secure America's borders.
Early successes of ongoing pilot programs to facilitate and control the flow of traffic through U.S. ports of entry such as the INS Passenger Accelerated Service System (INSPASS) at selected airports and the Dedicated Commuter Lane (DCL) in Blaine, Washington, have led the INS to place more emphasis on reinventing the inspections process and speeding the flow of low-risk legal traffic through U.S. ports of entry.
Under a broad inspections initiative called the Port Passenger Accelerated Service System (PORTPASS), the INS opened new DCLs at Point Roberts, Washington, in October 1994 and in two locations at Detroit, Michigan, in March 1995. In addition, plans were completed for opening in 1996 the first DCL on the southern border at Otay Mesa, California, and the first Automated Permit Port at Scobey, Montana. The Automated Permit Port will introduce full automation for remote land border ports with limited hours of operation. PORTPASS facilitates the inspection process for low-risk land border crossers as INSPASS does for air travelers so that inspectors can devote more time to high-risk inspection activities.
Employer Sanctions and Document Fraud
The INS stepped up investigations of worksite violations in 1995, targeting industries that traditionally have relied on unauthorized labor and pursuing high impact cases against employers who knowingly violate the law. INS shifted the emphasis from general worksite inspections to lead-driven investigations, developed a National Targeting Plan to focus resources on particular industries, and launched pilot programs in New York and Los Angeles to go after repeat violators and major traffickers in fraudulent documents. The INS also carried out the following initiatives:
Overall, INS completed almost 5,800 employer sanction cases during the year; assessed fines totalling $10.4 million; collected more than $4.1 million in fines; and arrested over 14,200 unauthorized alien workers.
In addition, the Department aggressively pursued individuals that used and facilitated the production of fraudulent documents. Working with U.S. Attorneys and local law enforcement officers, INS investigators identified and brought to prosecution several fraud facilitators throughout the country during 1995. The INS Forensic Document Laboratory (FDL) provided invaluable support to INS agents and inspectors in detecting and successfully prosecuting cases of document fraud and employer sanctions violations. The FDL examined over 3,700 cases in support of document fraud prosecutions and trained over 2,400 foreign and domestic immigration, airline, and law enforcement personnel in the detection of fraudulent documents.
The INS investigators proceeded with an intensive international effort to identify, locate, and apprehend principals in major smuggling cases. Working in close coordination, District Offices in New York and Bangkok, Thailand, succeeded in tracking down many leads with the assistance of law enforcement agencies in their respective jurisdictions. As a further deterrent to smuggling, the INS continued with the repatriations of Chinese nationals who had been transported by smugglers in prior years, sending 106 persons back to the People's Republic of China on a special flight in February 1995.
In one particular case, the Department prosecuted and convicted numerous key members and associates of the Fuk Ching Gang, a violent Chinese organized crime group centered in New York City that was the primary group involved in smuggling illegal Chinese immigrants into the United States. The prosecutions, including charges of RICO, alien smuggling, extortion, murder, and kidnapping, took place in New York City, San Diego, Boston, Los Angeles, Newark, San Francisco, and Baltimore. The convictions have resulted in a reduction of aliens smuggled on boats from the Fujian Province in China.
Detention and Removal of Criminal Aliens
The detention of criminal aliens continued to be a major challenge to the Department. To help meet the need for detention space, INS relied on the assistance of other Federal, State, and local agencies. In addition to operating its own detention facilities, the INS was assisted by: the BOP which confines more than 1,700 INS detainees in BOP facilities; the USMS which, in support of Operation Gatekeeper, arranged for the use of approximately 400 local jail beds during 1995; and numerous State and local agencies.
The State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP), administered by the BJA, worked to reimburse States for the cost of incarcerating illegal aliens. Seven States (Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, and Texas) received a total of nearly $42.9 million early in 1995 as preliminary awards, from $130 million available for this program in 1995. BJA also awarded $1 million to the Florida Department of Corrections to continue implementation of the Criminal Alien Identification and Intervention Program, that will enable the earliest possible identification of aliens arrested for felony offenses through INS's Law Enforcement Support Center. The six States that have documented the largest alien populations in their correctional systems continue to serve as demonstration sites.
Reform of Asylum Policy and Procedure
The INS published its final rule on asylum reform in the Federal Register on December 5, 1994, with implementation on January 4, 1995. The new rules provide for an integrated processing system to grant meritorious claims within 60 days, refer non-granted claims directly to immigration judges, and withhold work authorization from asylum applicants until asylum is granted.
In addition to streamlining the asylum process, the INS recruited and trained approximately 100 additional officers to begin the process of doubling the Asylum Officer Corps. The efficiencies introduced have reduced the average case processing time more than 86 percent, from 477 days to 66 days.
With reforms in place, the asylum offices exceeded their goal of doubling their productivity by completing 110,000 cases in 1995, compared with 53,000 completed in 1994. As of May 1, all Asylum Offices were able to provide timely adjudication of all new applications filed under the asylum reform regulations.
For the year, application receipts rose slightly, from 146,000 to 150,000, but nearly half (48 percent) of them were filed under the settlement agreement reached in the American Baptist Churches (ABC) litigation. In 1994, only 14 percent of all receipts were ABC applications. Excluding the ABC cases, the number of asylum applications filed decreased about 40 percent. Nevertheless, the backlog of cases requiring adjudication increased about 8 percent to 457,670.
There appears to be a definite trend towards a decline in the number of asylum filings since January 4, 1995, an indication that asylum reform is already beginning to have a positive effect in reducing frivolous applications.
Improving the Hearings Process
In 1995, INS made major changes to the way hearing processes were conducted. There were significant changes in regulations, expansion and restructuring of the Board of Immigration Appeals, and implementation of several new initiatives and pilot projects.
The INS published final regulations for a new administrative deportation program that will enable INS district directors and sector chiefs to issue final deportation orders in certain serious criminal offender cases that do not require hearings before immigration judges. In anticipation of receiving necessary staffing and funding for this program in 1996, the INS also conducted formal nationwide training, disseminated new forms, and developed a manual incorporating quality control strategies for administrative deportation.
The Board of Immigration Appeals instituted significant changes in both its structure and procedures during 1995. The number of members serving on the Board expanded from five to 12, and was divided into four panels to deal with the intake, screening of new cases, current caseload, and elimination of the backlog. Another change made was the decision to handle the most recent incoming cases first. This results in a fairer, more efficient process and is expected to decrease the number of appeals filed solely for purposes of delay. These changes improved caseload management, accountability, and communication and enhanced overall production. In 1995, the Board completed nearly 12,500 cases.
In 1995, the Office of the Chief Immigration Judge (OCIJ) hired 63 new Immigration Judges and opened three new Immigration Courts in Atlanta, Georgia; Detroit, Michigan; and Hartford, Connecticut. The expansion was necessitated by the rapidly growing caseload confronting the Immigration Courts that includes both asylum and criminal alien cases.
After evaluating a pilot program to test video teleconferencing (VTC) of deportation hearings, the INS installed VTC equipment at seven sites. With VTC, immigration hearings can be held without requiring either the judges or the detained aliens to travel, allowing the process to be speedier, safer, and less costly.
The Port Courts were established as a joint effort by the U.S. Attorney's Office, EOIR, and INS to identify illegal and criminal aliens and prevent their entry into the United States through the various ports of entry in southern California. Aliens who commit crimes at the time of their attempted entry are subject to exclusion from the United States. The deferred prosecution program defers the criminal prosecution of these aliens and refers them to Immigration Court for exclusion proceedings. Generally, criminal aliens subject to Port Court proceedings are returned to Mexico pending their court appearance. Those who fail to appear at their hearing usually receive an in absentia order of removal. Since its inception in July 1995, Port Court has resulted in approximately 3,652 exclusion orders.
INS and the Office of the Chief Immigration Judge (OCIJ) conducted a Night Court pilot project in which aliens released from jail in the early morning hours were turned over to INS for administrative processing, followed by the filing of an Immigration Court charging document in early afternoon. The hearing was then held that night. The pilot project was so successful that it has continued as a permanent fixture in Los Angeles. During the period of the pilot program, OCIJ completed 93 percent of the cases filed within 24 hours of the aliens' release from incarceration.
Coordination With Other Agencies in Responding to Immigration Emergencies
The Department made the first-ever payment from the Immigration Emergency Fund on August 15, 1995, to Monroe County, Florida. The County received a check for $96,829 to cover costs associated with the influx of Cuban migrants one year earlier. The Immigration Emergency Fund was first established by Congress in 1986, then increased by subsequent appropriations from $35 million in 1989 to $111.6 million in 1995 as a contingency against potential expenses arising from" an immigration emergency.
CRS provided resettlement assistance to 22,343 Cubans and 401 Haitians paroled into the United States by INS from safe havens at the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; Jamaica; and Panama. Throughout 1995, CRS worked to defuse tensions among Cuban and Haitian migrants in the camps at the Guantanamo Naval Base in Cuba and provided education, health, and recreation services to those detained at the base. CRS also assisted INS by providing shelter to unaccompanied Chinese minors who were smuggled into the country aboard freighters, and continued to provide shelter and family reunification services to unaccompanied minors from Central America who were apprehended by the INS in South Texas.
Go to Chapter 4