INS crackdown yields
few foreign fugitives

By Paul Sperry

WASHINGTON – The Immigration and Naturalization Service has rounded up fewer than 900 foreign fugitives from an estimated pool of 314,000 since announcing a post-Sept. 11 crackdown on aliens who have ignored deportation orders, the most recent data reveal.

INS Commissioner James W. Ziglar in December vowed to locate, apprehend and remove the so-called “absconders” who have violated U.S. immigration laws. Before last year’s terrorist attacks, the government did not pursue most foreign nationals who ignored orders to leave the country.

But progress has been slow.

According to INS spokeswoman Nancy Cohen, just 895 fugitives have been picked up by authorities over the past nine months. That’s up from 806 in July.

Cohen refused to say how many fugitives are in jail or how many, if any, actually have been kicked out of the country. She says she is under strict orders not to release that information to the public.

“The only information that I can provide is the number of apprehensions,” Cohen insisted in a WorldNetDaily interview.

An investigator in INS’ Alien Criminal Apprehension Program told WorldNetDaily that headquarters still is not serious about cracking down on absconders.

He says investigators continue to be reminded to refer to such foreign criminals as “customers.”

“The INS continues to try to apply a customer-service model to its law-enforcement functions,” said the investigator, whose territory includes one of the largest Middle Eastern immigrant communities in the nation.

He also says the INS is woefully understaffed to carry out the crackdown. There are fewer than 2,000 special agents nationwide to conduct all interior enforcement operations.

“We have added no significant number of special agents,” said the INS investigator, who requested anonymity for fear of punishment from his INS superiors.

To be fair, Ziglar has said it would take at least a year just to enter the names of the 314,000 fugitives into a national FBI criminal database so police can help track them.

And the Justice Department, which oversees INS, has said that it is prioritizing the list of fugitives to focus first on those who pose a terrorist threat to the U.S.

“This initiative begins by focusing on fewer than a thousand individuals – many of whom appear to be convicted felons – from countries in which there has been an active al-Qaida presence and activity,” according to a Justice statement released Feb. 8.

“The objective is to locate, apprehend, interview and deport these fugitives,” it said.

However, more than 6,000 of the 314,000 foreign fugitives identified are from the Middle East, Cohen says.

She declined to say how many of the 895 rounded up so far are from the Middle East.

The 6,000 Middle Eastern absconders went into hiding after getting deportation orders. They are among the 150,000, or about 10 percent, of Middle Eastern immigrants the INS last estimated to be undocumented immigrants living in the U.S., according to the Center for Immigration Studies. Some 41,000 of them are from Pakistan, the terrorist mecca of the world.

Three of the 19 Islamic hijackers were living in the U.S. illegally, having overstayed their State Department visas.

The INS last estimated that 3 million, or more than 40 percent, of the estimated 7 million illegal aliens in the U.S. were persons who arrived on temporary visas – such as tourists or students – and never went home.

INS is trying to curb the number of high-risk visa violators through a new program called NSEERS, which will register and track certain Middle Eastern nationals visiting the U.S. on visas.

But agents fear it’s getting off to a rocky start, as well.

Ziglar, the target of harsh criticism, recently announced he will resign from his $130,000 job by the end of the year. A boyhood friend of Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., he came to the INS from the Senate, where he served as sergeant at arms.

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