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Gov't Mulls Revamping INS, Shortening Visas
By Deborah W. Meyers
Migration Policy Institute
May 22, 2002
INS Reorganization Near Certain
The INS reorganization debate has heated up again. With last-minute White House support,
the House of Representatives in April voted overwhelmingly to replace the INS with two
bureaus located within the US Department of Justice.
An Associate Attorney General for Immigrant Affairs (AAGIA) would supervise the two bureaus. The Senate held a May hearing on a bill proposed by senators Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Sam Brownback (R-KS). That bill would create a new Agency for Immigration Affairs headed by a director with more authority and responsibility for developing and implementing immigration policy than either the present INS commissioner or AAGIA. Most recently, Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) and Representative Mac Thornberry (R-TX) have introduced Senate and House legislation aimed at creating a new Department of National Homeland Security and a National Office for Combating Terrorism, each claiming various pieces of the INS function.
Shorter Visa Duration Anticipated
In April, the US Department of Justice proposed limiting business and tourist visas
to 30 days unless a visitor can demonstrate the need for a visa of longer duration.
At present, visitor visas are valid for six months and business visas for three months. The US State Department issued over 7.1 million visas in 2000. In addition, more than twice that number of visitors enter the US each year under reciprocal visa-free agreements that the US maintains with other countries. In 2000, there were 29 such agreements.
In May, the US Department of Justice extended the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) of qualifying Hondurans and Nicaraguans until July 5, 2003. This will affect roughly 105,000 Hondurans and 5,300 Nicaraguans currently in the US on TPS.
Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act Becomes Law
President George W. Bush signed the Border Security and Visa Reform Act on May 14. The bill requires US government agencies to share their intelligence information with inspectors at ports-of-entry and in consulates abroad; creates more layers of security before individuals enter the United States; provides for more secure identification documentation for travel documents; establishes a system to better track foreign students and the entry and exit of foreigners; and obligates the government to study the feasibility of additional and deeper border cooperation with Canada and Mexico.
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