On March 1, the Immigration and Naturalization Service will officially cease to exist. But the same disastrous mix of political correctness and political cronyism that plagued INS will preside over the new "customer service" branch of the old agency.
Case in point: President Bush has nominated banker Eduardo Aguirre to head the Department of Homeland Security's Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Rank-and-file employees from New York to Arizona—many of them loyal but dispirited Bush supporters—are livid at the prospect of another clueless financier taking over the reins.
So much for boosting post-September 11 morale.
Aguirre will oversee the administration of all immigration benefits, from citizenship applications to asylum requests to work permits. He will be in charge of preventing any more terrorists from exploiting amnesty, student visas, marriage, "adjustment of status" delays, and other processing backlogs—as dozens of al Qaeda operatives, including the September 11 hijackers, have done over the past decade. And he will be counted on to stamp out an entrenched cover-your-rear culture based on the self-serving motto: "Big cases, big problems, small cases, small problems, no cases, no problems."
So, who is Aguirre? What makes him qualified to hold this important position? Like President Bush's failed former INS chief and Paine Webber executive James Ziglar, Aguirre is a politically-connected banker with zero experience in immigration law.
To compensate for his alarming lack of professional experience, the White House is touting Aguirre's personal history. It is indeed a compelling story. As a teen-ager, Aguirre was airlifted out of Cuba under Operation Pedro Pan. Between 1960 and 1962, some 14,000 children were sent to America unaccompanied by their parents to escape Fidel Castro's fledgling Communist dictatorship. Aguirre became a naturalized American citizen and embarked on a successful career in banking in Houston.
An INS spokeswoman who declined to be named told me enthusiastically that Aguirre "is a living product of our immigration system." He may not have any experience studying or administering immigration law, the spokeswoman argued, "but he has lived it."
Well, so did the 13,999 other refugees who came here under Operation Pedro Pan. So, for that matter, have many millions of other people who have proudly become American citizens like Aguirre. That doesn't make them qualified to run a beleaguered immigration bureaucracy with 15,000 employees, a $2 billion budget, and an abysmal history of lax law enforcement.
Oh, but not to worry. The INS spokeswoman tells me the banker's management experience—24 years at Bank of America, two years at the Export-Import Bank, and a stint as a University of Houston regent under then-Gov. George W. Bush— will "inspire loyalty."
Moreover, she tells me, he's a "can-do guy" from the private sector who "won't be heavy-handed, you know, won't be firing people, not like on a control mission."
Just what we need in the new Homeland Security department: another bureaucrat who won't be cleaning house.
But not to worry. Aguirre understands the need to promote "multicultural richness. " ( Every biography of Aguirre notes that he was named "one of the 100 most influential Hispanics in the nation" by Hispanic Business magazine). He is "uniquely attuned to the Hispanic community" and is "sensitive" to the immigrant community.
Karl Rovean pander-strategizing aside, it would be more helpful to know what Aguirre's sensitivities are with regard to critical immigration enforcement issues.
What does he think of the matricula consular card—an insecure identification document for illegal immigrants being pushed by the Mexican government, House Democrat Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and Aguirre's colleagues in the banking industry?
And how, exactly, will Aguirre turn around the quantity-over-quality mindset among adjudicators processing citizenship applications—a mindset that led to the reckless granting of American citizenship to thousands of criminal aliens under Clinton-Gore and the inexplicable naturalization of at least one known Hezbollah terrorist after September 11?
Unfortunately, Aguirre can't speak for himself due to "Senate protocol." But not to worry. After his nomination is approved, the INS spokeswoman promised me, he'll be happy to tell us what he knows and where he stands.
Michelle Malkin [email her] is author of Invasion: How America Still Welcomes Terrorists, Criminals, and Other Foreign Menaces to Our Shores. Click here for Peter Brimelow's review. Click here for Michelle Malkin's website.
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