INS to hire 8,000 new employees in five months, 12,000 by October 2003

Saturday, April 20th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) _ Six months after Congress authorized tripling the number of federal agents on the northern border, the Immigration and Naturalization Service is launching its biggest hiring push ever.

By the end of September, the INS hopes to have 8,000 new employees, with 6,000 headed to work on the borders. By September 2003 the INS hopes to hire an additional 4,000 people.

The new employees will increase the INS work force by about a third, to 49,000.

Most of the new employees will end up working on the northern border, approximately doubling the number of Border Patrol and immigration inspectors there.

``We are looking forward to increased manpower and other resources up here,'' said Chuck Foss, a spokesman for the U.S. Border Patrol in Swanton, which oversees a 211-mile stretch of border in upstate New York, Vermont and New Hampshire.

Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the Border Patrol, which is part of the INS, has helped increase its presence along the frontier by working longer hours and getting help from agents temporarily assigned from the Mexican border.

Currently there are about 345 Border Patrol agents patrolling the 4,000-mile U.S.-Canadian border. Foss said plans call for hiring about 245 new Border Patrol agents this year.

``We'll take anything they give us,'' Foss said.

U.S. Customs, which is separate from INS, is also in the midst of a hiring push, though on a lesser scale than the INS.

The new hires will go a long way toward easing the staffing shortages caused by the heightened security imposed after the Sept. 11 attacks. Some border officers have been working regular 12- and 14-hour days.

Once complete, the new hires should eliminate the need for the 1,700 National Guard soldiers who are assisting INS and Customs agents on both the Canadian and Mexican borders, officials said.

But the hiring falls short of tripling the number of INS and Customs agents along the northern border that was authorized last year by Congress in the wake of Sept. 11.

Any staffing increases above the current number will have to paid for in later congressional appropriations.

The INS is hiring for a range of jobs, including uniformed Border Patrol agents, clerical staff and workers to oversee the deportation process, said INS spokesman Temple Black.

U.S. Customs, meanwhile, is in the process of hiring about 1,200 inspectors for major U.S. seaports and the Canadian border, said Customs spokesman Jim Michie.

``That's the first increment,'' said Michie. ``Future hiring depends on the fiscal 2003 budget.''

Federal law enforcement duties along the border are shared by the INS, which is responsible for the people who cross the border, and U.S. Customs, which is primarily responsible for goods that enter and leave the country.

In the aftermath of Sept. 11, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, helped write an anti-terrorism bill that authorized INS and Customs to triple their staffing levels on the northern border. But the law, passed in October, did not include funding for those positions.

The $445 million for the new hires and technology upgrades on the northern and southern borders was contained in a supplemental spending bill passed by Congress in December and signed by President Bush in January.

Craig Jehle, the Customs port director for northwestern Vermont, said he expected to receive between 25 and 30 new employees by the end of the year. The border crossings he supervises currently have about 50 Customs employees.