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-Sept. 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 Sept.
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
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
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 Rovian pander-strategizing aside, it would be more helpful
to know what Aguirre's sensitivities are with regard to critical immigration
What, for example, will he do to combat rampant immigration
benefit fraud, such as asylum and marriage fraud by individuals from
terror-sponsoring and terror-friendly nations?
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
Unfortunately, Aguirre can't speak for himself due to "Senate
protocol." But not to worry. After his nomination is approved, the
spokeswoman promised me, he'll be happy to tell us what he knows and where