Good riddance to James Ziglar, the hopeless head of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) who announced his resignation last week.
This is a man whose main qualifications for the nation's top immigration enforcement job were his boyhood friendship with Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott and his effortless ability to suck up to Sen. Ted Kennedy.
This is a man whose law enforcement background consisted of less than three years as the U.S. Senate's sergeant-at-arms and doorkeeper, protecting the Senate gavel and playing Senate hall monitor.
This is a man who freely admitted before his confirmation that he had "no discernible experience in immigration law and policy."
This is a man whose idea of increasing U.S.-Mexican border security was to give his beleaguered agents pepperball guns, and whose idea of leadership was to openly assure millions of illegal aliens earlier this spring that it is "not practical or reasonable" to deport them.
Everyone knows the INS lacks the proper resources and manpower to do its job. But good grief, did we really need the nation's top immigration officer using his megaphone to advertise his own cluelessness and question the reasonableness of the laws he was supposed to enforce?
But let's not be too hard on Ziglar. He didn't seek out the job. It was his elbow-rubbing pals who promoted his nomination, and it was President Bush who ultimately put him in power.
Administration insiders are saying Ziglar wasn't pushed out. But when his impending departure is coupled with the recent "retirement" of the State Department's Consular Affairs chief, Mary Ryan -- she was sacked after intrepid National Review reporter Joel Mowbray relentlessly blew the whistle on her office's terrorist-friendly visa policies -- it seems on the surface that the Bush administration is finally getting rid of the pre-September 11 furniture and updating the bureaucratic front offices for the War on Terror.
Whether or not the INS gets folded into the proposed Homeland Security Department, it needs top executives who understand that immigration in the post-September 11 era must be treated first and foremost as a national security issue -- not as a politically correct entitlement, not as a social engineering experiment, not as a diplomatic tool, and not as a cash cow.
The agency needs someone with:
. . . the dedication of Detroit-based Border Patrol officers Mark Hall and Robert Lindemann, who guard the northern border and, at risk of their own jobs, offered prescient warnings to Congress about the threat of terrorists and other criminal aliens exploiting lax immigration enforcement;
. . . the guts of Neil Jacobs, the former assistant director of investigations at INS's Dallas office, who suffered retaliation for helping expose the Clinton-Gore administration's corruption of the naturalization process;
. . . the foresight of Mary Schneider, a 20-year veteran of the INS in Orlando who warned a deaf Justice Department years before the September 11 attacks that aliens connected to Osama bin Laden were operating in Florida and illegally gaining residence;
. . . the wisdom of Bill King, a retired senior Border Patrol agent who knows the perils of granting mass amnesty to illegal aliens after having administered the 1986 amnesty program for the INS Western region;
. . . and the administrative experience of Peter Nunez, a former U.S. attorney for San Diego who served under President Reagan and was assistant secretary of the Treasury for Enforcement in the first Bush administration, acting as liaison on border issues between the INS, the U.S. Customs Service and the Drug Enforcement Agency.
In short, Ziglar's replacement should be someone from the enforcement side of the trenches. Someone who has led by example and who will send a message to INS employees that their jobs -- patrolling the border, tracking down immigration outlaws and kicking them out of the country -- are not only "practical" and "reasonable," but more important than ever during the War on Terror.
Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, warns wisely that perhaps we shouldn't hope too much: "After all, the State Department has nominated a clone to succeed Mary Ryan, and an important member of Ziglar's team remains dangerously in place: INS policy director Stuart Anderson, a libertarian ideologue who has crusaded tirelessly for years, in and out of government, for open borders."
Please, President Bush, another soft-on-crime Beltway back-slapper won't do.