WASHINGTON (AP) -- Congress should not split up the Immigration and Naturalization Service when including the embattled agency in a new Homeland Security Department, the Bush administration said Wednesday.
"To make the system work, the right hand of enforcement must know what the left hand of visa application and processing is doing at all times," the president's homeland security adviser, Tom Ridge, told the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The House in April voted to break up the INS into separate agencies dealing with border enforcement and new citizenship. That vote came before the White House effort to move the entire agency into the proposed Cabinet-level department.
Some lawmakers said it sends the wrong message to combine the job of processing legitimate immigrant visas with that of border control in the new department.
"Better to have a comprehensive approach and one agency over which there is controlling legal authority rather than dividing the responsibility between two or more Cabinet agencies," Ridge said.
Other agencies being transferred have different missions that have nothing to do with homeland security, such as the Coast Guard's work with marine fisheries and boating safety. Ridge said the administration wants to keep all of those agencies intact.
"To try to segregate and separate them would not guarantee the kind of reform and improvement we would all seek," he said.
Ridge said the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and other agencies should remain where they are. Although they do have some anti-terrorism duties, "their primary mission seems to be outside that venue," Ridge said.
He expressed confidence in changes at the FBI and CIA, investigative agencies that are to remain independent from the new department despite criticism they failed to provide any warning before the Sept. 11 attacks.
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