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Agents Quitting; INS 150 Below Strength

August 18, 1986

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ The Immigration and Naturalization Service is 150 agents below strength nationwide as trained investigators quit, many to take jobs elsewhere in government, an INS spokesman said Monday.

Verne Jervis, spokesman for the INS in Washington, said that currently there are about 700 investigators on duty nationwide.

″We are funded now for about 850 (investigators), so we’re down about 150 for our funding authorization,″ Jervis said in a telephone interview.

″They’re bailing out like mad all over the place,″ said G. Alan Ferguson, western region vice president of the National Immigration and Naturalization Service Council, the union for many INS employees.

In Los Angeles, only 45 agents remain to cover a seven-county region where there were 130 as recently as five years ago. Twelve new agents will be hired soon, the first replacements for departing agents in 30 months, according to deputy district director Joe Thomas.

The number of agents nationwide has declined from about 1,100 in the mid- 1970s because, said Jervis, ″During the Carter administration, we did have some rather severe budget cuts in that area. That’s the primary reason.″

Many have quit out of frustration, feeling ineffective in part because of INS concentration on workplace raids, said agent Donald McDole, president of the Los Angeles local of the union.

Agents feel the raids are conducted because the large number of illegals caught attract publicity for the agency and boost statistics, he said.

INS Western Regional Commissioner Harold Ezell said the workplace raids are conducted because of complaints the agency cannot ignore. But he acknowledged the loss of agents is a problem.

Many agents join other federal law enforcement agencies, for example, the Drug Enforcement Agency or the FBI, McDole said.

″The troops are interested in working criminal stuff - document counterfeiting, alien smuggling, harboring aliens, things that will go to the U.S. attorney for prosecution,″ said Ron Ackerman, an agent who resigned in September to take a job with a private security firm.

″But there was very little time to get involved in a good prosecution case. The agency wasn’t interested in freeing you up,″ Ackerman said. ″It was extremely frustrating. The job satisfaction was down to zero.″

Jervis said many agents get better job opportunities with other agencies.

″They’re well trained and very desirable people. Most of them speak Spanish, and many investigators come out of the Border Patrol, so they are being offered better opportunities from other agencies like the DEA. They just plain make ’em an offer and raid us,″ promising more responsibility, pay and overtime.

Also, Jervis conceded ″there’s a degree of frustration among our enforcement personnel″ because an immigration reform bill ″has been languishing in Congress for five years now″ without passage.

″There are so many illegal aliens about, and they just can’t begin to deal with the problem,″ Jervis said.

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