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03.07.2002

WHEN THE DATABASE WITH NAMES OF SUSPECTED TERRORISTS GOES DOWN AT AIRPORTS, THE I.N.S. STILL PROCESSES ALIENS -- "60 MINUTES" SUNDAY, MARCH 10

Former Deputy Attorney General and Authorities Say The I.N.S. Is Dangerously Inadequate

A veteran Immigration and Naturalization Service (I.N.S.) inspector tells Steve Kroft that when a database containing the names of suspected terrorists and known criminals goes down -- a routine occurrence, he says -- supervisors at Miami's airport order him to keep processing aliens even though they can't be checked with the list. Several other I.N.S. inspectors confirmed his claims. This is just one of the many dangerous problems a former deputy attorney general of the U.S. and other authorities say plague the I.N.S. -- a crucial part of the nation's first line of defense against foreign terrorists. Kroft's report will be broadcast on 60 MINUTES, Sunday, March 10 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.

Even though the watch-list database is down, his supervisors tell him, "Let's keep processing them and keep going," says I.N.S. inspector Stanley Mungaray. Mungaray adds that the database goes down "at least" once or twice a week, that it has happened since Sept. 11 and there is no back-up system. "We don't know who we're admitting...if the person is a criminal...on the [terrorist] watch list," says Mungaray.

Once foreigners are in the U.S., the I.N.S. has no reliable system to track their whereabouts or compel them to leave when their visas expire. Recently it sent agents to find 314, 000 foreigners -- 6,000 of whom are from countries identified as al Qaeda strongholds -- who were asked to leave voluntarily and never did. "There are many things they have done very poorly for a variety of reasons," says George Terwilliger, a former deputy attorney general of the U.S. "You'd have to say that the agency just doesn't function at the level that's necessary to do its job."

Other computer problems hinder the I.N.S.' ability to protect the U.S. from dangerous visitors. Convicted serial killer Raphael Resendez-Ramirez' name was entered seven times into a computer database the Border Patrol, part of the I.N.S., uses to track people who cross the border illegally. Each time he was let go, even though the FBI wanted him for murder. This is frustrating for Rep. Elton Gallegly (R., Calif.), a senior member of the House Immigration and Claims Subcommittee. "He was in custody seven times and was found guilty of committing four murders after the seventh time he had been released," says Gallegly. "We have increased the budget for I.N.S. over the last eight years 250 percent and it's less functional than it was eight years ago." Even more frustrating for Gallegly was another incident, in which the Border Patrol refused to pick up a foreigner trying to gain access to a U.S. Naval base using fake identification. Gallegly questioned the I.N.S., only to learn that it was standard policy: "And I said...'If you can't protect the integrity of a military installation from people using fraudulent documents...what can you protect?'"