Amid warnings that another terrorist attack is almost certain, Senator Charles Schumer is calling for the Immigration and Naturalization Service to assign additional agents immediately to New York. New information indicates staff shortages inside the INS pose a dangerous challenge to exposing suspected terrorists.
The New York Democrat says the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service must quickly expand the number of agents in New York to remain vigilant in the fight against terrorism.
He says he is pressing high-level INS officials to expand its staff, following a report published Monday in The New York Times.
Mr. Schumer says only 14 agents, an insufficient number, have been assigned to find and deport an estimated 1,200 illegal immigrants who came to the United States from countries where al-Qaeda has been active.
"This is about going after people who we have reason to believe could do us harm," he said. "And when there are people out there with links to terrorism, with links to al-Qaida, we can not just stop the bleeding with a Band-Aid. These are not ordinary times, we all know that. Just eight months have passed since September 11. The risk of another attack is high. And every day we ignore it the risk goes much higher."
Although the INS is in the process of restructuring the agency and increasing its staff, those changes are expected to take up to a year.
Mr. Schumer stresses New York can not wait that long for additional agents pursue immigrants who may have illegally obtained fraudulent documents and received security sensitive jobs.
"We have seen that New York is the prime target for terrorism," he said. "We have seen that we are a center for immigrants. That is great. Immigrants are great for New York and great for America. But it also means that people who want to do damage to us can come here and will come here and disguise themselves far more easily that in other places."
The INS has not commented on the new reports. But in the past its commissioner said the agency has few resources to enforce violations.
Senator Schumer says that although the United States is investing an enormous amount of money in the fight against terrorism, the nation must learn from past attacks and make the necessary changes in the INS immediately.