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Bid to 'Fool' Congress Leads INS to Clean House

In the aftermath of an 11-month inquiry into an alleged scheme to dupe a visiting congressional panel, the Miami office of the US Immigration and Naturalization Service is undergoing a top-level shakeup.

Walter Cadman, who had been district director in Miami since 1993, will be recalled to INS headquarters in Washington and assigned to nonsupervisory duties. "Cadman is the subject of a criminal inquiry for lying to the Justice Department's inspector general," says an immigration official in Miami.

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As the Monitor was first to report last July, and as has now been confirmed by a just-completed Justice Department investigation, senior INS managers released detainees, including some with criminal records, just before a visit last summer by a group of House members. The Justice Department's inspector general concluded in a report that the INS managers, including Mr. Cadman, were trying to deceive members of Congress about overcrowding and security problems at the INS's Miami operations.

The members of the Congressional Task Force on Immigration Reform visited the Krome Federal Detention Center in Miami to help gather information for a report for House Speaker Newt Gingrich. But in the 48 hours before the congressmen arrived, according to the inspector general's report, INS officials transferred or released 149 illegal aliens - 40 percent of Krome's total population.

In addition, the investigation found several problems with the agency's inspection operations at Miami airport. The inquiry found that, in advance of the congressional visit, senior INS managers:

*Cleared holding cells of all undocumented aliens except known criminals.

*Nearly doubled the usual number of inspectors.

*Opened 29 of the agency's 36 inspection booths, as compared with the 18 booths normally used.

"This was done to create an appearance of efficiency and eliminate the usual long line of passengers awaiting inspection," says Rep. Elton Gallegly (R) of California, head of the Congressional Task Force. "I still have a difficult time figuring out why they would want to paint a rosy picture."

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During the June 1995 visit, led by INS commissioner Doris Meissner, the seven Congress members saw the agency's inspection and detention operations running like a well-oiled machine. But two days later, 50 INS workers faxed a letter to Mr. Gallegly, charging that they were forced to "purposefully and actively" deceive the Task Force.

The Justice Department's inspector general, Michael R. Bromwich, also found that top managers at the agency's district office in Miami and its Eastern Regional office in Burlington, Vt., had "obstructed the inquiry, lied to investigators, and destroyed incriminating electronic-mail messages." He said in the report's executive summary that he would "refer the findings to the Justice Department for disciplinary action and possible criminal prosecution."

Asked whether INS commissioner Meissner knew of the deception, one of the INS workers in Miami says, "If she didn't know, she should have known."

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