[Hpn] INS woes!

William Tinker wtinker@fcgnetworks.net
Tue, 29 Aug 2000 09:00:43 -0400


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 10:38 PM ET 08/28/00
 
 Oregon INS Director Under Fire
 
  By LANDON HALL
 Associated Press Writer
    PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) _ Federal immigration inspectors in Oregon
 lost some of their authority Monday in the wake of a furor over the
 strip-search and jailing of a Chinese businesswoman.
    Immigration and Naturalization Service Regional Director Johnny
 Williams also promised an immediate review of incidents involving
 Asian travelers detained at Portland International Airport.
    Both Williams and Oregon INS Director David Beebe faced an angry
 group of elected officials who have called for Beebe's resignation
 because of the treatment last week of 36-year-old Guo Liming. She
 was ordered to strip to her underwear, and then jailed, after
 inspectors incorrectly thought her passport might have been
 altered.
    Politicians said the hourlong meeting was constructive. But they
 insisted that fixing problems at the airport _ and repairing
 Oregon's damaged reputation _ must include Beebe's dismissal.
    Sen. Slade Gorton, R-Wash., called Oregon's INS department a
 ``rogue unit'' and characterized the behavior of inspectors as
 ``thuggish.''
    Williams called the description too harsh.
    ``I stop short of saying we have 'thuggish' behavior,'' he said.
 ``But I want to look at the entire operation at the Port.''
    Williams said he would implement some changes right away.
    Portland INS inspectors must now get regional approval before
 detaining travelers or conducting strip-searches, which are rare
 anyway. Inspectors and supervisors also at the airport must get
 training in cultural sensitivity and communication skills.
    Travelers rejected by INS inspectors in Portland have sometimes
 been jailed until a flight to their homeland became available _
 generating negative press in foreign countries and earning the city
 the nickname ``Deportland'' in some Asian countries.
    Elected officials and business leaders, mostly from Oregon's
 high-tech industry, worry that the incidents are an embarrassment
 for the city, and have tarnished its standing as a hub for Pacific
 Rim commerce and tourism.
    INS officials recently have made some changes, including putting
 up rejected travelers in hotel rooms instead of jail cells if a
 return flight could not be booked.
    But the controversy erupted again last week following reports of
 Guo's treatment. After being ordered to strip to her underwear, she
 was jailed for two nights. Her business partner and fiance had to
 hire a lawyer before finding out where she'd been taken.
    Guo was released after officials determined her tattered
 passport was valid. Beebe sent a letter of apology to the woman's
 lawyer and indicated that the inspectors did not follow established
 procedure.
    Beebe, 55, has been Oregon's top INS officer since 1988.


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