Expertise at the INS

DORIS MEISSNER, President Clinton's nominee to serve as commissioner of the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), won't take over her new job until sometime this fall.

The daughter of immigrants, she has made immigration policy a career, in both government and the private sector. Starting as a White House fellow working in the Department of Justice, Ms. Meissner later served as acting commissioner of the INS, in 1981, and as executive associate commissioner from 1982 to 1985.

She will leave her nongovernmental post as director of the Immigration Policy Project of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace to take charge at the much-beleaguered INS.

Meissner will be working with another woman who has become nationally prominent in recent months: United States Attorney General Janet Reno, who has been forthrightly critical of the handling of illegal aliens at the federal level.

Mr. Clinton has indicated that Meissner will be responsible for ensuring that Americans don't "lose control" of their borders.

Her concept of the challenge she is taking on, articulated in recent interviews, is global. She has said that the surge of immigrants into the US and other relatively prosperous countries has to be handled, not just after they arrive, but at their points of departure. Poor and overcrowded nations have to be shown how to improve matters at home, not ship their population problems abroad.

Last week, after Clinton called for revisions in the much-abused process for granting political asylum, the INS disclosed a number of steps being contemplated that would change the process for aliens seeking such asylum. Among them: requiring applicants to wait until their cases are decided before obtaining work papers, restricting the amount of time for applying for such papers, and - perhaps more significant and controversial - returning immigrants to "safe" countries through which they have passed on the way to the US.

The virtually open Southwestern US borders admit some 1 million illegals each year, and it is estimated that up to 500,000 stay in this country. Illegals who are not apprehended within a short time of their arrival are apt to stay. Meissner, Ms. Reno, and other immigration officials need moral and practical support from Americans.

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