Letters for November 1, 2001

Jorge's surrogate strikes back, Bob's a beacon

Jorge's surrogate strikes back:In regard to Jim Gaines' October 25 article "Potemkin Lawyer," I feel that there was a total lack of accurate information and valid sources in his attempt to defame Jorge Fernandez. Trying to be a hero in "uncovering" something that has already been resolved is, in my opinion, pointless. The use of information, references, sources, and the overall writing ability shown in his article makes for good creative writing rather than an accurate, informational, newsworthy piece.

Liana Cabrera
Pinecrest

Bob's a beacon... :Bob Norman's October 18 article "Admitting Terror" is an example of what great journalism is all about. Norman has shone a bright light on a corrupt federal agency and a failed and dangerous immigration policy that few Americans would ever suspect exists. It is time for heads to roll at the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Larry Brown
Riverside, CA

... or maybe a buzzsaw:Well done! The first question I asked myself after the tragic events on September 11 was: How did these people even enter the United States? I guess that we know "how" now. I hope that it will have a strong positive impact on the work of the INS.

Anton Oleinik
Boca Raton

... or maybe a bum:As the senior manager of the INS Florida District responsible for media matters, I am deeply troubled by the manner in which your organization represented information in "Admitting Terror."

I found the article to be misleading and inaccurate, based exclusively on the views and opinions of employees who, at best, were not in positions to provide an encompassing or authoritative view of INS operations, policies, and procedures. You provided partial information, and as a result, your article was misleading to the extreme.

I do not question the media's right to seek information or investigate situations to determine and subsequently report facts. After all, is that not the aim of responsible journalism? I think you will agree with me that indeed it is. Unfortunately New Times missed the mark in this latest endeavor.

I refer you and your readers to the portion of the article that states in part, "INS officials, meanwhile, are quiet on the issue. The agency's spokespeople said none would agree to be interviewed for this article.... INS spokeswoman Kimberly Weissman declined to comment on specific New Times findings...." Actually a Florida District public information officer did speak with reporter Bob Norman at length about the specific issues in your article. Sadly, none of that information was presented to your readers. That causes me to question the true intent of New Times' efforts.

Anyone making the assertion that we carry out our responsibilities in a perfunctory fashion is misinformed. Let me be perfectly clear about INS operations within the Florida District: We enforce the immigration laws of this country in a competent and fair manner. We did so in fiscal 2001 to the tune of more than 60,000 enforcement actions at our ports of entry throughout Florida and the Bahamas. That is 60,000-plus people who were found to be inadmissible to the United States for a variety of reasons.

Those cases were detected and completed by a corps of highly trained, intelligent, and dedicated professional immigration officers. They did their jobs well, and they continue to do so today, as they will tomorrow. Those in this business who are successful have shown the ability to 1) perform their law enforcement responsibilities and 2) accommodate the traveling public. Addressing one does not require sacrifice of the other. Performing both is the hallmark of professional law enforcement at a port of entry. The vast majority of the men and women at our ports of entry are professionals. Let there be no mistake, we are extremely proud of each and every one of them.

Officers who have proven incapable of performing at the level of a professional have left the INS. I imagine there will be a few others who ultimately realize that the badge does not make the person. What they will not realize, however, is that the person makes the badge. They will leave the INS with a bad taste in their mouths, and they will make the cover of publications such as yours.

It is truly unfortunate that your article did not include the responses we provided to your reporter. Your readership would have been more informed and aware of the facts related to the issues you chose to highlight. As a member of the community who reads the various offerings available to us, I will take that into consideration the next time I pick up a copy of New Times. As the senior manager of this INS district's public affairs division, I will think long and hard about the extent, if any, of our future dealings with New Times.

John C. Shewairy, Chief of Staff
Immigration and Naturalization Service,
Florida District

Miami

Bob Norman responds: There isn't much to respond to here -- the letter makes no mention of any specific inaccuracies. When it comes to the credibility of my sources, I can say only that the article was based on interviews with numerous INS inspectors and supervisors, some with more than ten years' experience. As to the charge that I failed to include all of Ms. Weissman's comments, I stand by the fact that she and other INS spokespersons declined to discuss the details of my findings, including the wrongful entry of Mohamed Atta into the United States and the proof that INS supervisors ordered inspectors not to enforce certain laws at the airport.

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