The Immigration and Naturalization Service is the latest branch to be charges with employment discrimination

More racial injustice in the Justice Department: the Immigration and Naturalization Service is the latest branch to be charges with employment discrimination

Joyce Jones

The Immigration and Naturalization Service is the latest branch to be charged with employment discrimination.

The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) is the latest Justice Department branch to be charged with racial discrimination by its employees. A group of agents in Los Angeles has filed a class action suit against INS. Also, several employees from INS headquarters in Washington, D.C., have turned to the congressional Committee on Government Operations, chaired by Congressional Black Caucus member John Conyers (D-Mich.), for assistance.

Following the dubious lead of its fellow agencies – the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms – INS has shown little inclination to diversify its workforce, and minorities are consistently denied opportunities to advance. Is it the good old boy network, ignorance or plain old-fashioned racism?

Harry A. Thomas, a 14-year veteran at INS, suspects it’s a bit of each. He believed his career was progressing nicely, until he became a grade 14 senior agent and eligible for senior executive positions. Suddenly, he couldn’t even get an interview. Over the past three years, he has applied for – and been denied – more than 80 domestic and international positions, despite an exemplary service record.

Thomas first sensed there was a problem when he couldn’t get an interview for the lateral position of chief border patrol agent. Much like a fraternity, the good old boy network begins at the border patrol academy, where senior managers traditionally begin their rise up the INS ranks. The border patrol has also historically been hostile to blacks, says Thomas, who served as a border patrol agent from 1975 to 1978. Of approximately 4,000 border patrol employees, only 38 are black. Thomas has filed three EEO complaints, a slow and egregious process, much like jumping into a lifeboat and then being shot at.

INS EEO Director Carolyn Hodge, who is also black, denies that a racially hostile climate exists at the agency. She attributes minority underrepresentation to a “lack of understanding” or to ignorance of EEO policies by senior management.

However, the charges have moved the INS to action. In addition to mandatory EEO training, by the end of the performance cycle in April 1995, managers will have to take specific steps to increase the number of minorities and women in their offices, says Hodge. Efforts are also being made to eliminate the voluminous backlog of EEO complaints and to shorten the review process, and INS has started a hotline so employees can report problems.

COPYRIGHT 1994 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.

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