The INS, part of the Department of Justice, has the primary responsibility for the enforcement of U.S. immigration law; the Bureau of Consular Affairs of the Department of State plays an important supplementary role. In this chapter we look at the role of each agency and examine not only the effectiveness of immigration-law enforcement in the manner in which it is currently being conducted but also the side effects of that enforcement. We also discuss to what extent prior illegal immigration helps an individual become a legal immigrant and the extent to which policies designed to mitigate hardships for undocumented immigrants encourage further illegal immigration.
The Bureau of Consular Affairs is charged with guaranteeing that no person is granted the privilege of a visa for permanent residence in the United States unless that person is fully qualified under the law. Many persons who enter the United States on a temporary visa, such as a tourist visa, abuse that visa, overstaying the time they are legally allowed; a number of these visa abusers desire to remain in the United States more or less permanently. The Bureau of Consular Affairs is also charged to minimize such abuse by denying temporary visas to persons likely to take advantage of the privileges afforded by a temporary visa to remain and work in the United States illegally. To this end an official of the Bureau of Consular Affairs must interview each applicant for a nonimmigrant visa.
How well does the bureau perform its duties? Perhaps the most comprehensive survey of this question has been attempted by New York Times reporter John Crewdson in his 1983 book The Tarnished Door. Crewdson examines the whole problem of enforcement of immigration law by both the INS and the Bureau of Consular Affairs. Crewdson's report on the work of the Bureau of Consular Affairs is startling to anyone who takes for granted the consular officials' conscientious performance of duty.1 Crewdson focuses his attention on the tremendous pressures consular officials are under to grant temporary visas to visit the United