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Allegation Said Delaying Nomination for INS Post


WASHINGTON — Doris M. Meissner's nomination to head the beleaguered Immigration and Naturalization Service has been delayed while FBI agents check an allegation raised after President Clinton announced her selection two months ago, it was learned Friday.

The substance of the allegation or the threat it poses to her appointment could not be determined.

An FBI spokesman declined to confirm or deny that the bureau's special inquiry unit, which conducts background investigations, is still looking into the matter. But another government source said that the FBI is expected to complete its work soon.

Clinton, in a White House ceremony on June 18, said that Meissner, 51, would bring "a unique combination of management and policy experience" to the INS. "Her nomination signals my efforts to ensure that we meet the immigration challenges facing our nation and the world," he said.

Under most circumstances, Clinton would have followed up with a formal nomination more quickly--especially since the Administration has assigned a high priority to immigration--and her selection would have moved to the Senate Judiciary Committee for confirmation hearings.

Atty. Gen. Janet Reno, who was a strong advocate of Meissner, and Associate Atty. Gen. Webster Hubbell, who oversees the INS, both have said that solving immigration problems is a top priority for the Justice Department and expressed confidence in Meissner's ability to chart new courses for the troubled agency.

Reno, when asked Thursday why Meissner's nomination had not yet been sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee, said: "This is just a part of the whole process of getting the backgrounds done on all the U.S. attorneys, the federal judges and the various agencies, subsecretaries that are in the process. It is a very time-consuming process."

A source familiar with the allegation against Meissner said it did not involve the employment of domestic help--a reference to the employment of illegal immigrants for child care that forced corporate lawyer Zoe Baird to withdraw her nomination as Clinton's first choice to be attorney general.

At her regular weekly meeting with reporters, Reno was asked if a so-called "nanny" problem had developed for Meissner. "Not to my knowledge," she said.

Deputy Atty. Gen. Philip B. Heymann, asked Friday whether there was "a hitch" in the nomination, said that he would not discuss any possible "hitch."

Other sources said that the nomination had not gone to Capitol Hill because the FBI was still looking into the allegation.

Meissner did not return a reporter's calls Friday to her office at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, where she directs its immigration policy project.

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