Citing well-founded charges of discrimination, three powerful congressional committee chairmen have urged Immigration and Naturalization Service Commissioner Doris Meissner to settle a complaint alleging agencywide bias against African American officers.
"The INS should . . . move expeditiously toward recognition of the well-founded claims of federal employees for simple justice," the three congressmen wrote in a March 1 letter to Meissner.
The legislators urged Meissner to learn from the experience of the FBI, which last year settled similar discrimination claims on behalf of more than 400 black agents. Among other things, the bureau agreed to promote blacks to supervisory slots.
Urging the INS to settle were House Judiciary Chairman Jack Brooks (D-Tex.), John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), head of the Committee on Government Operations, and William L. Clay (D-Mo.), chairman of the Committee on Post Office and Civil Service.
The three committees oversee employment practices at the Justice Department, parent body of the INS and FBI. The department's many tasks include enforcement of laws banning discrimination.
Ralph Thomas, who directs congressional and public affairs for the INS, declined to comment on the legislators' request to Meissner.
The INS has not responded directly to the charges of discrimination, but agency officials have acknowledged disparities in representation of African Americans in management. Blacks account for more than 11% of the INS payroll, agency figures show, but they occupy fewer than 6% of the best-paying jobs.
Black INS officers have cited 14 years of alleged discrimination, including workplace harassment, imposition of unequal discipline and bias in determining promotions. The officers are seeking back pay, promotions, and wide-ranging reform of the agency's personnel policies.
The INS officers' complaint--which originated with black criminal investigators in the Los Angeles district--is pending before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, an independent federal body that investigates bias charges. An administrative law judge last month certified the matter as a class action, broadening it to include more than 500 INS employees and former workers nationwide.