If you’re about to graduate from college, you face some pretty important decisions. The most important is the career you choose.
You want something that not only uses your experience and education, but fits into your lifestyle and activities. You want a job that offers competitive salary, excellent benefits and job security. You also want adventure, variety and the personal satisfaction that comes from doing something important.
For many people, working for the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) means getting started on a challenging, rewarding career. And as you grapple with trying to settle on a career path, or with the more immediate problem of where you’re headed after graduation, the INS may be just the right place to begin your job search.
What is the INS, really?
An agency of the Department of Justice, the INS enforces the laws regulating the admission of aliens to the United States and administers various immigration benefits, including the naturalization of resident aliens. The agency also works with the Department of State, the United Nations and the Department of Health and Human Services in admitting and resettling refugees.
INS headquarters is in Washington, DC, but the agency has field offices all over the United States and overseas.
Finding your fit
Whether you’re looking to spend your days working in the great outdoors or devising strategy behind the scenes, the INS has a range of opportunities to suit your dreams and goals. Here are a few examples:
Border Patrol Agent: Border Patrol agents detect and prevent the unlawful smuggling and unlawful entry of undocumented aliens into the United States. These agents are the primary drug interdicting force along the Southwest border, and their jobs require working outdoors in rural, remote locations.
To learn more about openings for Border Patrol agents, call (202) 616-1964, or write: U.S. Immigration and Naturali-zation Service, Human Resources Branch, Border Patrol Special Hiring Unit, 425 I St. NW, Room 3034, Washington DC, 20536. To apply immediately, call (912) 757-3001 any time, day or night.
Immigration Agent: Handles law enforcement and administrative tasks related to employer sanctions, criminal aliens, and escapees from deportation proceedings.
Deportation Officer: Controls and removes people who are being deported from the United States. Deportation Officers work closely with foreign embassies and consulates and have many opportunities to travel.
Immigration Inspector: Welcomes and interviews individuals at airports, seaports and land ports. Prevents ineligible people from entering the United States.
Criminal Investigator: Plans and conducts investigations, sometimes undercover. Criminal investigators apprehend suspects, prepare reports, testify and represent INS at court hearings.
Adjudication Officer: Interviews people from around the world to determine their eligibility for benefits and to verify their reasons for wanting to remain in the United States. Adjudication Officers also help immigrants obtain permanent resident status or U.S. citizenship.
Detention Enforcement Officer: Assists in locating, apprehending, transporting and processing aliens being detained or deported for violation of immigration laws. Detention enforcement officers travel frequently and often work irregular hours.
Many positions require employees to carry firearms and to learn to speak Spanish. INS employees learn to use firearms and speak and understand Spanish in residential training programs. Training lasts from four weeks to five months, depending on the occupation.
What’s in it for you?
INS offers an excellent benefits package that includes health and life insurance, sick leave, paid vacation, liberal retirement benefits and a financial savings plan.
Entry-level employees earn base salaries ranging from the mid-$20,000s to the mid-$30,000s, based on position and location assigned and applicant qualifications. INS also offers excellent opportunities for overtime, and some positions offer special law enforcement pay.
Want to know more?
INS has opportunities for people with a wide variety of interests and offers special opportunities for veterans and outstanding scholars (cumulative GPA of at least 3.45 out of 4.0). Most starting positions require a certain amount of relevant experience or a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university (or some combination of both). To find out more about specific qualifications, or to learn more about positions that interest you, call (612) 725-3253, or write:
U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service
Bishop Henry Whipple
1 Federal Drive
Ft. Snelling, MN 55111-4007
Rodney C. Guliford
Hometown: Kansas City, KN
Education: BA, Psychology (1973), and BS, Chemistry (1974), Morehouse College, Atlanta, GA; MS, Clinical Psychology, Howard University, Washington, DC, 1976
Title: Program Specialist
Assignment: Headquarters Office of Investigations, Criminal Alien Branch, Washington, DC
Years with INS: 14
Pay grade: GS-14
I was in the right place at the right time. I was recruited right out of graduate school for the Presidential Management Program. I worked six months in 10 different agencies. It gave me a great opportunity to network and get an overall understanding of the federal government. When I completed the program, I was asked in which department I’d like to be permanently placed. I asked for Department of Justice.
As a program specialist in the Criminal Alien Branch, I am responsible for personnel and equipment placement, budget formulation and execution, workload measurements, and composing Service publications pertinent to the removal of criminal aliens. Program specialists are regarded as experts on everything required to effectively and efficiently operate a federal program.
I’ve always had good managers who took the time to recognize my potential. Usually within the first week, they knew of my capabilities, and they encouraged and pushed me to excel.
I recently completed the Executive Potential Program (EPP), and I follow an individual development plan that is a contract that I, along with my mentor, wrote up. That included all of my training, all of my overseas travel, everything for an entire year.
I’d been in enforcement for many years; so I decided to concentrate all my efforts on examinations. If I aspire to be a district director or an officer in charge overseas, I need more examinations-related experience.
I love people. I love meeting new people. I love experiencing different cultures. INS has sent me to the Middle East, Italy, Bosnia and Croatia, and I’d love to go back to all those places. I would like to represent the Service internationally on a permanent basis. In other words, I would like to be an officer in charge in one of our new overseas offices, to be more specific, in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Hometown: EL Paso, TX
Education: Studied Criminal Justice at Paul Quinn College, Waco, TX
Title: Supervisory Border Patrol Agent
Assignment: Instructor, Driver Training Division, Border Patrol Academy, Glynco,GA
Years with INS: 8
Pay grade: GS-12
1996 Salary: $58,000 (with overtime)
Being born and raised in El Paso, I knew what the Border Patrol was. I wanted to get into federal law enforcement because there’s a greater potential for promotion than in civilian law enforcement. And retirement benefits are a lot better.
My proudest moment was the day I graduated from the academy when they pinned the badge on me. I had a sense of belonging, and I thought I was going to be able to do something for my country. I still feel that way today.
My first assignment was in Carrizo Springs, Texas. I truly loved it. Then I went to San Clemente, Calif.,the busiest checkpoint in the United States.
Some people think it’s a never-ending battle, but I do get a sense of accomplishment when I arrest someone with a serious criminal record. I enjoy what I’m doing in the federal government. And I like not being enclosed by four walls. I like being outside.
There are down sides. Depending on where they go, some new agents sit in one spot all day. But there’s lots of opportunity to do other things. A lot of people have the misconception that we just chase aliens. But there’s the boat patrol, canine units, recruiting and tactical units. I spent a couple of years as a canine handler.
The biggest challenge I face is the one I set for myself as an African American. When I went to Carrizo Springs and San Clemente, I was the only Black I’m the only African American at academy and I challenged myself to do 10 or 20 percent better than everyone else because people’s perception of the next guy will be based on my performance.
In the next few years, I will strive to get a mid-management position such as a field operations supervisor or patrol agent in charge. That will put me in the driver’s seat for getting a GS-13 in the near future. Long term, I aspire to be no less than an assistant chief patrol agent in the Border Patrol.
Hometown: Houston, TX
Title: Border Patrol Agent
Years with INS: 2
Assignment: Border Patrol Sector, El Paso, TX
Pay grade: GS-9
Salary range: $38,000+ (with overtime)
Education: BA, Psychology with a concentration in Criminal Justice, Texas Southern University, Houston, Texas, 1986
I was visiting a friend, a career counselor at the University of Houston, when I met Ben Robinson, a Border Patrol recruiter. My husband was with me, and we decided to join at the same time. Went to academy together and attended the same class. Today, we’re both working from the El Paso station.
The expedited hiring process took about four months. We took exams in January, interviewed in February, and were informed of our status in April. We went to the U.S. Border Patrol Academy in May. I thought it was going to be easy until I got there. Learning Spanish was not easy. Today, I’m very proud of my language skills; I could survive in Mexico if I had to.
Sometimes it’s frustrating to know people don’t often see the Border Patrol help people. But we do. Not long ago, I pulled a drowning man from a canal. We often find people walking in the sand hills, disoriented and completely dehydrated. Lots of agents take money from their own pockets to buy water for these people.
To succeed in the Border Patrol, you need common sense and determination. You can’t quit. You have to really want it. The training is grueling. I failed the physical training final. They gave me 10 days to work on it. I retook the final and passed.
The opportunities are there in the Border Patrol. The opportunities are limitless. With training and determination to move up in the ranks, the opportunity is there for you.
I want to be the first Black female patrol agent in charge of a station. When I get that, I’m going for Chief of a Border Patrol Sector.
Hometown: New York City
Years with INS: 9
Title: Special Agent
Assignment: Investigations, District Office, New York, NY
Pay grade: GS-12
Education: BA, Sociology, Hunter College, New York, NY, 1983
After I graduated, I worked for the Social Security Administration, and I decided that was not really what I wanted to do. Later, I thought maybe I’d get into investigative work on the federal level. I chose INS because they were hiring, and I figured my sociology background would help me working with people. I didn’t learn a lot about INS until I started working here.
Since 1991, I’ve been the special emphasis program manager in charge of the Black Affairs Program. In addition to my regular duties, I go out to colleges to recruit for INS.
Sometimes it disturbs me that we can’t do more. As much as we do now to build a diversified work force, we should try even harder. This part of my job is very satisfying because I go out and bring others like myself on board.
The most interesting thing about INS is meeting all different kinds of people from all around the world. It gives you insight on how others live and where they come from.
At some point, I will probably get into supervision, but I haven’t decided on when to take that step. I’ve gained lots of experience that I could put to good use in guiding others. You have to have patience to succeed. You have to persevere. You have to have confidence in yourself and feel that you can make a difference.
College students today need to go out there, look at options, and decide what they’re looking for in a career. If they’re interested in law enforcement and looking for a career, the avenues are unbelievable. INS deals with both services helping people and enforcement. We’re not limited to doing just one thing.
Dr. M. Janet Tucker
Hometown: Tabb, VA
Title: Director, Policy, Planning and Evaluation, Human Resources and Development, Washington, DC
Years with INS: 1
Years in government service: 19
Pay grade: GS-15
Education: BS, Health, Physical Education and Science, Hampton University, Hampton, VA, 1975; MS, Health Education, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio; Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies and Doctorate, Virginia Polytechnical Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA
I started my career as a public school teacher and college instructor in Virginia. After grad school, I taught full-time at Norfolk State University for three years and as an adjunct professor for eight years.
I enjoyed teaching, but I wasn’t making any money, and I didn’t want to do that for the rest of my life.
One summer, I took a job validating training extension courses for the Army at the U.S. Transportation School, Ft. Eustis, VA. It was great. I traveled to some strange places and met some nice people.
At the end of the summer, I was ready to go back to teaching, but my boss asked me to stay. But he didn’t have a job for me.
That was my introduction to the government. I learned that if you know the right people and want something badly enough, you can figure out how to do it. My boss found a job for me, and I stayed.
Three months later, I was offered the opportunity to be an education specialist intern. The program required two years of training and a number of different assignments where I learned all about training in the Army.
When I completed the program, I went to work in the Transportation School’s course development division. Since then, I’ve worked for the Department of the Navy in Norfolk, VA, and Washington, DC, and the Department of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service in Washington, DC.
When I finished my doctorate, I was selected for the Executive Potential Program (EPP). As part of the year-long program, I was detailed to INS to work on the growth management project and to shadow Deputy Commissioner Chris Sale.
I completed these assignments and went back to my agency. Later, I applied for my current position at INS, was interviewed and selected.
Today, I develop policy and plans for training and employee development. I have three sections under me: a career development section in Washington, DC; a research and evaluation section in Glynco, GA; and, because of INS’ tremendous growth, a distance learning section in Glynco, GA.
Opportunities at INS are plentiful. College students have to seek out those opportunities. They have to find out about the organization, see what it’s about, explore all the options, and not limit themselves when it comes to finding out what they can or cannot do.
They must be flexible. They shouldn’t say, ‘If I can’t be a special agent, I don’t want to do anything.’ A lot of times, we have to do something else to get a foot in the door, and I think we’re often unwilling to accept something less to get to the thing that we really want.
What I really want is to be a senior executive. And I’m accustomed to getting what I want.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in the criminal justice field; post graduate studies at an accredited law school
Title: Senior Special Agent
Assignment: Headquarters Office of Investigations, Washington, DC
Years in law enforcement: 20+
Years with INS: 10
Pay grade: GS-14
Ten years ago, I was a security director in private industry. People I met at law enforcement conferences told me INS was hiring and that I should look into it. I went straight to INS.
At the first district I was assigned, we had about six agents. I remember processing people out of the back of the car. We had a little portable typewriter, stamps, everything. It was like a ‘stagecoach’ operation.
Today, INS is struggling to come into the era of the microchip in both management and technology. We’re experiencing growth, and that growth makes it interesting. The biggest challenge I see is trying to generate new ideas instead of going with the traditional ways of doing things.
I like the diversity in my job. I get to do a lot of different things and work with a lot of different people. I enjoy working with people, and INS offers me that. My ambition is to work through the ranks of INS to the senior executive level.
As an agent in the field, I liked dealing with all different types of cases with many different nationalities, including all sorts of different criminal situations.
There’s always some twist to it, and I like digging into something and trying to figure out how it happened. And officers in undercover operations can always be somebody different.
Every day is something different, and the work teaches you about people. More so than most other agencies, INS deals with people.
There are a lot of opportunities at INS and a lot of opportunities for growth. Growth can be frustrating, but it’s also exciting. It’s an exciting time; it’s a frustrating time. But it’s a time when the push for new ideas will come. Times will change. It’s an excellent time to take advantage of this change.
Evelyn Jutte is a public affairs specialist with the INS.