James F. Greene Sr., a deputy commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service in the 1970s, died Sunday of complications from Parkinson's disease at the Vantage House Retirement Center in Columbia. He was 80.
Mr. Greene began his career with the immigration service in 1941 as an agent at a border horse-patrol station at Amado, Ariz., where he often performed his duties on horseback.
He rose to an administrative rank in which he oversaw the service as it expanded into new areas of responsibility with the influx of refugees fleeing Southeast Asia and the havoc spread by the drug trade.
Before he became an associate commissioner in 1968, he was in charge of the border patrol enforcement division that watched over immigration from Canada and Mexico. He was instrumental in stepping up security patrols as well as streamlining the processing for those people entering the country legally.
He also helped develop anti-smuggling programs during the 1960s and 1970s, and during the Watergate era often found himself as acting immigration commissioner and handling the department's day-to-day operations.
He retired in 1977 but was called back to the service in 1981 to be on a panel investigating the refugee camps in Southeast Asia, where thousands waited for legal entry into the United States.
"He was very proud of his work and that's what he enjoyed doing, and he often said that his career lasted longer than most government officials'," said a son, Stephen H. Greene of Annapolis.
He said his father described the enforcement of the nation's immigration policy as a "difficult job because the laws weren't always popular ones." The elder Mr. Greene had been concerned that "the number of illegal immigrants was far exceeding the capacity of the immigration service to detain and apprehend them and that the situation would grow worse," the son said, adding, "And it has."
Mr. Greene was born and raised in Springfield, Ill., and was a graduate of schools there. He joined the Navy in 1933 and served aboard the cruiser Astoria until being discharged with the rank of signalman second class in 1939.
In early assignments with the immigration service, he worked in upstate New York and Minnesota before moving to the Washington area in the early 1950s.
On retirement, he moved from College Park to Palm Coast, Fla., where he was active as a captain in the Coast Guard Auxiliary. He returned to Maryland and settled in Columbia in 1990.
Graveside services for Mr. Greene are set for 11 a.m. Wednesday at Arlington National Cemetery.
In addition to his son, Mr. Greene is survived by his wife of 57 years, the former Margaret Mary O'Connor; two other sons, James F. Greene Jr. of Lima, Peru, and Thomas G. Greene of Silver Spring; a sister, Georganne Tiemann of Troy, Ill.; and six grandchildren.
The family suggested memorial donations to the Parkinson's Disease Foundation, 650 W. 168th Street, New York 10032-9982.