On July 21, 2000, the Inspections Division sent copies of the draft report to the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) requesting written comments on the draft report findings and recommendations. We asked that INS's response include agreement or disagreement with our recommendations, how recommended actions will be carried out, and any time frames for planned actions. In the event that a recommendation cannot be implemented or alternative actions are more appropriate, we requested an explanation in the response.
The Commissioner of INS responded to the draft report by memorandum on August 31, 2000. INS concurred with each of our five recommendations (one in part) and has agreed to take corrective action to address these issues. Consequently, recommendations 1, 2, 3, and 4 are resolved-open and recommendation 5 is closed. We believe these recommendations will help INS apprehend aliens who have obtained, or may obtain in the future, immigration benefits through illicit means, and will prevent aliens from obtaining additional benefits to which they may not be entitled.
Resolved-open: INS concurred that for each record in the Central Index System (CIS) that contains a "NAILS-X" flag, there should be an accompanying record in the National Automated Immigrant Lookout System (NAILS).
The INS plans to analyze CIS and determine the extent of the problem. The scope of the analysis will include all lookout records in the NAILS database that have a corresponding CIS record. INS estimates that the analysis of the problems and the determination of a solution, along with developing a time frame in which the corrections can be implemented, will take approximately six months to complete. INS also states that more time will be needed to test and implement any solution. Furthermore, INS claims that due to budgetary restraints and work already on-going in CIS, the initial analysis will not be able to commence until January 2001.
While the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) agrees with INS that a review encompassing all lookout records is appropriate, we also believe that INS should not wait for an overall system solution to correct those specific records identified by the OIG and given to INS. For those records, either the flag needs to be removed from CIS or a corresponding record needs to be entered into NAILS to direct the system user on how to proceed, should the subject of the lookout record be encountered. This recommendation will be closed when INS can demonstrate that it has determined the cause of the flagging errors and has taken corrective actions to resolve the issue.
Resolved-open: INS concurred with our recommendation to ensure that inspectors forward memoranda to Field Operations explaining the results of record reviews as required by INS procedures and dictated in the corresponding NAILS record. INS has agreed to forward a memorandum to the field reminding INS personnel to comply with procedures articulated in the NAILS records. This recommendation will be closed when INS supplies us with a copy of the issued memorandum.
Resolved-open: INS concurred in part with our recommendation to direct INS personnel and contractors to conduct searches in CIS for all applications and petitions before INS benefits are granted or any INS actions taken, as required by INS's "Flagging of Fraudulent Records in INS Automated Systems" policy.
INS states that it will conduct a review of its flagging policy in an attempt to determine the potential benefits for conducting a CIS check on each type of application. INS will then direct INS personnel and contractors to conduct searches in CIS for those applications in which the potential benefits outweigh the operational impact.
The OIG is concerned that if INS decides to limit the number of CIS checks to only certain applications, as opposed to all applications for immigration services and benefits as required under current policy, the result would be to effectively weaken, if not negate, the enforcement effect of the flagging procedures. This result would not be consistent with the intent of our recommendation and inspection. The OIG will analyze INS's findings and suggested alternatives to ensure appropriate checks are conducted on aliens applying for various immigration benefits without compromising the integrity of the flagging procedures. This recommendation will be closed when INS either implements the original recommendation or offers an alternative that assures the OIG that those aliens suspected of obtaining immigration benefits illicitly would be intercepted if they applied for additional immigration services or benefits.
Resolved-open: INS concurred with our recommendation to develop procedures for adjudicators to forward memoranda to Field Operations explaining the results of the records reviews as required of inspectors. INS has agreed to develop procedures and issue a memorandum to the field instructing adjudicators to comply with the new policy. This recommendation will be closed when INS supplies us with a copy of the issued memorandum.
Closed: INS concurred with our recommendation to reach agreement with OIG Investigations Division outlining specifically what information is required when the OIG is reporting to INS the names and alien-numbers of aliens allegedly involved in schemes where aliens obtain genuine immigration documents and benefits fraudulently. INS has already taken corrective action by reaching agreement with the OIG Investigations Division. Their agreement is reflected in the July 12, 2000, memorandum from INS to OIG Investigations Division.