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Follow-up Inspection of the Immigration and Naturalization Service Document Fraud Records Corrections
Report Number I-2000-021

September 28, 2000

SUBJECT: Follow-up Inspection of the Immigration and Naturalization Service Document Fraud Records Corrections, Report Number I-2000-021

In 1996, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), Inspections Division, issued Immigration and Naturalization Service Document Fraud Records Corrections, report number I-96-09, in which we recommended that the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) "…develop a flagging system that will alert INS personnel to alien participation in fraud schemes." We initiated this follow-up inspection to determine whether INS developed and implemented procedures to flag automated database records of aliens suspected of obtaining immigration documents and benefits fraudulently and whether the recommendation had the intended effect.

In response to our 1996 recommendation, INS developed policy changes, technological modifications, and corrective actions necessary to implement flagging procedures. INS developed a manual entitled, "Flagging of Fraudulent Records in INS Automated Systems," dated August 5, 1997. This manual includes procedures for flagging records and actions that should be taken when a National Automated Immigrant Lookout System (NAILS) flag is encountered. The procedures require INS officials to enter pertinent data into NAILS regarding aliens suspected of obtaining immigration documents and benefits fraudulently.

This follow-up inspection analyzed the actions taken by INS in response to our 1996 report. We focused our efforts on assessing INS's establishment of a method for flagging the automated database records of 4,585 aliens that were identified during our original inspection as being associated with OIG criminal investigation cases involving immigration documents and benefits obtained fraudulently. We did not, however, determine whether there were any additional cases implicating aliens in fraudulent document schemes for which records should have been flagged.

Our recent inspection found that INS complied with our recommendation to institute flagging procedures by flagging the records provided by the OIG as a result of our 1996 inspection. However, as noted below, our inspection identified several areas where improvement is necessary to ensure the enforcement integrity of the flagging procedures.

We found INS's flagging procedures to be incomplete. INS did develop and implement policy and procedures instructing INS inspectors at ports-of-entry on how to respond when an alien, whose record has been flagged, is intercepted. However, no such procedures exist for INS adjudicators and contract staff should they encounter an alien, or the application from an alien, seeking additional immigration documents or benefits after their records have been flagged. All INS personnel and contract staff who may be in a position to interact with an alien whose record is flagged, or adjudicate a decision regarding an alien whose record is flagged, need instruction on how to proceed should they encounter a flagged record. Otherwise, the integrity of the flagging procedures is compromised.

We also found instances where records had flags, but when we viewed the NAILS records in these instances, we found that there was no information to guide system users (i.e., no boilerplate language was included and no direction was provided as to whom to contact regarding the NAILS records). This is significant in instances where an individual whose record has been flagged subsequently becomes a U.S. citizen and attempts to enter through a U.S. port-of-entry. The individual's name will come up on the Treasury Enforcement Communication System during primary inspection. The individual then will be sent to secondary inspection for questioning and document examination. INS must be very careful when placing U.S. citizens in secondary inspection as it is tantamount to a custodial situation. There are potential legal ramifications for holding U.S. citizens and others in secondary inspection without clear probable cause.

Our review also revealed that INS had failed to remove NAILS records of individuals who have received additional INS benefits. Of the 333 records that have "NAILS-X" flags in the Central Index System (CIS), 36 (10.8 percent) indicate the aliens have received benefits since the records were flagged. However, the NAILS records and corresponding flags in CIS were never removed.

According to INS policy, CIS must be checked for all applications and petitions before any INS benefit is granted or any INS action is taken. If a NAILS flag is found for the applicant or petitioner in CIS, there are procedures that must be followed at the field level. If adjudicators are not checking CIS, there is no mechanism to ensure an inquiry is conducted and that the suspect alien is either apprehended for involvement in illegal activities or cleared of wrongdoing. If the original benefit for which the record was flagged was obtained illicitly, the alien is not only retaining the ill-gotten benefits but also could be receiving additional benefits.

Alternatively, when adjudicators query CIS during the benefit process and follow up on the NAILS flags, yet do not follow procedures to eliminate the NAILS record when allegations of wrongdoing cannot be substantiated, the aliens and INS may face additional problems (i.e., repetitive or duplicative investigations of aliens suspected of obtaining immigration documents illicitly).

Finally, we found that INS has not made adequate efforts to obtain additional information on aliens associated with fraudulent document cases. INS officials generally contend they do not receive adequate information for INS personnel to effectively investigate aliens implicated in OIG cases. However, INS officials admitted that they had not communicated to the OIG what specific information they need to investigate such cases. As a result of this inspection, INS's Office of Internal Audit sent a memorandum to OIG Investigations Division regarding information needed by INS to effectively investigate cases of aliens suspected of receiving genuine INS documents and benefits illicitly. The agreement between INS and OIG is reflected in a July 12, 2000, memorandum from INS to OIG Investigations Division.

Our report presents five recommendations to help ensure the integrity of the enforcement value of the flagging procedures. INS should ensure that each record that contains the "NAILS-X" flag in CIS is also accompanied with a corresponding record in NAILS. INS should also ensure that inspectors forward memoranda to Field Operations explaining the results of record reviews when a flag is encountered, as required by INS procedures and dictated in the corresponding NAILS record. In addition, INS management should direct INS personnel and contractors to conduct searches in CIS for all applications and petitions before INS benefits are granted or any INS actions are taken, as required by INS's "Flagging of Fraudulent Records in INS Automated Systems" policy. And, INS needs to develop procedures for adjudicators to forward memoranda to Field Operations explaining the results of the records review as required of inspectors. Finally, INS should continue to work with OIG Investigations Division to ensure that they have the appropriate information to be able to effectively investigate aliens who are suspected of being involved in schemes to obtain immigration documents illicitly.

We sent copies of the draft report to your office on July 21, 2000, with a request for written comments. Your August 31, 2000, response addressed each of our five recommendations. We have attached your response as Appendix II.

We appreciate the cooperation that your staff extended to us as we conducted our review. If you have any suggestions as to how we might improve our review process, or if we can provide you with any additional information, please let us know.


cc:   Kathleen Stanley
Immigration and Naturalization Service

Vickie L. Sloan
Departmental Audit Liaison Office

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