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Status of IDENT/IAFIS Integration
Report No. I-2002-003
December 7, 2001


The OIG believes that in the absence of a fully integrated IDENT/IAFIS system, the INS should continue to use IDENT. IDENT is the only fingerprint identification system in place at Border Patrol stations and ports of entry that allows a rapid check of aliens seeking entry into the United States or of aliens trying to enter the country illegally between ports of entry. Therefore, we support additional deployment of IDENT workstations and the associated training not only to additional Border Patrol locations but also to ports of entry and district offices where persons who are referred for closer examination can be checked against the IDENT lookout database.

We also believe that adding fingerprint records for outstanding wants and warrants for aliens to the IDENT lookout database must be accomplished immediately. In August 2001, the INS added the 8,600 fingerprint records of the U.S. Marshals Service federal wants and warrants for aliens to the IDENT lookout database. As of December 2001, there have been about 40 hits on these records. The INS and the FBI are also working together and hope to have added the FBI's 70,000 wants and warrants for individuals who are foreign- born, whose place of birth is unknown, and/or who have been previously arrested by the INS, to the INS's lookout database by early calendar year 2002. 13 Another necessary interim measure would be to place any ten-print records and photographs of known or suspected terrorists into the IDENT lookout database. Any alien apprehended by the Border Patrol or any alien sent to secondary inspection at a port of entry using IDENT could be searched against the lookout database to identify suspected terrorists for whom we have fingerprints.

The integration of IDENT and IAFIS, which began again in earnest in 1999 and is still early in the field-testing phase, has already taken longer to accomplish than originally envisioned. Although the effort to integrate IDENT and IAFIS has progressed, most notably in field studies, the subsequent plans for development and deployment of the first phase of an integrated IDENT/IAFIS system (a completed Version 1 workstation) has been scaled back and slowed.

JMD has taken the position that the INS's high projected costs of integration - estimated costs of $570 million from FY 2002 through FY 2007 for system design, development, and deployment costs and additional operational costs that bring the total cost to between $1.2 billion and $1.9 billion-need to be better studied through more deliberate field-testing before deploying Version 1.2 with its integrated two-print, ten-print workstation. The cost estimates do not include activities at ports of entry or the downstream costs on other DOJ components such as the USMS, the BOP, the EOIR and the U.S. Attorneys offices whose workloads would be increased. This is the reason JMD reduced its IDENT/IAFIS FY 2002 budget request from $38 million to $9 million.

In sum, as the facts in this follow-up report have indicated, the integration of IDENT and IAFIS is proceeding slowly. Even after the Resendez case spurred increased attention in 1999 to the need for such integration, the process has not gone quickly and an integrated system may still be many years away. Three studies have been conducted, beginning in the summer of 2000, which showed that integration is technically and operationally achievable using ten prints. However, because the costs of integration-including increased operational costs for INS processing and detaining aliens and additional costs for other components of the federal criminal justice system have not yet been accurately projected-DOJ has decided to take a more deliberate approach to the development and deployment of IDENT/IAFIS. The first stage of the integrated workstation will be deployed to a limited number of field sites to gather data to better gauge the operational impact and to test its performance before moving to the next stage of IDENT/IAFIS integration. The field-testing will undoubtedly provide useful information, including better cost estimates and important feedback for the next steps in developing the integrated system.

Yet, our main conclusion, similar to our conclusion in the Resendez report that we issued almost two years ago, is that the DOJ and its components should aggressively and expeditiously seek linkage of the FBI and INS biometric identification systems. In light of the events of September 11, the need for linkage is more critical than ever. While this integration is being pursued, we support the deployment of IDENT to additional sites and the adding of wants and warrants and other lookouts to the IDENT databases.


  1. According to both the FBI and the INS, after the existing IAFIS fingerprint records are loaded into IDENT, a process to update the IDENT records will have to be developed.