Return to the USDOJ/OIG Home Page
Return to the Table of Contents

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


Early Discussions

In 1990 the INS and the FBI began meeting to discuss their planned automated fingerprint identification systems. Memoranda summarizing some of these meetings stated that the INS and the FBI were attempting to determine whether an integrated system could satisfy INS's needs. The memoranda included preliminary diagrams and narratives of how FBI's IAFIS and NCIC 2000 and the INS's system (not yet officially referred to as IDENT) could be linked in an overall automated fingerprint identification system network. There also was discussion of how to ensure common high-quality fingerprint image and electronic transmission standards for fingerprints and identification data so that they could be transmitted among different automated fingerprint identification systems.

During these planning meetings, the INS and the FBI specifically discussed whether the FBI would be willing to store fingerprint records of criminal and non-criminal aliens or whether the FBI would endorse the INS establishing a separate system if the FBI's system could not support INS's requirements. In these early discussions, both the INS and the FBI thought that the INS would not need to check all apprehended aliens against the FBI's databases. Rather, they believed that the INS would only check those aliens it identified as possible criminals. They assumed that the FBI's IAFIS could handle a small volume of INS requests with a quick response time. The INS emphasized that a fast response time was critical because the INS could not detain large numbers of aliens for long periods of time while waiting for responses to criminal checks.

An early difference of opinion between the INS and the FBI was whether the INS should take two fingerprints or ten fingerprints from all the aliens it apprehended. The FBI, along with state and local law enforcement agencies, believed that the INS should take ten fingerprints so that they could be matched against ten-print records in the law enforcement agencies' databases or any latent fingerprints obtained at crime scenes. The INS believed that taking ten prints of all apprehended aliens would take too long and adversely affect its ability to carry out its mission, because large numbers of aliens would have to be detained for increased lengths of time while waiting for fingerprinting and fingerprint checks. Detaining aliens would require increased detention space at Border Patrol stations.

Deployment of IDENT

After several tests of automated fingerprint identification systems, the INS received funding from Congress in 1994 to deploy IDENT.

At a meeting with the FBI in April 1994, the INS discussed its plans for deploying IDENT. The INS pointed out its need to handle a high volume of fingerprints (for the approximately 1.5 million aliens apprehended by the Border Patrol annually) and its need for quick response times (two minutes or less) for each encounter. The FBI responded that the INS requirements could not be handled by the FBI's planned IAFIS without additional development time and money, which the FBI did not have. The FBI also stated that it had a wider constituency that required the ten-print system necessary for criminal investigations.

In addition, by 1994 the INS's development of IDENT was ahead of the development of the FBI's IAFIS, which was behind schedule and not likely to be operational any time soon. INS officials also were not certain that IAFIS was going to meet INS needs. The INS therefore decided to move forward and deploy IDENT in 1994, first in the San Diego Border Patrol Sector and later in the other sectors along the Southwest Border. The IDENT project plan described the reasons that the INS decided to implement IDENT independently from the FBI's IAFIS. The INS's project plan stated that the IAFIS design

has not addressed the INS' functional requirements to conduct quick lookouts for 1.5 million arrestees per year against a database of about 450,000 lookouts . . . The FBI IAFIS would need substantial re-engineering to accommodate the INS requirements and still achieve its original system performance objectives . . . For most encounters, the INS requires a fast and simple fingerprint collection technique, such as pressed index fingerprints not 10 rolled prints, for quick lookups. Finally, IAFIS is not yet available and the INS needs an identification solution now.

Justice Management Division Report - 1995

At the end of 1994 and in early 1995, DOJ's Justice Management Division (JMD) reviewed the plans for the various automated fingerprint systems, including IDENT, the FBI's IAFIS, and the FBI's NCIC 2000. A February 1995 paper prepared by JMD's Systems Policy Staff summarized the capabilities of these three fingerprint identification initiatives. The paper identified the different operational requirements that led the INS to favor the two-fingerprint system and the FBI to favor a ten-print system. It stated that IDENT had to have databases of sufficient capacity (450,000 for the lookout database, 1.5 million for the recidivist database) and had to handle a high volume of checks (up to 8,000 a day) with a two-minute response time for checking both databases.

Stephen Colgate, then the DOJ Assistant Attorney General for Administration (AAG), told the OIG in connection with the OIG's review of the Resendez case that there had been three main obstacles to the integration of IDENT and IAFIS. 4 He stated that the INS and the FBI, the second and third largest components in the DOJ, each had its own parochial agenda and made little effort to understand the operational requirements of the other. Second, he said there were insufficient funds for the development of the different AFIS projects, and when funds were forthcoming each agency focused on meeting its own requirements. Third, he said that the further each agency progressed toward the respective goals of its own automated fingerprint identification systems, the harder it was to back up to accommodate the needs of integration.

AAG Colgate also believed that the FBI's delay and over-promising on IAFIS made the INS rightfully skeptical about whether the FBI could support INS fingerprint needs. 5 On the other hand, he believed the INS may have over-promised Congress about IDENT's integration with the FBI's systems. 6

Justice Management Division Report - 1998

On February 2, 1998, Congressman Alan Mollohan, the ranking member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee for Commerce, Justice, State, and the Judiciary, sent a letter to Attorney General Reno questioning whether IAFIS and IDENT were redundant. The letter stated that "major duplication" existed between the two systems and that consideration should be given to integrating IDENT and IAFIS. In response to Congressman Mollohan's letter, JMD's Management and Planning Staff was directed to review IDENT and IAFIS and report on the feasibility of converting IDENT to a ten-print system. After reviewing IDENT operations and interviewing INS and FBI employees, JMD issued a report on May 28, 1998, which concluded that IDENT and IAFIS were not redundant and that IDENT satisfied an important INS need. The report stated that converting IDENT to a ten-print system was "untenable in the current operating environment" because it would add significantly to the time it took to process aliens and would require additional INS equipment, personnel, and space.

The report proposed three options. The first option was to retain IDENT as a two-print system but improve its policies and procedures, including the enrollment of aliens and lookouts in IDENT. The second option was to adopt ten-printing as a long-term policy goal and retain IDENT as a system designed to meet INS's internal requirements. Under this option, IDENT and IAFIS would both operate in tandem, but strategies for the INS taking ten prints would be explored "when it makes economic and operational sense to do so." The third option was to terminate IDENT and move to a full ten-print system that would be part of IAFIS.

The JMD report recommended the second option. It stated that although the second option was the costliest of the three, it

is the unanimous choice of those who have been involved in the IDENT/IAFIS fingerprint issue, i.e., JMD, the FBI, the Border Patrol, and the INS. Properly funded, the option will permit the Border Patrol to maintain its current processing times while providing other law enforcement agencies with a voluminous fingerprint database that can be searched to solve crimes committed in the communities. At the same time, by retaining IDENT, the Border Patrol is able to capitalize on the benefits that system has to provide as an intelligence-gathering and investigative tool. Moreover, the rest of the INS will be able to continue its plans to integrate IDENT with other internal functions unique to the Service.

As part of the second option, the JMD report recommended a nationwide 12-month pilot study, to begin in the fall of 1999, of a ten-print system in selected Border Patrol stations. However, according to JMD, Congress did not approve the funding for this option in the FY 1999 budget. As a result, in April 1999 JMD proposed a more limited study at fewer Border Patrol stations that would cost $500,000. No action was taken on this proposal.

The Resendez Case and the Justice Management Division Integration Implementation Plan

Rafael Resendez-Ramirez (Resendez) was a Mexican citizen who had an extensive criminal record and was being sought in 1999 in connection with several brutal murders occurring along railway tracks in the United States. As a result, he became known as the "railway killer." Two Border Patrol agents detained Resendez on June 1, 1999, as he tried to cross the border into the United States. They processed him in IDENT. Because IDENT did not contain a lookout for him, however, the Border Patrol agents received no lookout alert that he was wanted for the murders and voluntarily returned him to Mexico. Resendez quickly returned to the United States and committed four more murders before he eventually surrendered to law enforcement authorities in July 1999.

The revelation that Resendez had been in INS's custody and released generated sharp criticism by the media and members of Congress. On June 30, 1999, the Attorney General and the INS Commissioner asked the OIG to investigate what had occurred. 7 Among other issues, the controversy over the Resendez case reinforced the need for the INS to check apprehended aliens against FBI records, as well as the need for the FBI, state, and local law enforcement agencies to access alien fingerprints collected by the INS.

In July 1999, a House Committee on Appropriations report, with the Resendez incident clearly in mind, stated, "[T]he Committee continues to be concerned about the inadequacies of this system [IDENT], specifically with regard to its ability to identify wanted criminals who may be apprehended by INS Border Patrol agents and inspectors along the border. . . [T]he Committee repeatedly raised concerns that the IDENT database was not integrated with FBI's IAFIS database." The House report also expressed the belief that federal, state, and local law enforcement should have access to INS fingerprint information and that the INS should have the full benefit of FBI criminal history records. The House report directed that the INS suspend further deployment of IDENT until DOJ submitted to the Appropriations Committee a plan for integration of IDENT and IAFIS. The congressional conference report for DOJ's FY 2000 appropriations included this provision for a moratorium on further deployment of IDENT. It also mandated that the DOJ conduct three studies in FY 2000 to examine the feasibility of the IDENT/IAFIS integration: an Operational Impact Study, an Engineering/System Development Study, and a Criminality Study.

In response to the congressional directive, JMD convened a "Fingerprint Summit" meeting on August 12, 1999, attended by the FBI and INS, to discuss a plan for integrating IDENT with IAFIS. JMD's Management and Planning Staff coordinated DOJ's efforts to develop an integration plan. After meetings and discussions among senior managers and technical specialists, JMD issued a report on March 1, 2000, entitled "Implementation Plan for Integrating the INS's IDENT and the FBI's IAFIS Fingerprint Data."

According to the March 1 report, "The INS and the FBI have acknowledged that integrating IDENT with IAFIS would greatly benefit both agencies, as well as Federal, state and local law enforcement." The report further stated that such integration

has the potential to: reduce the likelihood that a wanted individual would be released from the INS's custody; provide Federal, state, and local law enforcement an integrated picture of the criminal activity known by agencies in the DOJ, including the INS histories of illegal border crossers; and enable Federal, state and local law enforcement to search latent prints against additional illegal border crossers, especially if ten prints are taken.

In considering various options for integration of the systems, the March 1 report raised four main questions: (1) how many fingers would be printed and used in the INS search; (2) would a separate database running parallel with IAFIS be established to handle the heavy INS workload or would the current IAFIS be enhanced to accommodate the increase in workload; (3) how quickly would the new system be deployed; and (4) which databases would the new system search?

The report assumed the following requirements for any option: a quick response time to INS fingerprint searches, similar to the response time in IDENT; responses would be a computer-generated hit/no hit response; the INS would submit a maximum of 1,050 searches per hour with an average of 18,000 a day (up from the average of 8,000 a day in 1995); the INS would remain responsible for obtaining fingerprints from aliens and maintaining its communication links; and IDENT would continue operating until an integrated system was implemented.

The March 1 report also described a "conceptual model" for integrating IDENT and IAFIS. The report stated that considerable work, including addressing technical and operational complexities, was needed before a final integration proposal could be completed. According to the report, the proposed conceptual plan could take up to five years and cost more than $200 million to implement fully.

A key element of the proposed conceptual model was that IAFIS would eventually be supplemented by adding fingerprint files maintained by IDENT, including IDENT's lookout and recidivist databases. Also, federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies could access the INS's fingerprint files through IAFIS, and the INS could check fingerprints of apprehended aliens against all files in IAFIS.

Before finalizing any recommendation for the integration of IDENT and IAFIS, however, JMD planned to complete the three studies mandated by Congress and in its March 1 implementation plan provided cost estimates for the studies as part of its FY 2000 spending plan. If after these studies the conceptual model proposed by the March 1 report was approved, the integration of IDENT and IAFIS would occur in stages, with the third and final stage being the full integration of IDENT and IAFIS. The integrated system would permit the search of two or possibly ten fingerprints of aliens against the recidivist files and the full IAFIS criminal master file, all of which would be maintained by the FBI in Clarksburg, West Virginia.

We now briefly describe the results of the three studies.

Justice Management Division Studies

Operational Impact Study

The Operational Impact Study assessed the effect of an integrated system on INS's operations and processes at the border, focusing on the impact of taking ten prints of individuals at these locations as well as the effects of alternative response times (i.e., whether response times longer than two minutes would still be acceptable). To conduct this study, for one week in the summer of 2000 the INS ten-printed and two-printed all aliens apprehended at the Brown Field Border Patrol Station in the San Diego Sector and all aliens sent to secondary inspection at the Calexico port of entry in the San Diego District. These two pilot sites confirmed that the technology and processes existed to take and submit an alien's ten prints to the FBI and receive a "Hit" or "No-Hit" response in less than ten minutes.

The process was cumbersome for the agents because if they received a positive response they had to radio from the station to Border Patrol sector headquarters and have sector staff run the alien's FBI number on the sector's NCIC terminal to obtain the text response from the NCIC database, known as the rap sheet. The rap sheet usually includes biographic data, FBI number, State number, criminal history, legal history, or disposition information. 8 The alien's rap sheet then had to be faxed back to the agent at the station before a decision could be made to detain and further process the alien. Automatic electronic transmission of relevant criminal history information was not yet part of the process. After the one-week pilot test was completed, the Brown Field Border Patrol Station continued to use the ten-print terminals on all apprehended aliens.

Since the Brown Field station was selected as a pilot site because it had the facilities, infrastructure, and staff to handle the increased workload involved in ten-printing all apprehended aliens, JMD believed that the results of this test could not be considered representative of what would occur at other INS locations if all apprehended aliens were ten-printed. JMD therefore concluded that more operational impact data (referred to as metrics) would have to be collected and analyzed from other Border Patrol locations to better judge the operational impact of ten-printing all apprehended aliens.

After completing the operational impact pilot study in the summer 2000, JMD transferred responsibility for the IDENT/IAFIS integration project from its Management and Planning Staff to its Information Resource Management (IRM) staff because at the time JMD saw the principal hurdles to integration as technological system design and development.

Engineering/System Development Study

The Engineering/System Development Study developed requirements for an integrated fingerprint system, defined the system architecture, and produced a cost analysis for the development and implementation of an integrated system. The study also assessed the effects of different response times on INS operations.

To conduct the study, which was completed in December 2000, JMD selected a contractor that had worked extensively on IAFIS. The contractor conducted a fingerprint image quality study to see how the existing ten-print IAFIS system would perform when searched against two-print IDENT data. The image quality study performance measures were: (1) reliability-the probability that the system correctly identify a print's match, (2) selectivity-the number of incorrect matches identified for a given search, and (3) filter rate-the elimination from consideration of portions of the database through the use of automated fingerprint pattern classification. Generally, the more fingers used in an automated search, the greater the percentage of the database that can be eliminated from further consideration and the less computer power required. The study determined that IAFIS could not be searched using the representative IDENT data consisting of two pressed prints in the volume and with the response times INS required. The study concluded that 40 times the available current computer power would be needed.

This led the technical project team to study an alternative that would require the capture and use of rolled ten-prints at all INS locations. If the extra time needed to process a large number of apprehended aliens at a given location presented a concern for officer safety, an INS supervisor could authorize reverting back to the two-print IDENT system and database.

The Engineering Study estimated that the cost to develop, deploy, and maintain a system to support the taking of ten rolled prints at all INS locations would be approximately $450 million to $570 million between FY 2002 and FY 2007. These estimates did not include any increased INS operational costs that might occur as a result of identifying and detaining larger numbers of criminal aliens, such as costs for additional staffing and detention facilities.

Criminality Study

The Criminality Study sought to estimate the number of criminal aliens that would be identified if all apprehended aliens' fingerprints were checked against FBI criminal databases. The study, which was conducted in the summer of 2001, involved matching a sample of 15,000 records of aliens entered into the IDENT recidivist database between 1998 and mid-2000 against the FBI criminal master file fingerprint database. The matching would provide an estimate of what percentage of aliens apprehended by the Border Patrol, enrolled in IDENT, and permitted to voluntarily depart the United States had prior criminal histories or had outstanding wants and warrants in the FBI's Criminal Master File at the time of apprehension.

The study results, issued in August 2001, found that approximately 3.1 percent of the aliens either had known criminal histories or active wants/warrants, 3.4 percent had criminal charges without dispositions (possible acquittals, convictions, charges dropped or pending adjudication, and an additional 2 percent had administrative removals from the United States not reflected in the IDENT record. This projects to a total of 8.5 percent of the approximately1.6 million aliens who are apprehended by the Border Patrol and allowed to voluntarily depart the United States annually who would have to be further detained and against whom some form of additional law enforcement action would have to be taken. Using the Criminality Study results, the INS estimated the resources that would be required by the INS to detain and process additional criminal aliens if immediate access to the FBI's criminal master file were provided via an integrated IDENT/IAFIS system. The resource analysis results, issued by INS as part of the Criminality Study, used computer modeling for Border Patrol operations. (No similar analysis has yet been done for INS activities at ports of entry.) The resource analysis estimated that the Border Patrol would require an additional $400 million to $700 million in staffing costs to handle the increased workload resulting from the identification of apprehended aliens with criminal histories. The resource analysis also estimated an additional $200 to $700 million in detention costs for the increased number of aliens who would have to be detained rather than voluntarily returned to their home countries. 9

The resource analysis estimated that the "minimum total cost to the Government to achieve the outcomes desired of the integrated fingerprint system ranges from $1.2 billion to $1.9 billion" including systems and operational costs. The study did not include costs to other DOJ components that would be affected by the increased workload, such as the United States Marshals Service (USMS), Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) and U.S. Attorneys offices.

However, JMD questioned the high estimates. JMD was concerned that these resource cost estimates only measured Border Patrol activity along the Southwest border, that much of the data was two or three years old, and that the cost projections were primarily dependent on U.S. Attorney prosecution criteria which vary across the country. In order to further study the issues, JMD therefore proposed conducting additional tests.

Integration Plans

Previous Integration Plan

Prior to the results of the three JMD studies, the FY 2002 budget request submitted by JMD to the Office of Management and Budget described an integration plan that progressed through four stages or versions to total integration of IDENT and IAFIS by FY 2007.

According to the JMD FY 2002 budget request of January 12, 2001, the initial stage of IDENT/IAFIS, Version 1, was planned to be developed and deployment begun in FY 2001. It was to consist of a ten-print workstation capable of querying the IDENT and IAFIS databases. The electronic IAFIS response would indicate a match or no match. When there was a positive match, IAFIS also would electronically transmit the criminal history rap sheet. The workstation was to be developed using existing capabilities extracted from Joint Automated Booking Stations (JABS) as a starting point. 10

The next stage, Version 2, was planned to be developed during FY 2002 and deployed in FY 2003. Version 2 would begin the consolidation of IDENT data and the IDENT fingerprint system into IAFIS by creating a ten-print Apprehension File that would combine IDENT and IAFIS fingerprint information. Version 3 was planned to be developed during FY 2003 and FY 2004 and deployed during FY 2004. It would provide the capability to search latent fingerprints against the IAFIS Apprehension File, and provide federal, state and local law enforcement with the ability to search INS fingerprint data. Version 4 was planned to be developed from FY 2004 to FY 2007 and deployed in FY 2006 and FY 2007. Version 4 would fully integrate IDENT into IAFIS. The integrated system was envisioned as having a search capability that would use either ten-prints or fewer flat prints (depending upon advances in biometric fingerprint technology) to search both FBI and INS fingerprints. The exact nature of version 4 of the integrated system was to be determined by the experience and data gathered during the earlier stages. The integrated system and database would be maintained by the FBI in Clarksburg, West Virginia. The entire project was budgeted to cost $571 million through FY 2007. This budget included $125 million for maintenance of IDENT, but no funds for associated INS operational costs.

JMD's IRM staff issued an IDENT/IAFIS Version 1 Concept of Operations document in March 2001 that described the major work processes and functions proposed for Version 1. The deployment assumed that the ten-print IDENT/IAFIS transactions would be routed to IAFIS through the JABS workstations. (The IDENT/IAFIS project and the JABS project were being handled by the same JMD project team.)

The JMD project team planned to move Version 1 along in several steps (Versions 1.0, 1.1 and 1.2) to the deployment of an integrated IDENT/IAFIS Version 1 workstation in FY 2002. The tentative technological solution to meet the IDENT/IAFIS integration plan's timetable for FY 2002 was to move toward early deployment of Version 1, which gave the INS the capability to search the FBI's criminal master file using a ten-print search and extract the two prints from the same ten-print images and search IDENT, adding those two prints to the INS database.

Version 1.0 of IDENT/IAFIS, essentially the same system that was used during the Brown Field Border Patrol study site, would be placed at pilot sites that had sufficient infrastructure and facilities to handle the increased operational workload caused by the double processing required under this dual system. First, INS Border Patrol agents would process all apprehended aliens in ENFORCE/IDENT as usual, then move the aliens to a ten-print workstation and take rolled ten-prints and electronically transmit the prints to IAFIS. The agent would receive a positive or negative response in under ten minutes. If the response was positive, the agent would receive a list of possible candidate names (usually only one) and the associated FBI number. The agent would then have to radio Border Patrol sector headquarters, where the FBI number would be run against NCIC to obtain the rap sheet. The rap sheet would then have to be faxed to the agent. The extra logistical steps are required because at this stage of development, IDENT and IAFIS are still separate and no modifications to integrate the systems have been made.

Version 1.1 would be deployed at additional test sites. The enrollment process would be the same as in Version 1.0, up to the point of transmitting the ten-prints of the alien to IAFIS. If the agent received a positive response, the system would transmit back the name and FBI number and automatically transmit the rap sheet at the same time. This would require a software modification to IAFIS and the creation of a new system requirement to return the rap sheet as part of the verified response to a criminal ten-print fingerprint submission. According to JMD technical staff, this technological modification was not too difficult or too costly. However, Version 1.1 would continue to require dual processing of an individual's fingerprints using separate workstations and communication lines.

Version 1.2 would no longer require dual processing. The agent would ten-print the alien once, and the fingerprint information would then follow two paths. One path would electronically strip off the two index fingerprints, search the IDENT database, and add the two prints to it. The other path, using all ten prints, would go through the JABS infrastructure to IAFIS and return in under ten minutes with a positive or negative response and the rap sheet. Version 1.2 would require software modifications to the workstations but not to IAFIS. This step would represent the first real integration of IDENT and IAFIS.

JMD's expectation was that by the end of FY 2002, the Version 1 steps would be completed and workstations would be deployed to at least 60 sites. Work on Version 1.2 that involved the actual integration of the two databases would also begin in FY 2002. To accomplish these goals, JMD had requested $38 million from Congress in FY 2002. This included $10 million for the IDENT system operation and maintenance costs, but no funds for increased operational costs.

Current Plans for Integration

As required by the congressional conference report accompanying the FY 2001 DOJ Appropriations Act, JMD transmitted to Congress the INS's IDENT deployment plan on October 12, 2001. The deployment plan requests permission to deploy an additional 1,083 ENFORCE/IDENT workstations throughout all INS districts and Border Patrol sectors in three phases through FY 2003. According to the plan, special attention is to be given to northern border patrol sectors and ports of entry. The additional workstations will augment the 791 workstations that were in place prior to the July 1999 moratorium on further deployment of IDENT, which is still in effect. The plan would deploy IDENT at air and land ports of entry and district offices, in addition to Border Patrol locations, so that aliens who are sent to secondary inspection at ports of entry or about whom there are law enforcement concerns could be checked against the IDENT lookout database. INS estimates that the proposed IDENT deployment plan would cost approximately $12 million ($7 million for hardware and deployment, $5 million for training) over three years.

With regard to the integration of IDENT and IAFIS, after reviewing the results of the three studies that were conducted, JMD revised its integration plans. JMD believed that, based on the three studies, the greatest obstacles and costs facing the integration project were not system development or technical issues, but operational issues. For this reason, in August 2001 JMD internally transferred responsibility for the integration project from its IRM section back to its Management and Planning Staff.

In August 2001, after reviewing the results of the studies, JMD decided to slow the pace of the project based on a number of concerns. It concluded that more study needed to be conducted before a full-scale integration plan was implemented, and that more data should be gathered and evaluated to better understand the "downstream" effects of potentially many more criminal detentions and prosecutions. JMD also wanted to monitor new and emerging biometric technology to ensure that the DOJ did not commit large sums of money to an integration plan that would not take advantage of technological advances. 11

As a result, JMD scaled back its original FY 2002 budget request from $38 million to $9 million. The $9 million budget is expected to fund more field studies. Version 1.1 will be deployed at Brown Field and seven additional sites by February 2002. The additional sites will include ports of entry and Border Patrol stations in different geographic regions in order to collect more representative metrics data. According to JMD and the INS, the enhanced workstations are ready to be shipped once the sites are selected. 12 An additional ten field sites using Version 1.1 (for a total of 18 field sites) will be added in July FY 2002. Also, work on the system design for Version 1.2 is being restarted, after being halted from August to October 2001, and JMD hopes that Version 1.2 will be deployed to the field sites by the end of calendar year 2002.

JMD believes that the additional data collected from the field site studies will support refinement of the planning and final system design for an integrated system. JMD also stated that it will analyze the potential operational impacts on DOJ components from full-scale implementation of the IDENT/IAFIS system and that it will closely monitor new biometrics technology that could allow the INS to take less than ten fingerprints of apprehended aliens to compare against IAFIS and still obtain reliable results.

Taken together, these decisions mean that the time frame for integration of IDENT and IAFIS has been set back at least another year. Budgeting for the full integration plan is still projected out to at least FY 2007 and will be re-evaluated as the results of the pilots and field site deployments progress over the next two years.


  1. The OIG report describing the failures occurring in this case, "The Rafael Resendez-Ramirez Case: A Review of the INS's Actions and the Operation of Its IDENT Automated Fingerprint Identification System," was issued March 20, 2000. We discuss it later in this report.

  2. In 1993, IAFIS was originally budgeted to cost $520 million but, according to the FBI, ultimately cost $640 million to develop and implement.

  3. For example, in a May 8, 1996, hearing of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, State, and the Judiciary, Congressman Alan Mollohan asked INS Associate Commissioner for IRM Ronald Collison if the INS "database will be able to be shared and it will be integrated with the FBI's." Collison replied, "It is sharable. The FBI and INS systems are designed so that a transaction coming into their system, if permissible legally, could check our database and vice versa. So, there will be full compatibility to move the actual fingerprint images between the three systems." In testimony before the same committee on the INS's fiscal years (FYs) 1998 and 1999 budget requests, INS Commissioner Doris Meissner stated that IDENT served the INS mission purposes well, noted that the FBI automated fingerprint identification systems were not yet operational, and insisted that INS was working toward ensuring that IDENT would be compatible with the FBI systems.

  4. The OIG report concluded that IDENT's usefulness was diminished because it was not linked to criminal databases; that the INS viewed IDENT primarily as a tool to help the Border Patrol track repeat illegal border crossers, not as a useful tool for other INS components; and that IDENT training for INS employees, particularly outside the Border Patrol, was ineffective or non-existent. Despite all the failings in the INS's implementation and use of IDENT, many INS employees believed that IDENT was a valuable system that should not be abandoned. The OIG recommended various measures to improve the operation and usefulness of IDENT, and also recommended that DOJ aggressively and expeditiously pursue integration of IDENT and IAFIS.

  5. The FBI assigns a number to each unique set of fingerprints at first submission. This number is a permanent identifier used by the FBI to identify an offender each time the person is processed.

  6. The principal cost determinant is the number of cases the U.S. Attorneys accept for prosecution. The more cases accepted, the lower the costs are for the INS, because the aliens in those cases spend less time in INS custody. The U.S. Attorney thresholds for accepting cases for prosecution vary by location and by time periods, depending upon workload, priorities, and other factors.

  7. JABS is the system of DOJ booking stations and the associated infrastructure that shares information with the FBI, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the U.S. Marshal Service, and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

  8. JMD concluded, however, that it was not necessary for the IDENT/IAFIS workstations to await the JABS infrastructure and to use the INS ENFORCE/IDENT infrastructure already in place for data transmissions. The IDENT/IAFIS project was therefore separated from the JABS project work. According to JMD, the concept of JABS-IDENT/IAFIS workstation still may be viable later.

  9. These are the workstations INS Commissioner James Ziglar referred to in his testimony before the Immigration and Claims Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee on October 11, 2001, when he stated that INS would soon bring online the transitional workstations for the integration or the ultimate integration of the IDENT system with the IAFIS system. These workstations represent the first small steps of a pilot study in the transition to integrated IDENT/IAFIS workstations. The ultimate integration of IDENT and IAFIS is well off in the future.