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Semiannual Report to Congress

April 1, 2001 Ė September 30, 2001
Office of the Inspector General


The Evaluation and Inspections Division (E&I) provides the Inspector General (IG) with alternatives to traditional audits and investigations through short-term management assessments and program evaluations that assess the efficiency, vulnerability, and effectiveness of Department operations. E&I relies on its multidisciplinary workforce to provide timely information to managers on diverse issues. E&I is located in Washington, DC, and is directed by the AIG for Evaluation and Inspections.

Significant Reviews

Unaccompanied Juveniles in INS Custody

In FY 2000, the INS detained 4,136 unaccompanied illegal juveniles for longer than 72 hours. The average length of time in custody was 33 days. The INS contracts with licensed facilities for shelter care programs, group homes, foster homes, and secure juvenile detention facilities to house the 400 to 500 unaccompanied juveniles in its custody at any one time.

We reviewed the treatment of unaccompanied illegal juveniles who are held in INS custody and placed into formal immigration proceedings. We examined the policies and procedures developed by the INS in response to its 1997 settlement agreement of a class-action lawsuit related to detention, processing, and release of unaccompanied illegal juveniles.

We found that, since it signed the settlement agreement, the INS has made significant improvements in its juvenile program, such as training its employees on new procedures and increasing juvenile bed spaces from 130 in FY 1997 to more than 500 in FY 2000. However, our review found deficiencies at INS districts, Border Patrol sectors, and INS headquarters that could have potentially serious consequences for the well-being of juveniles. Major findings discussed in our report include:

Our report contains 28 recommendations to improve the INSís juvenile detention policies and procedures. The INS concurred with all of our recommendations.

Juvenile Repatriation Practices at Border Patrol Sectors on the Southwest Border

As a complement to our review of unaccompanied illegal juveniles in INS custody, we examined whether the Border Patrol promptly returns unaccompanied Mexican juveniles to Mexico. In FY 2000, the Border Patrol apprehended 94,823 accompanied and unaccompanied Mexican juveniles who it subsequently returned to Mexico. These juveniles were not entered into formal immigration proceedings and were expected to be released from INS custody within a few hours.

Our review focused on the El Centro Border Patrol Sector (El Centro), one of nine Border Patrol sectors along the southwest border. In addition to reviewing activities in El Centro, we conducted 1-day unannounced visits at 7 of the 72 Border Patrol stations in other sectors across the southwest border.

We found that El Centro detains unaccompanied Mexican juveniles in holding cells for longer than several hours. From March through May 2001, 42 of the 591 unaccompanied Mexican juveniles returned to Mexico by El Centro were not repatriated within several hours of apprehension. In each of the 42 cases, juveniles were detained over a weekend at Border Patrol stations in holding cells built for temporary confinement.

El Centro officials told the OIG that their ďhands are tiedĒ by local agreements with the Mexican Consulate that require a consular interview before a juvenile may be returned to Mexico. Because Mexican officials are not usually available to conduct juvenile interviews on weekends, Mexican juveniles apprehended on weekends often must wait until Monday morning for their interviews. We also found incomplete record keeping procedures in El Centro that made it difficult to establish a complete custody history for apprehended juveniles. Finally, we found that the INS has not established national guidelines for the Border Patrol to apply to unaccompanied Mexican juveniles it intends to return to Mexico.

During the 1-day visits to seven other locations, we found that the Border Patrol stations usually detain juveniles for only a matter of hours before repatriating them to Mexico. However, we found problems with record keeping at four locations and inadequate detention facilities at four locations. We made seven recommendations to help reduce the time unaccompanied Mexican juveniles remain in Border Patrol holding cells and to improve conditions for juveniles who cannot be promptly returned to Mexico. The INS concurred with all of our recommendations.

The INS Escort of Criminal Aliens

In 1998, the INS adopted a policy of assigning INS officers to escort dangerous aliens who are being removed from the United States to non-border countries on commercial flights. Because of the importance of this issue to public safety, we reviewed the INSís implementation of this policy.

In FY 1999 and FY 2000, the INS removed 139,000 criminal aliens, 30,000 of whom had been involved in violent acts that included homicide, sexual assault, and kidnapping. We estimate that 9,000 of those criminal aliens were removed by aircraft, about 80 percent on commercial flights.

We found that the INS placed the traveling public at potential risk because it did not consistently follow its own escort policy. In three of the four districts we visited, INS supervisory field officials disregarded provisions of the INS escort policy, resulting in the transportation of violent aliens on commercial airlines without escorts. In addition, the INS did not identify some dangerous aliens during the routine pre-removal alien file review process. We also found that INS field officials often failed to provide the required ratio of escorts to dangerous aliens, and the INS did not always provide escorts during the final segment of multi-flight removal trips. Finally, the INS did not adequately coordinate its escort process with the Department of State to facilitate arrival of the criminal aliens in foreign countries.

We recommended that the INS direct each district office to ensure that all aliens charged with or convicted of violent crimes are properly escorted, to implement quarterly reviews of criminal deportation cases, and to certify compliance with the escort guidelines. We also recommended that the INS ensure notification to and coordination with the Department of State relating to the removal process. The INS concurred with our recommendations.

The USMS Discipline Process

We evaluated the discipline process in the USMS to determine whether discipline actions taken in response to substantiated misconduct allegations were consistent, timely, and in accordance with USMS policy. To conduct this review, we selected 50 USMS misconduct cases that were closed during FY 1998 to FY 2000. We found 25 cases in which the consistency or the degree of the discipline raised serious concerns. In addition, the rationale for final discipline decisions was not adequately documented in these cases. In 8 of the 50 cases, we also found no documented evidence in the employeesí official personnel folders that discipline actions had been enforced. In 14 of the 50 cases, we found significant periods of unexplained elapsed time that prolonged case adjudication. The overall adjudication timeline for these 14 cases ranged from 89 to 330 days, with unexplained elapsed time ranging from 61 to 217 days. Because of incomplete or inaccurate information in the USMSís official case files and automated personnel database, we were unable to reconstruct case events to account for these gaps in time.

Timeliness of case processing was also a problem in the USMSís Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Program, an informal method for mediating disputes. We found that 66 percent of the misconduct cases in the ADR Program had exceeded the Programís established time limit of 60 days.

In addition, the USMS has not fully developed and implemented performance standards for the formal adjudication of misconduct cases. Therefore, personnel involved in processing misconduct cases do not have complete performance goals, standards, and measures to guide their work or identify strengths and weaknesses in case adjudications. We also found a need for improved coordination among the various USMS entities involved in the discipline process. During our interviews, officials expressed concern or uncertainty about their responsibilities and about the procedures, timelines, and quality of the discipline process.

Finally, we found that the USMS is not reporting all allegations of misconduct to the OIG as required by OIG policy. For FY 1998 to FY 2000, the USMS failed to report a total of 239 misconduct allegations. These allegations included firearms violations, discrimination complaints, fraud, and hostile work environment misconduct. Furthermore, we found that allegations related to 16 of the 50 cases in our sample were not reported to the OIG. We made 12 recommendations to help the USMS improve its discipline process.

Travel Charge Card Delinquencies in the INS

The Department provides employees with travel charge cards to use for official government travel and expects those employees to pay the Departmentís contractor, Bank One, for any charges incurred. While examining issues related to procurement cards, we l—arned that Department employees were accruing significant travel charge card debts. In a report issued during the previous reporting period, we determined that unpaid debt over the 2-year period from November 1998 to December 2000 amounted to $1.2 million. Because INS employees accounted for nearly $825,000, or 69 percent, of this debt, we conducted a separate review to identify ways for the INS to strengthen its travel charge card program and reduce delinquencies. We selected a sample of 54 INS travel charge card delinquencies from Bank Oneís January 1, 2001, report of cardholders who were 120 to 180 days delinquent. We identified the INSís procedures for monitoring delinquencies and obtained detailed information on individual delinquencies by contacting INS travel card coordinators. We also discussed procedures with the Bank One official responsible for the Departmentís account and examined a variety of reports and data he provided.

The high delinquency rates of INS employees indicate that significant improvements are needed in the INSís administration of its travel charge card program. We recommended the following improvements: (1) greater management support for and oversight of the travel charge card program; (2) more timely identification by the program coordinators of delinquencies and misuse, and referral to cardholder supervisors, management, and investigative units for resolution; (3) stronger actions by management against those who misuse their credit cards or neglect to pay their bills; (4) stronger controls over access to travel cards and use of automated teller machines when not in travel status; and (5) better education of managers, supervisors, coordinators, and cardholders on their roles and responsibilities. The INS concurred with our recommendations.

Indian Gaming Crimes and Child Pornography and Obscenity Prosecutions

During this reporting period, the OIG responded to congressional requests for information on the Departmentís prosecution of Indian gaming crimes and child pornography and obscenity crimes. We analyzed data from 1992 to 2000 pertaining to Indian gaming crime prosecutions, including the number of cases referred to the USAOs by source of referral; the number of cases prosecuted; the number of cases declined, by reason for declination; and the results of the prosecutions. We also interviewed officials from several Department components, the FBI, and the Office of Tribal Justice to discuss the Departmentís role with respect to the Indian gaming industry. Finally, we obtained information on the possible infiltration of organized crime into the Indian gaming industry and the Departmentís opinion of the effectiveness of the National Indian Gaming Commission (Gaming Commission), which regulates the industry.

We found that the Department investigates and prosecutes few cases relating to Indian gaming. Instead, most Indian gaming violations are resolved civilly through regulatory channels, such as the Gaming Commission. However, Department officials expressed concern about the Gaming Commissionís ability to meet its regulatory responsibilities given its limited staff.

The OIG also analyzed data from 1992 to 2000 pertaining to child pornography and adult obscenity crime prosecutions, including the number of cases referred to the USAOs by source of referral; the number of cases prosecuted; the number of cases declined, by reason for declination; and the results of the prosecutions. In addition, we interviewed officials from several Department components to discuss their roles in investigating and prosecuting child pornography and adult obscenity crimes. We found that the Department has established several programs to focus on the investigation and prosecution of crimes against children. As a result, child pornography investigations and prosecutions have increased steadily during the past few years.

Ongoing Reviews

During this reporting period, E&I worked on several reviews that we anticipate issuing in the next reporting period.

International Extradition of Fugitives

The Departmentís Office of International Affairs (OIA) within the Criminal Division advises federal and state prosecutors about the procedures for requesting extradition from abroad and handling foreign extradition requests for fugitives found in the United States. Inspectors evaluated how the OIA manages the extradition process. The draft report will offer recommendations to address problems with the OIAís management of both individual extradition cases and its overall caseload.

The DEAís Response to Newly Diverted Controlled Substances

The DEAís Diversion Control Program is responsible for deterring the diversion of legal pharmaceutical drugs to the illicit drug trade. One such drug is OxyContin, an opium-derived medication intended for managing major pain. The illegal use of OxyContin as a recreational drug has been increasing at an alarming rate since its introduction in 1996, and many deaths have been attributed to abuse of this drug. The DEAís response to the OxyContin problem should give us insight into the effectiveness of the DEAís Diversion Control Program.

Follow-Up Activities

Unresolved Reviews

DOJ Order 2900.10, Follow-up and Resolution Policy for Inspection Recommendations by the OIG, requires reports to be resolved within six months of the report issuance date. As of September 30, there are no unresolved reviews.

Evaluation and Inspections Statistics

The chart below summarizes E&I's accomplishments for the 6-month reporting period ending September 30, 2001.

E&I Workload Accomplishments Number of
Reviews active at beginning of period5
Reviews canceled1
Reviews initiated8
Final reports issued7
Reviews active at end of reporting period5