October 1, 2002–March 31, 2003
Office of the Inspector General
THE IMMIGRATION AND NATURALIZATION SERVICE
The INS is responsible for enforcing the laws regulating the admission of aliens into the United States and for administering various immigration benefits. During this reporting period, the INS had approximately 29,000 employees in 33 INS districts and 21 Border Patrol sectors in the United States, and in 3 district offices and 39 area offices outside the United States. Effective March 1, 2003, the INS's staff and responsibilities were transferred to the DHS.
The OIG developed a separate list of top management challenges in the INS given the INS's transfer to the DHS.
Top Management Challenges in the INS - 2002
The OIG's list of Top Management Challenges in the INS can be found on the OIG's website at www.usdoj.gov/oig/challenges/index.htm.
FOLLOW-UP REVIEW ON THE STATUS OF SEVIS IMPLEMENTATION
This evaluation assessed the INS's progress in implementing SEVIS since issuance of our May 2002 report, The Immigration and Naturalization Service's Contacts With Two September 11 Terrorists: A Review of the INS's Admissions of Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi, its Processing of their Change of Status Applications, and its Efforts to Track Foreign Students in the United States.
This follow-up review found that the INS has made significant progress in implementing SEVIS to track foreign students. However, we found continued problems with the INS's certification of schools to accept foreign students, oversight of contractors conducting school site visits, oversight of schools' compliance with SEVIS requirements, training of contractors and INS personnel, procedures for identifying and referring potential instances of student or school fraud, and resource levels for investigating potential fraud. Because of these problems, the INS did not fully implement SEVIS by January 1, 2003, the congressionally mandated deadline. Among the specific deficiencies we found in the INS's implementation of SEVIS were the following.
Because the INS has not fully implemented SEVIS, the program must be carefully managed during the transfer of the INS to the DHS. We concluded that without close oversight to ensure continuity and a smooth transition, full SEVIS implementation may be further delayed. We recommended eight actions that the DHS should take to help ensure the program's effectiveness in monitoring foreign students.
THE INS'S PRIMARY INSPECTIONS AT AIR PORTS OF ENTRY
INS inspections at air ports of entry consist of a primary inspection and, when required, a secondary inspection. In a primary inspection, an inspector examines the traveler's travel documents, checks law enforcement databases for information about the traveler, asks questions pertinent to admissibility, and reviews and completes portions of applicable INS forms. The goal is to quickly admit legitimate travelers to the United States and refer high-risk travelers and inadmissible aliens for more detailed secondary inspections.
An OIG review of primary inspections at air ports of entry found the INS needs to improve its capability to perform passenger analyses prior to flight arrival, which is critical in identifying high-risk individuals and preventing the entry of inadmissible persons to the United States. Additionally, the INS's lookout system did not always provide primary inspectors critical information known to the INS - such as lookouts for aggravated felons who have been previously refused entry to the United States or for stolen passports - that could enable inspectors to identify high-risk and inadmissible persons. The OIG also found that primary inspectors did not always query lookout databases as required. For example, when we tested query procedures for two high-risk flights that arrived on September 11, 2002, we found that inspectors did not query all required travelers, despite the heightened national threat level.
Our review of the INS's primary and secondary inspection data for FY 2002 revealed that for the 1.1 million travelers referred to secondary inspection, more than 41,000 had unknown inspection dispositions, even though primary inspectors had identified more than 2,800 of those 41,000 travelers as lookout matches.
The INS invested over $19 million to train about 1,000 new immigration inspectors at its academy in FY 2002. We found that the training was not sufficient in terrorism awareness or the use of computer systems that provide critical information about travelers seeking entry to the United States. These training deficiencies greatly increased the risk that inspectors would admit inadmissible travelers. The fact that, in the last fiscal year, about 26 percent of all inspectors at air, land, and sea ports of entry were newly hired increases the need for the INS to implement an aggressive and complete training program.
We made 27 recommendations to improve primary inspection operations. Our recommendations focused on: (1) improving the INS's operational capability to perform passenger analyses prior to flight arrival, (2) strengthening the INS's policy, controls, and mechanisms to ensure that vital lookout and intelligence information is available to primary inspectors, (3) strengthening the INS's controls over the entire primary inspection process so that primary inspectors analyze the results of lookout queries, refer appropriate travelers to secondary inspection, and ensure that referred travelers arrive in secondary for further examination and appropriate disposition, and (4) training new inspectors to use the computer systems that provide lookout and other critical information on travelers seeking entry into the United States.
FOLLOW-UP AUDIT OF THE INS'S AIRPORT INSPECTION FACILITIES
An OIG audit issued in December 2000 found deficiencies in INS inspection facilities at 42 international airports in the United States. We found that airports were vulnerable to illegal entry, escapes, injuries, and the smuggling of aliens and contraband. The OIG recommended that the INS correct the deficiencies and improve the condition of the airport inspection facilities.
The OIG initiated this follow-up audit because of the quantity and severity of deficiencies found during the prior audit, the difficulty the INS had in taking effective corrective action, and the increased importance of airport security. The OIG found that at the 12 airports audited in the follow-up review, the INS took insufficient action to implement the recommendations from the prior audit. It failed to advise many of the airports of needed improvements or even notify its own airport staff of the prior audit results. The INS also failed to apply sanctions successfully against those airlines that did not provide suitable inspection facilities. Finally, the INS did not develop a program to review existing facilities or develop performance measures related to improving the airport inspection facilities. Thus, all airports reviewed in this follow-up audit had repeat deficiencies. For example, some airports did not have intercoms between access control points and the command center, emergency exits with both local and central alarms, or hold rooms that could be unlocked easily during an emergency.
The OIG also found additional deficiencies not identified in the prior audit. Some inspection areas lacked adequate camera coverage, and some interview rooms did not have video systems for recording interviews. The OIG also found that security systems and equipment were ineffective at some of the airports. The OIG found inoperable alarms and cameras and security features that had been turned off, were not monitored, or had not been installed.
By not addressing the risks associated with poor facilities or exercising its authority to impose sanctions where necessary, the INS continued to undermine its ability to influence airlines and airport authorities to meet security standards. Thus, some airports continue to be vulnerable to illegal entry, escapes, injuries, and smuggling of aliens and contraband into the United States. The OIG made seven recommendations to the INS to improve the security of its airport inspection facilities.
THE INS'S REMOVAL OF ALIENS ISSUED FINAL ORDERS
The OIG issued a follow-up report to a 1996 OIG review that assessed the INS's effectiveness at removing aliens with final orders. In the follow-up review, we found that the INS remains successful at removing detained aliens but unsuccessful at removing nondetained aliens. Detained aliens are removed at a rate of 92 percent while nondetained aliens are removed at a rate of 13 percent. These removal rates are similar to those we found in 1996 - detained aliens were removed at a rate of 94 percent while nondetained aliens were removed at a rate of 11 percent.
We also examined the removal rate of several high-risk subgroups of nondetained aliens ordered removed. The OIG found that aliens with criminal records were removed at a rate of 35 percent, aliens from countries identified by the U.S. Department of State as sponsors of terrorism were removed at a rate of 6 percent, and aliens denied asylum were removed at a rate of 3 percent. The OIG also found that the INS failed to implement the corrective actions recommended in the OIG's 1996 report.
We recommended that the INS establish annual goals for apprehending and removing absconders and other nondetained aliens with final orders, identify the resources needed to achieve these goals, and apply resources to all case types. We also recommended that the INS establish a program to correct missing and inaccurate data in the Deportable Aliens Control System and implement a data system with the Executive Office for Immigration Review for tracking and processing alien cases.
THE INS'S PREMIUM PROCESSING PROGRAM
The INS established the Premium Processing program in June 2001 to allow certain employment-based applications to be processed expeditiously for an additional premium of $1,000. Although the goal of Premium Processing is to expedite premium petitions, the long-term objective is to reduce or eliminate backlogs in the INS's total adjudications workload. The OIG audited the Premium Processing program to determine if: (1) the INS was achieving program goals for processing employment-based petitions and applications, (2) the processing times for similar routine petitions and applications had changed significantly since the implementation of the Premium Processing program, and (3) implementation of the mandated Interagency Border Inspection System (IBIS) checks impacted the Premium Processing service.
The OIG's audit found that while the INS is essentially meeting its 15-day processing requirement for premium petitions, the Premium Processing program has adversely affected the time required to adjudicate routine applications and petitions. While more applicants are paying the $1,000 Premium Processing fee for expedited adjudication, the backlog of routine petitions at INS service centers has increased steadily, reaching 3.2 million in September 2002. Thus, the program may be increasing at least some adjudications backlogs instead of reducing or eliminating those backlogs, as intended. The OIG also found that INS service centers failed to institute IBIS checks in a timely manner. The INS mandated IBIS checks on all petition types starting January 28, 2002, but, due to a breakdown in communications between INS headquarters and the field, the service centers did not institute IBIS checks for all petitions until March 2002. As a result, 11,830 Premium Processing petitions were adjudicated without IBIS checks between January 28, 2002, and March 18, 2002. The OIG further found that program analysis of Premium Processing has been weak. The INS maintains statistical databases to track all types of adjudications, staff, and supervisory hours, but Premium Processing is not separately identified in these databases or others used for supporting budget requests, position allocations, and general analysis. Consequently, the INS lacks reliable data about the Premium Processing workload and the resources it requires.
The OIG recommended that the INS strengthen internal communications about policies and procedures affecting adjudications, ensure that an appropriate portion of Premium Processing revenues is used to reduce the INS's adjudications backlog, employ the INS's nationwide work measurement system to collect management information about the Premium Processing program, conduct a formal study to determine the unit costs for processing premium cases and to assign adequate staff and other resources to meet the needs of the program, and conduct a formal analysis of the $1,000 premium to ensure that revenues are allocated as required by law.
INS REEMPLOYMENT OF ANNUITANTS
Normally, federal annuitants rehired by the federal government have their salaries offset by an amount equal to the annuity they receive from the government. In 1996, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) granted the INS emergency authority to rehire federal annuitants, but waive the offset and pay annuitants their full salaries. Because of congressional concern over how the INS had used this authority, the OIG audited the INS's rehiring of annuitants from FY 1996 to FY 2002.
We found that the INS had not developed an effective plan to reduce its dependence on rehired annuitants. We also found that the INS did not accurately track the number of federal annuitants it rehired and could not confirm the compensation paid to annuitants. According to data supplied by the National Finance Center, for the period audited the INS employed 379 annuitants and paid them approximately $49 million in salary (including overtime) compensation. Of those 379 annuitants, 294 received waivers and salary compensation totaling $39.5 million. We focused on 69 INS waiver extension requests reviewed by the Justice Management Division (JMD) in FY 2002. We found that JMD did not maintain a standard review sheet or similar analysis that provided the basis or rationale for its decisions on waiver extension requests. However, JMD applied specific criteria to review the extensions and denied a number of such requests by the INS. In our judgment, JMD can improve its review process and mitigate or eliminate potential questions regarding its waiver extension decisions by documenting its analyses.
We recommended that the INS and JMD (or the appropriate component in the DHS): (1) develop improved accounting procedures, (2) ensure that rehired annuitant files contain statements that the annuitant would not accept the position without a waiver being granted, (3) maintain documentation in annuitant files explaining the basis for granting or denying waivers, and (4) develop effective long-range hiring and training strategies.
THE NORFOLK SHIP JUMPING INCIDENT
The OIG examined the actions of INS employees in connection with a widely publicized "ship jumping" incident. When a Russian cargo ship docked in Norfolk, Virginia, on March 16, 2002, the crew did not have individual visas, which generally are required for entering the United States. Following a database search of the crewmen's names by an INS immigration inspector and an inspection of the crew by an INS supervisory immigration inspector, the crew was granted a waiver of the visa requirement. The immigration inspectors, however, had not requested or received the proper authority for granting such a waiver. According to a November 2001 change in INS policy, waivers had to be approved by specified INS officials.
Four of the 27 crewmen failed to return to the ship prior to its departure from Norfolk on March 18, 2002. The OIG investigated the Norfolk incident to determine how the ship jumpers had been given waivers in violation of INS policy.
The OIG found that the Norfolk immigration inspectors had not been informed of the INS policy change, primarily due to inaction by the INS Washington District Office and, to a smaller extent, by the INS Norfolk Office. The OIG concluded that the Norfolk ship jumping incident highlighted a long-standing problem in the INS - that INS policies and changes in policy are not distributed to INS offices and employees in the field in a uniform or effective way. The INS had been on notice of problems with inconsistent distribution of policies since at least February 2000 when the INS Office of Internal Audit issued a report recommending changes in that area. Two years later, the INS still had not implemented these changes. In its ship jumping review, the OIG recommended that the INS give priority to its ongoing project of making electronic field manuals that include all policy revisions available to employees. Further, the OIG recommended that the INS make better use of e-mail, electronic bulletin boards, and other electronic means to transmit new policies to the INS employees who must enforce them.
THE INS'S ABILITY TO PROVIDE ALIEN INFORMATION TO THE SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION
At the request of the Social Security Administration (SSA) OIG, we assessed whether the INS timely posts information about aliens into INS databases that it shares with the SSA. The SSA uses the databases to issue Social Security numbers to aliens. The OIG examined two systems used by the INS to provide the SSA with aliens' immigration statuses: (1) Immigrant Visa DataShare (DataShare) and (2) the Nonimmigrant Information System (NIIS).
The OIG concluded that the INS is prepared to implement the enumeration phase of the DataShare process and provide the SSA immigrant status using DataShare. The INS has participated in the DataShare program for several years and has made and tested all of the DataShare modifications to support the SSA's requirements. The INS estimated that the entire process of uploading nonimmigrant information into NIIS and making it available to the SSA would take approximately 11 to 13 workdays. The OIG concluded that the INS's estimate is based on reasonable approximations and assumptions.
From October 1, 2002, through March 1, 2003 (when oversight of the INS transferred to the DHS OIG), the OIG received 1,663 complaints involving the INS. The most common allegations made against INS employees included: official misconduct; job performance failure; inappropriate treatment of the public, aliens, or detainees; and inappropriate use of force or abuse. The vast majority of complaints dealt with less serious issues, and the OIG referred these allegations to the INS Office of Internal Audit.
At the close of the reporting period, the OIG had 179 open cases of alleged misconduct against INS employees. The criminal investigations cover a wide range of offenses, including INS document fraud, bribery of a public official, alien and drug smuggling, and theft of government funds. The administrative investigations include serious allegations of misconduct, including allegations against high-level employees. Following are some of the cases investigated during this reporting period.
PROCEDURAL REFORM RECOMMENDATIONS
The Investigations Division prepares a Procedural Reform Recommendation (PRR) recommending corrective action by a Department component when an investigation identifies a systemic weakness in an internal policy, practice, procedure, or program. Provided below are examples of PRRs sent to the INS during this reporting period.