IG report: Visa violator enforcement systems lacking

The government's systems for identifying, locating and apprehending aliens who have violated the terms of their U.S. visits are inadequate to the task, according to a new report from Homeland Security Department Inspector General Richard Skinner.

The study looked at the systems deployed by the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and its Compliance Enforcement Unit (CEU). Out of 142,816 leads on suspected overstays during 2004, 4,164 cases were referred to field officers, resulting in 671 apprehensions.

"CEU depends on systems that are incomplete," the report concluded. "The sum of deficiencies in the systems, in CEU's output and other factors in the apprehension and removal process, results in a minimal impact in reducing the number of overstays in the United States."

The enforcement unit receives leads on violations from the U.S. Visit Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology (U.S. Visit), Student and Exchange Visitor Information Systems, and the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System. In 2004, CEU received more than 300,000 violator leads from those three programs, according to the IG report.

Other sources of leads include visa revocations by the State Department and biometric referrals based on matched fingerprints with the National Crime Information Center.

Much of CEU's work is to check on various databases within the government to determine if the potential violators have left the country or have changed their status.

However, many of the leads prove invalid or not actionable. A major shortcoming in the systems is the lack of an exit-control database within U.S. Visit, the IG said.

The systems also are plagued by delays. Of more than 14,000 referrals examined, 49 percent had not been processed by CEU after two months. The time lag is significant because the aliens may change location over time, making apprehension more difficult.

Skinner recommended that the CEU address "data quality issues" with the referring agencies to generate more actionable leads, assess CEU workflows and develop standard operating procedures.

CEU officials, in their response, said they had taken steps to address the findings.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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