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Over the past 10 years, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service has spent billions creating ELIS, an electronic filing system for immigration applications. They’ve also spent millions fixing the problems it’s caused.
According to a recent report issued by the Department of Homeland Security, the USCIS has made serious errors issuing green cards in the past three years. These errors have potentially disastrous effects on immigrants and threaten our national security.
19,000 Green Cards Issued with Incorrect Information or in Duplicate
Over the past three years, the USCIS has issued 19,000 green cards with incorrect information or in duplicate. Most card issuance errors were due to functionality problems with ELIS. The USCIS was unable to retrieve all cards and their efforts to fix this problem “lacked a sense of urgency.”
200,000 Reports of Missing Cards
There have been 200,000 reports of missing cards, many sent to wrong addresses. ELIS has a functionality problem updating addresses. In one case, an applicant received green cards that belonged to two other applicants. The number of cards sent to wrong addresses has actually increased each year since 2013.
13,000 Cards Printed and Issued with Incorrect Personal Information
Thirteen-thousand cards were printed and delivered with wrong information. Errors included photos swapped with fingerprints, wrong date of birth, and photos mismatched across family members. Five-thousand cards were printed with “No Given Name” as a first name.
Applicants Charged Double
In some cases, out of 750 between March and May 2016, applicants were charged the $365 filing fee twice and received two green cards.
1.5 Million Spent Trying to Fix the Problem
The Office of Inspector General reports the USCIS spent $1.5 million responding to card-related customer inquiries in the fiscal year 2015 alone. Immigrants bear the brunt of these costs, with USCIS drastically increasing application fees in 2016. In some cases, fees increased as much as 60 percent.
Problems for Applications
Without proper documentation, approved applicants may not be able to exercise their lawful rights as immigrants.
Without a valid or correct green card, immigrants may be unable to obtain benefits, maintain employment, or prove lawful immigration status. Immigrants use green cards to prove identity when applying for public benefits, such as driver’s licenses or Social Security cards. Having an incorrect card could result in denial of benefits or possibly having their card confiscated. They could even be accused of immigration fraud.
When cards are missing or not properly delivered, applicants may be unable to obtain or renew driver’s licenses, Social Security cards, employment without interruption, or authorization to exit and re-enter the United States.
Recipients of these incorrect cards and those who never receive cards have to go through the entire I-90 application process again. This process is more complicated than the original due to extended wait time for an applicant to receive their valid green card.
A Threat to National Security
In the wrong hands, green cards may enable terrorists or criminals to remain in the U.S. and access immigrant benefits. Thousands of duplicate cards and cards issued with incorrect information are missing. This creates opportunities for exploitation.
With a green card, an imposter can easily steal a person’s identity, gaining access to bank accounts and public benefits. Green cards can be used to obtain public benefits such as Social Security, Medicare, Veteran’s assistance, and government grants. They also serve as identity needed to obtain driver’s licenses, firearms, and concealed handgun permits.