WASHINGTON, D.C. – The office of Inspector General for the Department of Homeland Security said technology used to track visa holders is “fragmented” and “ineffective”. The investigation found a lack of technology could lead to serious national security threats. According to the report, two of the 19 September 11 2001 hijackers overstayed their visas.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the enforcer of immigration laws, relies on information technology systems from a multitude of offices and departments that lack integration and information sharing capabilities, according to the report just released by the OIG.
The investigation was conducted to review how well technology assists or hinders ICE officers as they track people who have overstayed their visa. The OIG made five recommendations to ICE and DHS to improve.
As part of the investigation the OIG also examined technology of other departments including the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.
“USCIS employs nearly a dozen unintegrated systems to manage its immigration benefits processing,” the report states.
Because of the disjointed technology, the report found ICE officers have to conduct searches through multiple USCIS systems to gather a complete history of people under investigation.
“Searching across multiple USCIS systems was a long, cumbersome process that could take several hours, or several days, depending on the case,” the report states.
FileRight.com CEO Cesare Alessandrini has written extensively for Forbes about the shortcomings of USCIS and technology upgrades.
In some cases, ICE officers reported to the OIG they would need to request hard copies of immigration paperwork in order to investigate a case, causing major delays in their work and putting Americans at risk.
“USCIS personnel stated that the time to deliver a hard copy immigration file typically ranged from 2 to 8 work days, depending on the priority of the requested file,” the report states. “A suspect committed crimes, including domestic abuse and drug-related offenses, while the officer waited for the suspect’s immigration files to arrive from USCIS.”
According to the report, the delays can range from days to weeks and even months.
“In another example, an HSI (Homeland Security Investigations) agent’s pursuit of an overstay suspected of narco-terrorism activities was delayed for at least 6 months while the agent waited for a file from USCIS,” the report states.
According to the report, USCIS also provided ICE officers with a Person Centric search but according to officers interviewed some found it unreliable and questioned the completeness of the searches.
The five recommendations for improvement all include efforts that would improve information sharing, update training for officers and modernize technology across all departments. DHS and ICE agreed with the recommendations and are already implementing changes.
Read the full report.