By Kathryn Watson
Immigration officials sent hundreds of green cards to incorrect addresses, fueling national security concerns they “may have fallen into the wrong hands,” a new Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Inspector General report finds.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), using a 480-percent-over-budget automated immigration processing system that has increased green card errors rather than reducing them, printed “potentially hundreds” of green cards with the wrong names or sent them to the wrong addresses in recent years.
That error “has created potential security concerns about documents that cannot be accounted for or that may have fallen into the wrong hands,” the IG found.
The automated system was supposed to cost $536 million, but is expected to cost $3.1 billion, and hasn’t done much to minimize a backlog of 12,000 green card applications.
Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, blasted USCIS, saying “this failed effort to automate the processing of immigration benefits is concerning and poses unnecessary national security risks.”
Johnson said the over-spending and poor performance of the new immigration processing system “put our nation at risk. With ISIS and other terrorist groups active around the world and committed to attacks on our country, our national security depends on our systems for screening visa and immigration applications working effectively.”
Even when customers asked for USCIS to correct the information, USCIS was unable to do so, the report said.
Top officials at USCIS reacted bitterly to the IG report, calling it “inaccurate.” That prompted an unusually strong letter from DHS Inspector General John Roth to USCIS Director León Rodríguez.
“I would be remiss if I did not take this opportunity to express my disappointment at the tone and substance of your office’s response to the audit report, as well as audit staff’s efforts throughout this project,” Roth wrote. The USCIS has “continually minimized the shortcomings of the program and resisted independent oversight.”
Roth said USCIS’s failure to implement major recommendations for fixing the new automated processing system “does not appear rational” and “suggests continued effort to promote disagreement for its own sake rather than collaboration towards the shared goal of promoting effectiveness and efficiency in department operations.”
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