At least 858 US citizenship given by error, 200,000 green cards missing: Inspector General John Roth

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Roth cited information flaws in naturalized citizenship and green cards due to incomplete data and errors in Electronic Immigration System (ELIS) 

DHS Inspector General John Roth. Credit: C-SPAN

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Inspector General John Roth testified to Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency on Thursday. Roth revealed some staggering flaws in the US Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) system in mailing of green cards, information related to green card beneficiaries and naturalized citizens.

“Since May 2013, USCIS processing of new and replacement Permanent Resident Cards (commonly referred to as Green Cards) has been accomplished using ELIS. Yet the process has been fraught with issues, creating considerable security risk for the nation,” Roth said. “Our ongoing review has already uncovered significant operational and security issues that pose grave concern.”

Roth further informed that not only did the USCIS issued green cards improperly but the error rate regarding the postal addresses of the beneficiaries also doubled during fiscal year 2013-2015.

“For instance, service requests initiated by USCIS customers claiming they did not receive Green Cards increased from 44,519 in fiscal year (FY) 2013 to 92,645 in FY 2015 – in other words, the error rate doubled in only two years,” Roth said.

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The impact of these errors was not merely on the time and efforts of the staff involved. In 2015 these errors costed USCIS nearly $1.5 million dollars, Roth informed.

Former President Obama’s appointee, Roth testified that in 2016 his office reviewed a list of 1,029 naturalized citizens and found that at least 858 of them were ineligible for US citizenship. This happened, he said, due to lapses in data related to the applicants and incomplete digitization of important data for instance fingerprints.

“Our report confirmed that USCIS granted citizenship to at least 858 individuals on the list who may have been ineligible for naturalized citizenship because they had received deportation orders under different identities in the past,” he affirmed.

Surprisingly, nearly 148,000 individuals who were linked with deportation, fugitive status and criminal histories also stand chance for US green cards. According to DHS report, the department is yet to upload their fingerprints in its digital database.  “The only fingerprint records available that linked the individuals to the deportation orders have been taken on old paper cards and stored in alien files under different names,” Roth said. “When DHS established its electronic fingerprint repository, it did not digitize and upload those fingerprint cards.”

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Furthermore, Roth apprised the committee of 200,000 missing green cards. He told the committee that in November 2016 DHS had reported on the missing green cards. Apparently, USCIS mailed these many green cards to wrong addresses and the approved applicants complained to the department that they did not receive their green cards.

To ensure better scrutiny of individual applicants, DHS has recommended that all major offices dealing with immigration – USCIS, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and DHS’s Office of Operation Coordination (OPS) – should work together, especially on fingerprints, to evaluate citizenship eligibility. It suggested that ICE should digitize all fingerprints immediately. In addition, the government departments should have capabilities to screen social media use of visa and asylum seekers.

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