Documents show that the Houston office of the federal agency charged with interior immigration enforcement has stopped investigating individual cases of “sham” marriages, which terrorists have used in the past to stay legally in the U.S.
“Due to our current goals, priorities and lack of resources, we will not be participating in conducting one-on-one marriage fraud investigations,” Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Special Agent Gus Meza wrote in an October 2004 e-mail obtained by The Washington Times, citing the direction of supervisory agents in Houston.
In another e-mail, an official at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the bureau that grants visas, says ICE agents regularly decline to investigate 70 percent of fraud cases, including sham marriages, sent over by the fraud unit at USCIS.
Both federal agents and independent analysts say “sham marriages” are a common tool used by terrorists to remain in the United States, making them a national security issue.
A recent report for the Center for Immigration Studies by Janice L. Kephart, who was one of the staff members on the September 11 commission, found that of 20 terrorists she studied, 18 married U.S. citizens, 10 of whom entered “sham marriages.”
Rep. John Culberson, Texas Republican, said the issues extend beyond marriage fraud probes. He said ICE and USCIS “cook the books” so they don’t have to do investigations. He also said USCIS cares more about finishing applications than in making sure those it admits are deserving.
“Their focus is customer service for the foreign national applying for the greatest privilege in the history of humanity—American citizenship—instead of providing national security protection,” he said.
Mr. Culberson obtained a memo from the Houston USCIS office that offers time off for employees who churn out cases quickly. According to the memo, completing an average of six cases a day over a given quarter earned an employee an extra day off and averaging 10 cases per day for the quarter earned an employee a week’s time off.
“The Houston office has had a reputation of being an easy mark for the foreign national that wants to slip into the country,” Mr. Culberson said.