FBI Database Often Errs on Aliens’ Status

Keyonna Summers, Washington Times, Dec. 9, 2005

An FBI database that tracks the immigration statuses of detainees and illegal aliens routinely gives incorrect information to police departments, with the District and Montgomery County among those having the most problems, according to a survey released yesterday.

The report, released through the Migration Policy Institute, states that police officers nationwide who use the crime database to check the names of people they stop or detain received wrong information on immigration status nearly 9,000 times from 2002 to 2004.

About 44 percent of the mistakes likely lead to the wrongful detentions of thousands of immigrants and citizens, said Michael Wishnie, a fellow at the institute, a nonpartisan think tank that analyzes immigration. He also is one of the authors of the study, all of whom are from the New York University School of Law.

The number of erroneous reports that area police officers received was higher than the national average.

From 2002 and 2004, Virginia officers made 400 calls while those in Maryland made 283 and those in the District made 91.

Officers in the District received erroneous information about immigration status from the FBI database about 78 percent of the time.

Maryland officers received incorrect information 63 percent of the time, and Virginia officers received it 61 percent, about 20 percentage points above the national average.

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