Immigration Agency Falters in Handling Fraud Cases

Stephen Dinan, Washington Times, March 6, 2006

A draft government report shows the agency that would oversee any future guest-worker program doesn’t have a handle on fraud, doesn’t do enough to deter it, and won’t have a fraud-management system in place until 2011—years after its proponents want a program to start.

A copy of the draft, obtained by The Washington Times, says U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has looked at the prevalence of fraud in just a few of the types of visas it now issues and doesn’t give adjudicators the time or tools to detect fraud or refer it to authorities for prosecution.

The report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) said that USCIS can’t tell the extent of immigration benefit fraud, but “it is a serious problem.”

USCIS is part of the Department of Homeland Security and is in charge of adjudicating immigration benefits such as citizenship and permanent residence.

The report shows an agency caught between competing priorities of fast service and taking the time to make a correct judgment. With a backlog of applications, the speedy decisions seem to be winning.

“Adjudicators we spoke with said that management’s focused attention on reducing the backlog placed additional pressure on them to process applications faster, thereby increasing the risk of making incorrect decisions, including approval of potentially fraudulent applications,” the GAO said.

Of the fraud assessments USCIS has done, GAO found a 30 percent fraud rate among religious worker applications and “the assessment also uncovered one case where law enforcement had identified an applicant as a suspected terrorist.”

The report comes as Congress is debating whether to create a guest-worker program and whether to allow illegal aliens to participate in it. President Bush requested $247 million in his budget this year for USCIS to begin planning for a guest-worker program.

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The report also says neither USCIS nor Immigration and Customs Enforcement, one of the law-enforcement arms of the immigration services, regularly penalize those who file fraudulent applications. Thus, there is no risk to filing fraudulently and aliens or businesses seeking to employ them can keep trying until they succeed.

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