No One’s Minding the Store

Ryan Lovelace, National Review, December 17, 2014

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officials tasked with preventing fraud from taking place are instead being forced to do administrative work, according to the federal official who created and directed the division of the government responsible for preventing immigration fraud. Opponents and supporters of President Obama’s executive action on immigration say the Department of Homeland Security is not prepared to handle the fraud that will come from the implementation of amnesty. The sheer volume of applications the department could receive–millions are expected–will make it difficult to weed out document fraud and instances of false representation.

Despite the increasing potential for fraud, Louis “Don” Crocetti Jr., the architect and former director of USCIS’s Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate, says the Obama administration has stopped conducting fraud assessments entirely. The directorate’s primary responsibility is to determine whether individuals or organizations that file for immigration benefits pose a threat to the nation. Crocetti, who built and led the directorate from 2004 until 2011, says he does not think USCIS has conducted one immigration-benefit fraud assessment in the past five years. Such assessments allow government officials to identify instances and causes of fraud and then determine possible corrective actions.

Yet fraud has been a persistent problem. In almost every assessment conducted during Crocetti’s time with the directorate, he says, a significant amount of fraud was discovered. According to Crocetti, the directorate routinely discovered that more than 10 percent of the items surveyed in its assessments was deemed fraudulent.

“I think if the agency and the department were truly that concerned about detecting and combating fraud, they would have started resuming the benefit-fraud assessment years ago,” he says. “We’re going in the wrong direction.”

Crocetti expects an “astronomical” number of forged and falsified documents to result from the president’s executive action on immigration and does not believe the Obama administration is making the effort to prevent such fraud. In fact, counterfeiters may have already begun creating false records for illegal immigrants seeking to take advantage of the amnesty, Ronald Colburn, former national deputy chief of the U.S. Border Patrol, previously told NRO. Crocetti thinks some illegal immigrants will also claim false relationships with lawful residents in order to benefit from the executive action’s extension of deferred action on deportation to the parents of lawful residents.

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Instead of doing fraud assessments, Crocetti says the Obama administration has tasked officials with administrative work. This means officials are conducting compliance reviews, which include unannounced site visits to make sure that both non-immigrants and employers are conducting their business appropriately, instead of finding ways to prevent fraud. Crocetti tells NRO he developed both the fraud assessments and compliance reviews and considers both operations crucial, but he adds that contractors who lack immigration expertise can conduct compliance reviews.

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The USCIS officials charged with fighting fraud are demoralized, Crocetti says, and are stuck in an outdated system that cannot handle all of the challenges the Department of Homeland Security faces. The administration never conducted an immigration-benefit fraud assessment on President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, he says, which is a program that shielded certain illegal immigrants from deportation. He says his colleagues at the directorate say “there is no specific anti-fraud effort being undertaken nor was there ever an anti-fraud component of the DACA program, that they didn’t even interview individuals.” He adds that people who work at the directorate are uncomfortable sharing their concerns publicly because they fear that they will lose their jobs. Crocetti thinks the Obama administration’s negligence is not a sign of malicious intent, but instead shows that it lacks commitment and interest in preventing immigration fraud.

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