p>Immigration and Naturalization Service's Deferred Inspections at Airports
Our statistical analysis of deferred inspections performed during our review period revealed that in 79 (11 percent) of the 725 cases reviewed, individuals paroled into the country failed to appear for their inspections. This is a conservative estimate, however, based on the fact that we were unable to determine the outcome of 20 percent of the cases selected due to the INS's incomplete record keeping. More unsettling was the fact that 42 of the 79 no-shows were identified as having criminal records or immigration violations by airport inspectors at the time of deferral. Based on queries of criminal history databases, nine individuals, subsequent to being deferred, were either charged or convicted of crimes considered to be aggravated felonies and may be subject to removal or deportation. We found that the INS took little or no follow-up action on the no-shows identified in our sample. This was caused, in part, by the fact that the INS lacked clearly defined procedures to ensure that individuals who fail to appear to complete their inspections were identified and appropriately penalized for failing to do so.
Analysis of No-Shows and Unable-to-Determines
Based on our analysis of deferred inspections performed at 9 major U.S. airports, in 79 of the 725 cases reviewed, 4 or nearly 11 percent, the individuals paroled into the country under the deferred inspections process failed to appear for the completion of their inspection. We refer to these individuals as no-shows throughout the report. When projected to the universe of 7,443 deferrals granted during our review period, our analysis indicates that at least 652 individuals paroled into the country failed to appear for their inspection. This is a conservative estimate, however, based on the fact that we were unable to determine the outcome of 146 or 20 percent of the cases selected due to the INS's incomplete record keeping. Projected to the universe of 7,443, we estimate that at least 1,311 cases were not sufficiently documented.
Our analysis also revealed a possible relationship between the reasons for deferral and the likelihood that individuals would not appear for inspection once deferred. Of particular interest were deferrals with criminal records, as well as deferrals with alerts or "lookouts" posted on law enforcement databases. We determined that while these two categories comprised 26 percent (186/725) of our sample, they accounted for over 50 percent (42/79) of all no-shows.
Further analysis revealed no-shows at all 9 locations that we tested. However, three locations accounted for two-thirds of total no-shows: [redacted] (20/79 or 25 percent), [redacted] (22/79 or 28 percent) and [redacted] (10/79 or 13 percent). This may be caused, in part, by the volume in international traffic and frequency of deferrals at these airports. Another potential factor is the fact that [redacted] have a local policy, requiring criminal history database checks on all individuals referred to secondary inspection. Inspectors in [redacted] go one step further by using the National Crime Information Center Interstate Identification Index 5 (NCIC III) to identify from pre-flight passenger manifests any non-U.S. citizens with criminal records who are en route to the U.S. As a result, aliens with criminal histories are more likely to be identified as such when seeking entry through these airports.
Individuals with criminal records seeking entry into the U.S. may or may not be admissible. Inspectors must take into consideration a number of factors, including the individual's immigration status, the type of crime committed, whether the charge resulted in conviction, and in some instances, the length of the prison term imposed. Although inspectors have access to federal and state criminal-justice databases, those databases do not always contain up-to-date information on conviction and sentencing. In such instances, airport inspectors may defer the inspection to allow individuals to present certified copies of court dispositions at the onward office. Based on a review of the court dispositions, inspectors then can admit the individuals or schedule them for removal or deportation proceedings.
There were 108 cases in our sample identified by airport inspectors as having criminal records where database systems contained no conviction or sentencing records. INS inspectors deferred these individuals so that they could bring in certified copies of their court dispositions. Of the 108 criminal deferrals, 77 appeared for inspection and 23 were no-shows. We were unable to determine the outcome of the remaining eight cases because the INS lacked sufficient records.
In addition, there were 78 cases in our sample flagged as lookouts for immigration purposes or outstanding arrest warrants. Lookout instructions require airport inspectors to contact the appropriate law enforcement agency for further action. Ultimately, these individuals were deferred for further review. Of the 78 lookout deferrals, 43 appeared for inspection and 19 were no-shows. We were unable to determine the outcome of the remaining 16 cases because the INS lacked sufficient records.
We found that inspectors did take some precautions, although not consistently and with mixed results, to discourage the occurrence of no-shows. Deterrents used included taking fingerprints and photographs, as well as retaining travel documents such as passports, visas, and resident alien cards. 6 Of the 77 criminal deferrals who did appear for inspection, some type of deterrent was used in 48 of the cases, suggesting that these steps may have had the intended effect in some instances. However, these same steps were also taken on 14 of the 23 no-shows, indicating that stronger measures may be needed, such as requiring the posting of bonds.
While none of the no-shows in our sample were identified as aggravated felons at the time of their deferral, the results of criminal history database queries we obtained indicated that five of the no-shows were arrested and convicted of aggravated felonies after their deferrals. As a result, these individuals may be subject to removal or deportation. Their convictions included the rape of a child; criminal sale and possession of a controlled substance; and unlawful delivery, conspiracy, and possession of cocaine.
In addition to the no-shows, we also obtained criminal history data on the 146 "unable-to-determines" with arrest records. These records indicated that four of these individuals were arrested for or convicted of aggravated felonies after their deferrals. The charges or convictions for these individuals included unlawful sexual intercourse with minors by a registered sexual offender, fraud, and immigration violations. Appendix IV of this report contains the summary results of criminal history reviews of these individuals and the aforementioned no-shows.
Despite the risks inherent in this process, and the potential impact on communities at large, we did not find adequate procedures in place to ensure that individuals who fail to appear are either brought in to complete their inspection or appropriately penalized for failing to do so. Chapter 17 of the Inspectors Field Manual (IFM), "Inadmissible Aliens," addresses deferred inspection policies and procedures but does not specifically address follow-up actions required for individuals who fail to appear for inspection.
Although 7 of 9 onward offices had their own local practices to help fill the procedural gaps, the results of our sample indicated that follow-up actions were initiated in only 20 of 79, or 25 percent, of the cases identified. Absent any clear procedural guidance, inspectors were largely left to their own discretion to determine appropriate actions to be taken. Those actions were sporadic and varied from sending notification letters to referring cases to the INS's Investigations Division. For example, we found in the [redacted] offices virtually no follow-up actions were taken against reported no-shows. The following table shows by onward office the frequency and types of follow-up activity performed.
FOLLOW-UP ACTIONS BY ONWARD OFFICES ON NO-SHOWS
We found that use of alert notices or lookout postings in law enforcement databases was underutilized at all of the offices reviewed. Lookouts were posted for only 11 of the 79 no-show cases. Current INS policy does not provide guidance on whether to post a lookout for an individual who fails to appear for a deferred inspection.
Referrals to INS Investigations were made for only 6 of 79 no-show cases. Of the six referrals to Investigations, three cases were initiated but none resulted in any completed actions. Current INS policy does not provide guidance to inspectors for making referrals to investigations for individuals who do not appear for completion of their deferred inspection.
Based upon the projected test results of a random sample of 725 deferrals, we found that from our universe of 7,443 deferred inspections, at least 652 and as many as 979 individuals did not appear for their deferred inspection. This is a conservative estimate that does not include the outcome in as many as 1,724 deferrals because the records were not available for us to make a determination. While the overall number of deferred inspections may be small with respect to the 75 million annual airport inspections that the INS performs, the public safety consequences can be serious. Airport inspectors identified a significant number of individuals in our sample as having criminal records or immigration violations at the time of deferral. Subsequent queries from criminal history databases revealed that several of these individuals were charged with or convicted of aggravated felonies after being deferred. The INS's failure to follow-up on no-shows has created an environment where individuals who do not appear for their inspection do so with virtual impunity. This threatens the integrity of the inspection process.
We recommend that the Commissioner, INS:
INS management did not adequately monitor the deferred inspection process. Controls were not in place to determine the effectiveness of the program or, at the most basic level, the number of individuals deferred and the outcome of those inspections. Ineffective and incomplete policies and practices mar the current operation and raise serious questions about the integrity of the deferred inspection process. Incomplete records were maintained at airports and onward offices, logs for deferrals were incomplete or nonexistent, and documentation was destroyed after a limited retention period. The existing process of tracking deferred inspections fails on many levels and has been left unchecked since its inception. For example, individuals who have previously violated their parole status by not appearing for inspection remain unidentified as such when seeking reentry. Without a service-wide tracking system that records the initial deferral and the outcome of the deferral, individuals who are inadmissible could reenter and remain in the country indefinitely.
Throughout our audit we noted an inadequate managerial presence over the deferred inspection process. This factor manifested itself in virtually all aspects of the process, including follow-up on no-shows as discussed in Finding 1 and the granting and tracking of deferred inspections as discussed in this finding. With regard to the latter, the lack of a comprehensive policy specific to deferred inspections has led to inconsistencies in local operating procedures, both between and within locations, and between airports and district offices. Illustrated in the following chart are the most frequently cited reasons for deferring an inspection.
While deferred inspections represent a small percentage of total airport inspections, the number of inspections deferred may be larger than it should be. Inspectors at all nine onward offices visited commented on the large number of what they considered to be unnecessary deferrals. Although the IFM states that deferred inspections should not be used as a means to transfer difficult cases or to transfer work to another office, we estimated that about 30 percent of the sample cases (217 of 725) were deferred for questionable reasons.
For example, document deficiency was by far the most common reason for deferral accounting for 267 (37 percent) of the 725 deferrals in our sample. Deficiencies were related mostly to passports, visas, and resident alien cards. Questionable deferrals for document deficiencies were related primarily to legal permanent residents who were not in possession of their resident alien card because it had been lost, stolen or left at home (64 cases). The majority of these cases originated at [redacted] (33). In our judgment, once identity was confirmed in INS information systems, for these cases, most of the inspections could have been completed at the airport by either filling out an application for a replacement card or paying a document waiver fee (Form I-193).
In 89 (12 percent) of the 725 cases, deferrals were granted to pay the fee associated with the Form I-193 Waiver of Documentary Requirement for individuals with document deficiencies. This is a curious practice given that the waiver fee is usually charged in lieu of deferring the inspection. We noted that individuals who did not have the cash on hand were often deferred to the onward office to pay the waiver fee. In our judgment, these deferrals might have been avoided if debit or credit card payments were accepted and automated teller machines were made available in inspection areas.
Inspectors deferred 44 of the 725 cases for possible abandonment of residency. 9 The overwhelming majority of these cases, 30 (68 percent) of the 44, originated at the [redacted] airport, which may be an indication of inconsistencies between airports in the handling of these types of cases. In our judgment, these deferrals could have been avoided given that inspectors have the discretion to schedule individuals for an immigration hearing in such instances, rather than defer them.
Finally, airport inspectors at [redacted] used the deferred inspection process for criminal aliens arrested and taken into custody at the airport in 20 (3 percent) of the 725 cases in our sample. This is clearly not the use intended for the deferred inspection process. Since the individuals in question were taken into custody, there would be no reason for scheduling them for deferred inspections.
Documenting Deferred Inspections
Documenting Deferred Inspections
The Form I-546 is the primary document used in authorizing and tracking deferred inspections. Airport inspectors use the form to initiate the deferred inspection process. When the form has been completed and the deferred inspection has been scheduled, airport inspectors forward the Form I-546 to the appropriate onward office. Inspectors at the onward office then use the Form I-546 to document the outcome of the inspection. Upon completion of the inspection, onward office inspectors return the Form I-546 to the originating airport where it is filed with a copy of the original Form I-546.
We found several problems associated with the I-546 paper process, one of which was that in spite of efforts by some onward offices to return the completed Forms I-546 to the originating airports, most airports made no attempt to retain or reconcile the port-of-entry copies with the onward office copies. Further compromising the system were inconsistent record retention policies for the Forms I-546 among the airports ranging from six months to three years. As a result, only 112 completed Forms I-546 were on file at the airports in our sample. When projected to the universe of 7,443, this indicates that at least 6,147 Forms I-546 were not retained.
In addition to the difficulties associated with the transfer of documents between offices, we found a problem with the forms themselves as well as inconsistencies in how the forms were completed. Pertinent items such as local addresses, phone numbers, dates of birth and country of birth are not required on the Form I-546. This information is crucial if an individual fails to appear and follow-up action is required. Some inspectors were including this information on their own initiative, but the fact that there are no fields on the form requiring these items is a deficiency that should be addressed.
Airport inspectors are also required to provide detailed information regarding the reason for deferral on the Form I-546 so that the onward office may prepare for a deferred inspection prior to an individual's arrival. However, the Form I-546 for at least 53 (7 percent) of the 725 cases in our sample did not clearly state why individuals were deferred, what documents they were expected to produce to prove admissibility, or what actions (to be performed by the onward office) were needed to complete the inspection. When projected to our universe, at least 399 cases did not provide sufficient detail on the Form I-546 concerning the reason for deferral.
Accuracy of Information Provided to Affected Individuals
Accuracy of Information Provided to Affected Individuals
We also tested whether the INS provided adequate information to the individuals who were granted a deferred inspection and determined that in many cases it did not.
The addresses and hours of operation for deferred inspection units (onward offices) are contained in the IFM as distributed in the INS Easy Research Transmittal System (INSERTS) and are to be updated quarterly. However, many deferred individuals were not given accurate reporting instructions. We found that the correct onward office address was given in only 413 (57 percent) of 725 cases in our sample. Furthermore, 69 individuals (about 10 percent) were told to report at times when deferred inspections were not performed, and 73 individuals (10 percent) were not given a specific time frame to report. Additionally, no phone numbers for any deferred inspection units were provided to deferred individuals. In our judgment, the reasons for inaccurate reporting instructions may be that INSERTS is not updated timely or inspectors are not using the most current information available.
Tracking Deferred Inspections
Tracking Deferred Inspections
The problem with relying solely on the I-546 as a tracking instrument is that a deferred inspection is a two-part process with responsibilities divided between the airport and the onward office. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that responsibility for tracking deferred inspections has not been clearly delegated to either of the two units involved. Airports must report only the number of deferred inspections granted, while onward offices are not required to report the number of inspections completed, the results of those completed inspections, or the number of no-shows. As a result, reliable information on the entire deferred inspection process does not exist.
According to the IFM, airports are required to maintain a log of all inspections deferred and to update this log when completed Forms I-546 are received. This log is to serve as a means for determining the status of deferrals. Unfortunately, this policy has largely been ignored. Of the nine airports reviewed, only five maintained a logbook. Even then most deferrals were not recorded in the logbook. None of the offices were consistently updating the logs to show the outcomes of deferred inspections.
Unlike airports, onward offices are not required to maintain a log. The lack of a requirement notwithstanding, eight of the nine onward offices we visited did maintain a log to record the Forms I-546 they received for at least part of our review period. Five onward offices used manual logs, while [redacted] created computer database logs. Despite the presence of a log, however, the Forms I-546 received were not always entered into the log and the outcome of completed deferred inspections was not always recorded.
Ultimately, the INS will have to adopt a technological solution to its tracking problem. In the absence of any service-wide movement in this area, some airports and onward offices have developed and implemented their own database tracking systems. Unfortunately, most of these systems are local in nature and cannot be accessed from other airports or district offices.
One such solution may be the Interagency Border Inspection System (IBIS), a database used to facilitate inspection of individuals applying for admission to the U.S. Inspectors at airports already conduct IBIS database searches using name, date of birth, and/or passport number. Inspectors at the INS district offices also have access to IBIS.
While not part of the written policy in the IFM, all nine airports in our sample used IBIS to some extent to record the outcome of secondary inspection referrals, including deferred inspections. Of our 725 sample cases, 462 were entered into IBIS as deferrals. The IBIS database can be particularly useful in tracking deferred inspections on a service-wide basis because it creates a permanent record of a deferral that is accessible to secondary inspectors at any INS location.
[redacted] , which serves as its own deferred inspection unit, not only entered deferrals into IBIS at the time of deferral, but also did so when individuals appeared for their inspections. Similarly, in [redacted] IBIS entries were made at the airport and were updated by the deferred inspections unit at the [redacted] when inspections were completed, or in some cases when individuals failed to appear. Since IBIS is a service-wide system, this information is accessible to any INS officer searching for information on a deferred individual. As such, it could provide for nationwide tracking of the deferred inspection process.
Simply put, the INS has no comprehensive tracking system in place for deferred inspections. The current system relies on a manual logbook of deferrals to be maintained at the airport and on the return of the completed onward office copy of the Form I-546 to the airport. Even under ideal circumstances, this system is cumbersome and problematic as it requires the INS inspectors to log the deferral, retain the airport copy of the Form I-546, update the log as completed Forms I-546 are returned, and then file the completed copy with that of the airport. Not only is this system labor intensive, it also fails to produce any type of useful record. Should a question arise regarding a deferral at a later date, inspectors would need to contact the deferring airport and hope the information was retained and could be located.
INS Management has a responsibility to create an internal control process that provides reasonable assurance that controls are in place and functioning properly and operations are in compliance with applicable laws and regulations. However, at the INS we found a lack of oversight and controls in deferred inspections operations. Existing policies pertaining to deferrals have fostered inconsistencies throughout the deferred inspection process because they are ambiguous and incomplete.
Further, the manual method of tracking deferrals with airport logs and returned Forms I-546 is not being followed nor does it meet the needs of the INS to have information readily available. Not only does this create more work for both airport and onward office inspectors when the same individuals are re-deferred for administrative issues, but inspectors also remain unaware of individuals with parole or immigration violations who attempt reentry. The INS cannot effectively manage the deferred inspection process until it has implemented a service-wide tracking and reporting system.
We recommend that the Commissioner, INS:
Currently, the INS only collects and disseminates information regarding the number of deferred inspections granted, not the outcome of the inspections, or the number and profile of no-shows and related follow-up actions. The INS has database systems capable of capturing and reporting such information; however, the systems are not being utilized. As a result, INS management relied on deferred inspection reports that were incomplete and inaccurate. Because there is no mechanism currently in place for measuring the effectiveness of the deferred inspection process, management remains unaware of the potential risk factors associated with the process and, consequently, cannot make informed decisions to effect needed changes.
The Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) provides for the establishment of strategic planning and performance measurement in the federal government. Agencies are required to include measurable goals for what will be accomplished during a fiscal year as compared to what was actually accomplished. We did not find any specific performance goals in place for evaluating the effectiveness of the deferred inspection process. We did note that the INS Program for Effectiveness and Continuous Tracking or "INSpect" teams led by the Office of Internal Audit performed inspections of airport and district offices. However, the programs developed for inspection of airport and district activities did not specifically address the deferred inspection process.
Title 8 U.S.C. § 103(d) requires the INS Commissioner to provide a system for the collection and dissemination of information useful in the evaluation of various immigration activities as they pertain to current immigration law. Included in the information to be provided is data about aliens paroled into the country, of which deferred inspections are a category.
As noted in Findings 1 and 2, the deferred inspection process has suffered from the absence of INS management oversight, as evidenced by the inconsistent and ineffective practices we encountered. We believe this was caused, in part, by the lack of meaningful information available to management concerning deferred inspections. Currently, the INS does not report on deferred inspection activities beyond the initial granting of the deferral. More significantly, the INS does not track the deferred inspection process electronically. Although there are systems capable of tracking deferred inspections through the entire process, the INS does not fully utilize them.
Performance Analysis System
Performance Analysis System
The primary system used for reporting deferred inspections granted is the Performance Analysis System (PAS), from which the G-22 Inspection Activity Report is generated. Inspectors at airports are required to report monthly inspection activity, including deferred inspection statistics, using the G-22 Inspection Activity Report. Airport inspectors provided monthly numbers of deferred inspections granted at the 62 airports with deferred inspection activity, which totaled 13,811 for the review period. However, preliminary fieldwork conducted at three airports revealed significant differences between the numbers of deferred inspections reported in PAS versus the on-hand count of deferrals. To determine the full extent of the differences, we requested that the INS perform a manual count of deferred inspections on hand for our period of review. The manual counts for the 62 airports totaled 10,665, for a difference of 3,146. 10
Discrepancies between the G-22 Inspection Activity Report and the physical counts may be attributed to the requirements for preparing G-22 reports. Instructions were not specific as to what source should be used to determine the number of inspections deferred. The source most often used was IBIS. As noted in Finding 2, the IBIS database has the potential to provide the INS with an improved tracking system for monitoring the effectiveness of the deferred inspections process. In fact, airport inspectors are required to enter into IBIS all deferred inspection data, according to officials at INS headquarters. The problem, however, as noted in Finding 2, is that in only 462 (64 percent) of the 725 cases in our sample did inspectors enter data on deferred inspections into IBIS.
Nonimmigrant Information System
Nonimmigrant Information System
In addition to the PAS database, the INS also collects data on deferred inspections in the Nonimmigrant Information System (NIIS), which is a mainframe system accessible to all INS offices. It stores arrival, departure, and ancillary information pertaining to certain nonimmigrant foreign nationals entering the U.S. INS management relies on the system to track the arrival and departure of nonimmigrant foreign nationals. Information for NIIS is primarily collected from Forms I-94, Arrival/Departure Records. INS inspectors retain the arrival portion of the Form I-94, which is then sent to a central location where the information is entered into the NIIS database. The NIIS database is also used to compile parolee information (which includes aliens paroled into the country via the deferred inspection process) for publication in the annual INS Statistical Yearbook.
We found that Forms I-94 were not issued, as required by the IFM, in 276 (38 percent) of the 725 cases in our sample. When projected to the universe of 7,443, this indicates that in at least 2,594 deferrals, Forms I-94 were not issued and/or recorded. The accuracy of the NIIS data was further compromised by the fact that only 188 (42 percent) of 449 Forms I-94 issued were properly coded and entered into NIIS as a deferred inspection.
INS management lacks the information necessary to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the deferred inspection process. One of the systems that may be best suited to provide management with the necessary information, the IBIS database, is underutilized in the deferred inspection process. Part of the problem lies in the fact that the G-22 inspection activity reporting requirements for deferred inspections do not specify the source to be used when compiling the number of inspections deferred and do not require data on the number and profile of no-shows and related follow-up activity. Without this information, INS management cannot readily detect deficiencies in the deferral process and, as a result, will remain unaware of actions needed to strengthen controls over deferred inspections.
We recommend that the Commissioner, INS: