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< Back to current issue of Immigration Daily < Back to current issue of Immigrant's Weekly

These are excerpts from the semi-annual report to Congress by the Office of Inspector General of the Department of Justice issued on June 3, 2002.

THE AUDIT DIVISION

AUDITS IN PROGRESS

INS AIRPORT INSPECTIONS
This audit will review the INS's inspection process at U.S. airports to determine whether INS inspectors have access to needed information, such as lookouts and information developed by passenger analysis units and intelligence staff. We also will evaluate procedures for referring persons to secondary inspection, systems for measuring inspection performance, the training of inspectors, and management controls over the inspection process.

INS INSTITUTIONAL REMOVAL PROGRAM
The INS's Institutional Removal Program (IRP) is a national program that identifies removable criminal aliens in federal, state, and local correctional facilities to ensure that the aliens are not released into the community but instead are removed from the United States after completing their sentences. This audit will assess whether the INS (1) effectively planned the IRP, (2) identifies all foreign-born inmates in state or local custody, and (3) incurs any unnecessary detention costs for criminal aliens who have not completed the IRP process while serving their sentence.

AUDITS OVER SIX MONTHS OLD WITHOUT MANAGEMENT DECISIONS OR IN DISAGREEMENT
As of March 31, 2002, the following audits had no management decisions:

  • Immigration and Naturalization Service Deferred Inspections at Airports

    THE EVALUATION AND INSPECTIONS DIVISION

    FOLLOW-UP REVIEWS

    In light of the September 11 terrorist attacks, E&I conducted five follow-up reviews that examined the INS's efforts to address national security deficiencies identified in previous OIG reviews. The reviews revealed continued problems in the INS's programs that affect its ability to secure the nation's borders.

    THE BORDER PATROL'S EFFORTS TO IMPROVE SECURITY ALONG THE NORTHERN BORDER
    We examined the progress the Border Patrol had made in improving the security of the northern border since the OIG issued an inspection report on the subject in February 2000, Border Patrol Efforts Along the Northern Border. Our follow-up review found that the INS had made some improvements that enhanced border security, including increased international and multi-agency cooperation. However, we found that northern border sectors had received a minimal number of additional Border Patrol agents and no new support staff. Consequently, many Border Patrol stations still could not operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In addition, the Border Patrol's communications system remained inadequate, and a critical shortage of air support continued. We concluded that increased staffing and resources for the northern border continues to be a critical priority to help control illegal immigration and enhance national security.

    STATUS OF IDENT/IAFIS INTEGRATION
    We reviewed the status of efforts to integrate the INS's automated biometric fingerprint identification system (IDENT) and the FBI's integrated automated fingerprint identification system (IAFIS). This review, conducted in response to a request by the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Technology, Terrorism, and Governmental Information, followed up on two prior OIG reviews, Review of the Immigration and Naturalization Service's Automated Biometric Identification System (IDENT), March 1998, and The Rafael Resendez-Ramirez Case: A Review of the INS's Actions and the Operation of its IDENT Automated Fingerprint Identification System, March 2000. Our primary finding, similar to our prior reports' conclusions, was that the Department and its components have moved slowly toward integration and that full integration of IDENT and IAFIS remains years away. We recommended that the Department continue to seek linkage of the FBI and INS biometric identification systems and use IDENT while integration of IDENT and IAFIS is proceeding. We believe that IDENT workstations should be deployed to additional INS sites pending full integration with IAFIS because IDENT allows a rapid check of aliens seeking entry into the United States. We also recommend, as an interim measure, adding to the IDENT lookout database fingerprint records for aliens wanted in connection with crimes.

    VISA WAIVER PROGRAM
    The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) allows citizens from 28 countries to enter the United States, as temporary visitors for business or pleasure, without a visa. We evaluated the INS's progress in implementing recommendations contained in the OIG's March 1999 report, The Potential for Fraud and INS's Efforts to Reduce the Risks of the Visa Waiver Pilot Program. Our follow-up review found that the INS had distributed guidance to improve the collection and dissemination of information about missing VWP passports but did not take appropriate measures to ensure the guidance was followed at the ports of entry. Therefore, the INS still does not have a mechanism that provides systematic, consistent, and timely information about missing VWP passports to its immigration inspectors. We concluded that the failure to make this information available to INS immigration inspectors could contribute to the admission into the United States of criminal aliens or terrorists fraudulently using passports from VWP countries. We urged the INS to reissue the guidance and to take aggressive follow-up actions to ensure that field agents follow the guidance.

    IMPROVING THE SECURITY OF THE TRANSIT WITHOUT VISA PROGRAM
    The Transit Without Visa (TWOV) Program allows certain nonimmigrants to transit through the United States to a destination in another country. Visa requirements are waived for eligible nonimmigrants in TWOV status, who can remain in the United States for up to eight hours awaiting departure on connecting flights to their final destination. We found that many of the security concerns identified in our March 1993 report, Transit Without Visa Program, continue to exist. Specifically, the INS has not taken adequate measures to improve airlines' supervision of TWOV passengers, and the INS still cannot verify departure of TWOV passengers. Prior to September 11, 2001, TWOV passengers were permitted to wait for their connecting flights in "in-transit lounges" (ITL) without having to undergo INS examination of their travel documents. The INS temporarily suspended the ITL program after the terrorist attacks but resumed operations in November 2001, after taking action to enhance security by requiring that all ITL passengers undergo more rigorous inspection. Still, the TWOV program continues to offer an avenue for aliens to enter the United States illegally. We recommended that the INS take immediate action to address TWOV program security concerns.

    INS EFFORTS TO IMPROVE THE CONTROL OF NONIMMIGRANT OVERSTAYS
    In a fifth follow-up review nearing completion, we are examining the INS's monitoring of nonimmigrant overstays. This review focuses on the collection and reliability of overstay data, which we previously reviewed in the OIG's 1997 report, Inspection of Immigration and Naturalization Service Monitoring of Nonimmigrant Overstays.

    SIGNIFICANT REVIEWS

    THE INS'S NATIONAL CUSTOMER SERVICE CENTER TELEPHONE INFORMATION SERVICE
    We conducted a survey of the INS's National Customer Service Center Telephone Information Service to assess the accuracy of answers provided by INS customer service representatives, the timeliness of information provided, and the professionalism of customer service representatives.

    We found that INS telephone information customer service representatives provided correct answers to questions 94 percent of the time. Incorrect information centered around two subject areas - work authorization and employment eligibility verification. We found that customer service representatives were helpful and often made significant efforts to ensure our questions were answered properly and thoroughly. We rated the service provided to us as good or excellent 95 percent of the time. Furthermore, we found that the wait times to speak to customer service representatives averaged 1 minute, 9 seconds. Our report made one recommendation to help improve this quality program.

    THE INVESTIGATIONS DIVISION

    Following are some of the cases investigated during this reporting period, grouped by offense category.

    INS DOCUMENT FRAUD
    In the District of Arizona, an INS immigration inspector assigned to the San Luis, Arizona, port of entry was arrested for producing false INS documents. A joint investigation by the OIG's Tucson Field Office, INS, U.S. Customs Service (Customs Service), and FBI developed evidence that the immigration inspector used his position to create and sell INS Form I-94 (Arrival-Departure Record) documents. Subsequent to his initial arrest, the immigration inspector was charged in the Southern District of California with alien smuggling. The investigation developed evidence that he arrived from Mexico at the Andrade, California, port of entry with a female Mexican national passenger who presented a fraudulent temporary green card. Judicial proceedings continue in Arizona and California.

    In the Southern District of Texas, a Mexican national was arrested pursuant to an indictment charging him with fraud and misuse of visas, permits, and documents. A joint investigation by the OIG's McAllen Field Office and U.S. Border Patrol developed evidence that the Mexican national was selling Border Crossing Cards and green cards that he allegedly obtained from an INS immigration inspector. During an undercover operation, the Mexican national sold seven Border Crossing Cards and green cards. A subsequent search warrant executed on his residence resulted in the seizure of approximately 40 additional Border Crossing Cards and green cards, along with other identification documents. The Mexican national pled guilty and was sentenced to three years' incarceration and six months' home confinement.

    BRIBERY
    A former INS supervisory immigration inspector assigned to the Miami International Airport, his wife, and his sister-in-law were arrested and pled guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit bribery and transferring an identification document without lawful authority. A joint investigation by the OIG's Miami Field Office, DEA, and FBI established that the former supervisory immigration inspector, assisted by his wife and sister-in-law, accepted bribes as part of an alien smuggling scheme operating between Colombia and Florida. The supervisory immigration inspector accepted a total of $4,000 during an undercover operation in which he agreed to place an ADIT Stamp in the passport of an illegal alien. As a result of this investigation, the supervisory immigration inspector resigned his position with the INS and was sentenced to ten months' incarceration and three years' supervised release. His wife and sister-in-law were sentenced to 5 years' probation and 10 and 12 months' home confinement, respectively.

    The El Paso Field Office investigated a variety of criminal allegations in two BOP contract facilities, the Reeves County Detention Center and Big Spring Correctional Center. Eleven separate investigations were opened on a variety of violations, including bribery, possession of contraband (marijuana, cocaine, and cash), and sexual misconduct. As a result of these investigations, seven BOP correctional officers and five inmates were convicted in U.S. District Court during this reporting period. Moreover, since April 1, 2001, 14 employees at these West Texas contract facilities have been terminated from their positions.

    An INS district adjudications officer assigned to the INS Miami District Office pled guilty to charges of bribery pursuant to a criminal complaint filed in the Southern District of Florida. An investigation by the OIG's Miami Field Office, assisted by the INS and FBI, disclosed that the INS officer had approached several people applying for U.S. citizenship and offered them passing grades on their citizenship exams in exchange for money. The INS officer was sentenced to five months' incarceration, followed by five months' house arrest and two years' supervised release.

    In 1999 a former BOP case manager was arrested following a joint OIG New York Field Office and FBI investigation into allegations that she smuggled cocaine into the U.S. Penitentiary in Allenwood, Pennsylvania. The case manager subsequently pled guilty to one count of bribery and was sentenced to 2 years' probation plus 200 hours of community service. The case manager also agreed to cooperate against the inmates to whom she delivered the drugs, which, after further investigation, led to the arrest and indictment in November and December 2001 of one current and one former inmate on bribery and drug charges. These two individuals subsequently pled guilty to the bribery charges and await sentencing.

    In the Northern District of Alabama, a BOP food service employee assigned to the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) in Talladega, Alabama, was arrested and pled guilty to bribery charges. An investigation by the Atlanta Area Office developed evidence that the food service employee solicited money from inmates at the prison camp to allow them to leave the grounds of the prison for liaisons with women. The investigation further revealed that he sold meat products from the prison to relatives of inmates and smuggled a woman into the prison in his private vehicle for a liaison with an inmate. The employee, an 8-year BOP veteran, resigned his position with the BOP following his OIG interview. He was sentenced to two years' probation.

    In our September 2000 Semiannual Report to Congress, we reported on a case in which an INS district adjudications officer assigned to the INS Boston District Office was arrested on charges of bribery. A 15-month investigation by the OIG's Boston Area Office, assisted by the FBI and other federal agencies, led to a criminal complaint alleging that the district adjudications officer demanded and accepted approximately $5,000 in bribes in exchange for granting a naturalization candidate citizenship and removing all references to the candidate's arrest history from his alien file. During this reporting period, the INS employee was sentenced to one year of incarceration and two years' supervised release after he pled guilty to charges of bribery.

    ATTEMPTS TO CORRUPT DEPARTMENT EMPLOYEES
    In the District of Massachusetts, an alien from the Dominican Republic was arrested for bribing a federal agent and distribution of cocaine as a result of a joint investigation by the OIG's Boston Area Office and DEA. The investigation revealed that when the alien was apprehended on immigration violations, he offered the arresting INS special agent $100,000 in exchange for his release. At the direction of the OIG, the cooperating INS special agent accepted $100,000 in cash from the alien, who thereafter revealed times and locations of drug shipments. Approximately 260 kilos of cocaine were seized prior to the alien's arrest. The investigation also resulted in the indictment and arrest of approximately 21 other individuals on drug charges. Judicial proceedings continue.

    In the Northern District of Illinois, a Polish national was arrested on charges of bribery. Following his arrival at Chicago O'Hare International Airport on a flight from Poland, the Polish national was processed by an INS immigration inspector who determined that he was ineligible for admission into the United States under a tourist visa because he had overstayed his previous tourist visa and had apparently worked in the United States without a work permit. When advised of this information, the Polish national offered the immigration inspector a $4,000 bribe to let him into the country. The immigration inspector contacted the Chicago Field Office, which responded immediately and recorded the Polish national confirming the cash bribe offer and paying the immigration inspector $1,000. Judicial proceedings continue.

    ALIEN AND DRUG SMUGGLING
    In the District of Arizona, an INS immigration inspector and a Mexican national were arrested on charges of bribery and attempted importation of a controlled substance. The OIG's Tucson Field Office, in conjunction with the Customs Service and FBI, initiated an investigation after receiving an allegation from a Customs Service inspector that the INS employee had solicited the inspector's participation in his drug-smuggling activity. Pursuant to the Mexican national's arrest and cooperation, an undercover OIG agent drove a vehicle purported to contain drugs through the immigration inspector's lane. The immigration inspector was arrested after accepting $5,000 for allowing the vehicle to enter the United States without inspection. The investigation further revealed that the INS immigration inspector and the Mexican national had been smuggling controlled substances into the United States through the INS employee's inspection lane at the port of entry since 1999. Judicial proceedings continue.

    An INS immigration inspector assigned to the Calexico port of entry was arrested and convicted in the Southern District of California on charges of conspiracy to import cocaine, importation of cocaine, aiding and abetting, and disclosure of confidential information. A joint investigation by the OIG's El Centro Area Office, Customs Service, and FBI disclosed that the immigration inspector permitted a vehicle with more than 1,000 pounds of cocaine to enter the United States from Mexico without proper inspection. The arrests of a Calexico police officer and a civilian on importation of cocaine charges revealed the immigration inspector's involvement in the drug-smuggling operation. Sentencing is pending.

    A former BOP senior correctional officer assigned to the FCI in Miami, Florida, was convicted at trial in the Southern District of Florida on charges of possessing and importing more than five kilograms of cocaine with the intent to distribute. A joint investigation by the OIG's Miami Field Office, Customs Service, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Metro-Dade Police Department, and Key West Police Department developed evidence that the senior correctional officer was involved in a Jamaican narcotics-trafficking ring that imported cocaine into the United States via cruise ships. She was sentenced to ten years' incarceration and five years' supervised release.

    A joint investigation by the OIG's Tucson Field Office and the Customs Service resulted in the arrest of a former INS immigration inspector and her Mexican national boyfriend in the District of Arizona on charges of smuggling marijuana into the United States and bribery of a public official. A federal grand jury returned a 16-count indictment alleging that, on several occasions, the immigration inspector and her boyfriend smuggled marijuana in a vehicle through her primary inspection lane when she was an INS employee. In exchange for these acts, the Mexican national paid the immigration inspector $7,500, promised her real estate in Mexico, and set aside $120,000 for their future use. The immigration inspector resigned from the INS during this investigation. Judicial proceedings continue.

    An INS immigration inspector, his civilian wife, and a Mexican national were arrested by members of the Public Corruption Task Force (PCTF), of which the OIG's El Paso Field Office is a member. A 3-year investigation by the PCTF culminated in federal grand jury indictments of these three defendants and three other alleged drug traffickers who remain at large. The defendants were charged with multiple counts of conspiracy to import a controlled substance, importation of a controlled substance, bribery of a public official, and money laundering. The investigation determined that the immigration inspector was paid $5,000 to $10,000 by the Carrillo-Fuente drug organization for every load of marijuana smuggled into the United States through his inspection lane. The PCTF estimated that the immigration inspector had allowed a total of 164,000 pounds of marijuana into the United States since November 1998. The immigration inspector has been suspended without pay. Judicial proceedings continue.

    In our September 2001 Semiannual Report to Congress, we reported on a joint investigation by the OIG's McAllen Field Office, INS, and FBI that resulted in the arrest of two INS immigration inspectors and two civilian alien smugglers on charges of conspiracy; transporting undocumented aliens; fraud and misuse of visas, permits, and other documents; and bribery. This investigation led to multiple indictments alleging that the INS inspectors and civilian smugglers helped Mexican and Central American nationals enter the United States illegally by selling INS documents for $300 to $500. The majority of aliens were smuggled into the United States through the INS employees' inspection lanes at the Brownsville, Texas, port of entry. During this reporting period, one immigration inspector was sentenced to 34 months' incarceration, fined $20,000, and terminated from the INS; the second was sentenced to 22 months' incarceration and 36 months' supervised release. One civilian pled guilty and was sentenced to 45 months' incarceration and fined $6,000. In addition, a third immigration inspector was arrested and pled guilty to alien smuggling, bribery, and document fraud charges; sentencing is pending. Judicial proceedings continue for the remaining civilian.

    EXTORTION

    An INS district adjudications officer assigned to the INS Los Angeles District Office and a civilian were arrested on California state charges of extortion. The OIG's Los Angeles Field Office and the Bell Gardens Police Department initiated a joint investigation after receiving an allegation that the civilian had attempted to extort $10,000 from an alien with a pending INS application. The civilian was arrested following an undercover operation during which he accepted partial payment from the alien. Judicial proceedings continue for the defendants.

    EMBEZZLEMENT
    An INS information officer assigned to the INS Newark District Office was arrested on a criminal complaint charging him with embezzlement. A joint investigation by the OIG's New York Field Office and the USAO for the District of New Jersey identified 49 immigration cases in which the information officer allegedly stole more than $15,000 in money orders from aliens filing applications with the INS and converted them to his own use. Judicial proceedings continue.

    IMPERSONATION OF A FEDERAL OFFICER
    In the Southern District of Florida, a former INS immigration inspector previously assigned to the INS New York City District Office was sentenced to 21 months' incarceration and 1 year of supervised release and was ordered to pay $75,000 in restitution pursuant to his plea to charges of impersonating a federal officer. A joint investigation by the OIG's Miami Field Office and the INS developed information that the former immigration officer posed as an INS special agent and fraudulently sold immigration documents. A search warrant executed at the immigration officer's residence revealed more than 1,000 INS documents, including Employment Authorization, Asylum, and Adjustment of Status applications.

    A joint investigation by the OIG's New York Field Office and the Bronx District Attorney's Office resulted in the arrest of three civilians on New York state charges of grand larceny, criminal possession of stolen property, scheming to defraud, and criminal impersonation. The investigation developed evidence that two of the civilians, one a Bronx clergyman, recruited aliens to participate in a scheme to improperly obtain immigration documents. The third civilian allegedly impersonated an INS immigration officer and helped the aliens complete INS applications. To date, the investigation has found that the three codefendants received approximately $260,000 from 60 alien victims. Judicial proceedings continue.

    A former INS immigration inspector was arrested in the Eastern District of New York on charges of impersonation. A joint investigation by the OIG's New York Field Office and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) led to a complaint alleging that the former immigration inspector falsely obtained more than $575,000 from his victims by claiming that he could obtain work visas for aliens seeking entry into the United States from China. Once he obtained the money, he broke off contact with the aliens. The former immigration inspector, who was employed by the INS from 1987 to 1994, had been arrested by the OIG in 1993, convicted of extortion, sentenced to one year of incarceration, and terminated from the INS. Judicial proceedings continue.

    An investigation by the OIG's Tucson Field Office and the USAO for the District of Nevada resulted in the arrest of a civilian on charges of impersonating a federal officer and mail fraud. The investigation developed evidence that the civilian, while posing as an INS officer, defrauded approximately 100 individuals by claiming that she could assist them with the immigration process. During an OIG interview, the civilian admitted to earning approximately $100,000 through her illegal scheme. Judicial proceedings continue.

    A Nicaraguan national pled guilty and was sentenced in the Northern District of California to 13 months' incarceration for impersonating a federal officer. A joint investigation by the OIG's San Francisco Field Office and the San Jose Police Department developed evidence that the Nicaraguan national took at least $25,000 from undocumented aliens while falsely claiming to be an INS official who could provide them with green cards. To further his scheme, the defendant obtained counterfeit INS business cards and claimed he knew an INS judge who could approve and expedite INS applications.

    THE OFFICE OF OVERSIGHT AND REVIEW

    SIGNIFICANT INVESTIGATIONS

    ATTA AND ALSHEHHI STUDENT VISAS
    Six months after the September 11 terrorist attacks, an aviation school in Florida received notices that the INS had approved student visa applications for two of the terrorists, Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi. Public disclosure of this incident led to widespread criticism of the INS, and the President called for an investigation. The Attorney General requested that the OIG conduct a review. The OIG has assembled a team of attorneys, special agents, and inspectors to examine the handling of Atta's and Alshehhi's student visa applications and to review and assess the INS's foreign student program.

    OTHER CASES

    • O&R investigated an allegation that the INS retaliated against two Border Patrol agents by proposing to discipline them after they spoke to the media about their concerns regarding the security of the northern border following the September 11 terrorist attacks. INS managers proposed to discipline the agents allegedly because they had violated an INS policy prohibiting employees from speaking to the media without authorization and because the employees allegedly had revealed sensitive information about the northern border. Around the same time, the agents appeared before a congressional oversight committee that examined the Border Patrol's policies regarding release of apprehended aliens. We concluded that the proposed discipline was prompted by the agents' media contacts, not by their subsequent cooperation with Congress. However, we questioned the INS's decision to discipline the two agents and concluded that it was unlikely to be upheld in light of the law governing federal employees' right to speak out on matters of public interest. Our report also made several recommendations to the INS, including that the INS develop a coherent policy that would govern employee contacts with the media.


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