A new Homeland Security internal audit revealing potentially lethal incompetence could not have come at a worse time for the Obama administration.
According to the DHS report released Monday, the U.S. government mistakenly granted citizenship to “at least 858 immigrants who had pending deportation orders from countries of concern to national security or with high rates of immigration fraud.” As a result some of those individuals have been able to obtain security-sensitive jobs. This alarming report comes after a wave of terrorist attacks injured 38 people in New York, New Jersey, and Minnesota over the weekend.
Via Yahoo News:
The Homeland Security Department’s inspector general found that the immigrants used different names or birthdates to apply for citizenship with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and such discrepancies weren’t caught because their fingerprints were missing from government databases.
The report does not identify any of the immigrants by name, but Inspector General John Roth’s auditors said they were all from “special interest countries” — those that present a national security concern for the United States — or neighboring countries with high rates of immigration fraud. The report did not identify those countries.
In an emailed statement, the Department of Homeland Security said the findings reflect what has long been a problem for immigration officials — old paper-based records containing fingerprint information that can’t be searched electronically. DHS says immigration officials are in the process of uploading these files and that officials will review “every file” identified as a case of possible fraud.
Roth’s report said fingerprints are missing from federal databases for as many as 315,000 immigrants with final deportation orders or who are fugitive criminals. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has not reviewed about 148,000 of those immigrants’ files to add fingerprints to the digital record.
The gap was created because older, paper records were never added to fingerprint databases created by both the now-defunct Immigration and Naturalization Service and the FBI in the 1990s. ICE, the DHS agency responsible for finding and deporting immigrants living in the country illegally, didn’t consistently add digital fingerprint records of immigrants whom agents encountered until 2010.
The government has known about the information gap and its impact on naturalization decisions since at least 2008 when a Customs and Border Protection official identified 206 immigrants who used a different name or other biographical information to gain citizenship or other immigration benefits, though few cases have been investigated.
The government has known about this “information gap” for over eight years and has done little to nothing to correct the problem. According to Roth’s report, federal prosecutors have only accepted two criminal cases that led to the immigrants being stripped of their citizenship. But prosecutors declined to pursue 26 cases.
ICE is investigating 32 other cases after closing 90 investigations.
ICE officials told auditors that the agency hadn’t pursued many of these cases in the past because federal prosecutors “generally did not accept immigration benefits fraud cases.” ICE said the Justice Department has now agreed to focus on cases involving people who have acquired security clearances, jobs of public trust or other security credentials.
The report found that at least three of these individuals were able to acquire aviation or transportation worker credentials, allowing them to access secure areas in airports or maritime facilities and vessels. Their credentials were revoked after it was discovered that they had been granted citizenship improperly, according to the report. Another immigrant-turned-citizen from a country of concern is currently a law enforcement officer.
The inspector general said that DHS should review all outstanding cases and add fingerprints in those cases to the government’s database. He also recommended that immigration enforcement officials “create a system to evaluate each of the cases of immigrants who were improperly granted citizenship.”
DHS said it would work to implement the changes.