U.S. Immigration Agency Found to Have Bungled Green Card Distribution for Years

Wednesday, November 23, 2016
(graphic: Getty Images)


By Ron Nixon, New York Times


The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services sent green cards to people that contained incorrect information or were duplicates, or mailed them to the wrong addresses, according to a report (pdf) released on Monday by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General.


The immigration agency, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, told auditors that it had received more than 200,000 reports of cards that were not being delivered to approved applicants.


The report also found that more than 2,400 immigrants who were approved for two-year conditional resident status were instead given cards that were good for 10 years.


The report was a follow-up to a March 2016 review that found the agency had possibly sent hundreds of green cards to the wrong addresses.


The latest report said the problem was far worse than originally believed. In the last three years, it said, the immigration agency produced at least 19,000 cards that included incorrect information or were issued in duplicate.


Homeland Security auditors said the immigration agency had instituted several methods for addressing problems with erroneous or duplicate green cards.


“However, these methods — manual intervention, production controls and system enhancements — have not proven adequate to ensure quality across the volume of cards produced and issued each year,” auditors wrote.


León Rodriguez, director of the immigration service, said in a statement that it was taking steps to address the problems raised in the report, but added that some of the findings “were overstated.”


“Although the report correctly points out instances in which there were errors with the data on a card or duplicate cards issued, USCIS did not issue green cards to any individuals who were not eligible to receive them,” he said. “It is therefore imprecise, and potentially misleading, for the OIG to indicate that USCIS ‘inappropriately issued’ green cards.”


The report released on Monday comes after an inquiry in September that found the immigration agency had used incomplete fingerprint records to grant citizenship to hundreds of people who were to have been deported.


That inquiry, also from the Office of Inspector General, found that nearly 900 people were granted citizenship because neither Homeland Security nor FBI databases contained all of the fingerprint records of people who had previously been designated for deportation.


Nearly 150,000 older fingerprint records were not digitized or simply not included in Homeland Security’s databases when they were being developed, the report said. In other cases, fingerprints that were taken by immigration officials during the deportation process were not forwarded to the FBI.


The immigration agency is supposed to check the fingerprints of applicants for citizenship against a number of databases to make sure that they do not have criminal records or pose a threat.


But because the fingerprint databases are incomplete, the report found that the agency had no way of knowing if the individuals were actually who they said they were.


As naturalized citizens, these individuals retain many of the rights and privileges of U.S. citizenship, including serving in law enforcement, obtaining a security clearance and sponsoring the entry of other foreigners into the United States, the report said.


To Learn More:

DHS OIG Finds USCIS Continues to Struggle to Ensure Proper Green Card Issuance (Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General) (pdf)

858 Immigrants with Pending Deportation Orders Accidentally Granted U.S. Citizenship (by Alicia A. Caldwell, Associated Press)

U.S. Spends 10 Years and $1 Billion to Digitize Immigration Forms … and Ends up with Just One (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Record Number of Americans Renounce Citizenship (by Steve Straehley, AllGov)

Citizenship and Immigration Services “Wins” Poor Writing Award (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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