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United States General Accounting Office: 
GAO: 

Testimony: 

Before the Subcommittee on Immigration and Claims, Committee on the 
Judiciary, House of Representatives. 

For Release on Delivery: 
Expected at 2:00p.m. EDT: 
Wednesday, June 19, 2002: 

Immigration Enforcement: 

Challenges to Implementing the INS Interior Enforcement Strategy: 

Statement by Richard M. Stana: 
Director, Justice Issues 

GAO-02-861T: 

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee: 

I am pleased to be here today to discuss selected issues pertaining to 
the Immigration and Naturalization Service's (INS) enforcement of 
immigration laws within the interior of the United States.
In the 1990s, INS developed a strategy to control illegal immigration 
across the U.S. border and a strategy to address enforcement 
priorities within the country's interior. In 1994, INS's Border Patrol 
issued a strategy to deter illegal entry. The strategy called for 
"prevention through deterrence"; that is, to raise the risk of being 
apprehended for illegal aliens to a point where they would consider it 
futile to try to enter. The plan called for targeting resources in a 
phased approach, starting first with the areas of greatest illegal 
activity. In 1999, the INS issued its interior enforcement strategy 
designed to deter illegal immigration, preventing immigration-related 
crimes, and removing those illegally in the United States. 
Historically, Congress and INS have devoted over five times more 
resources in terms of staff and budget on border enforcement than on 
interior enforcement. 

In my statement today, I make the following points: 

* INS's interior enforcement strategy is designed to address the 
detention and removal of criminal aliens, the dismantling and 
diminishing of alien smuggling operations, community complaints about 
illegal immigration, immigration benefit and document fraud, and 
employers' access to undocumented workers. INS faces numerous 
enforcement issues in each area. 

* INS could do a better job of using its limited interior enforcement 
resources. For strategy implementation to be effective, INS needs 
better data to determine staff needs, reliable information technology, 
clear and consistent guidelines and procedures for working-level 
staff, effective collaboration and coordination within INS and with 
other agencies, and performance measures that help INS assess program 
results. 

* Having an effective interior strategy is an essential complement to 
having an effective border strategy. Addressing management challenges 
is important if INS is to achieve their full potential.
My testimony today will be based primarily on the results of work that 
we have completed in recent years, namely, our February 1999 testimony 
on INS's efforts to identify and remove criminal aliens,[Footnote 1] 
our April 1999 report on INS's worksite enforcement program,[Footnote 
2] our May 2000 report on alien smuggling,[Footnote 3] our May 2001 
report on the processing of immigration benefits,[Footnote 4] our 
January 2002 report on immigration benefit fraud,[Footnote 5] and our 
March 2002 report on INS' Forensic Document Laboratory.[Footnote 6] In 
these reports we made many recommendations to improve INS operations. 
INS has implemented or is in the process of implementing some of these 
recommendations. We plan to follow up on INS's plans to improve the 
various programs. 

Components of the Interior Enforcement Strategy: 

In January 1999, INS issued its Interior Enforcement Strategy. This 
strategy focuses resources on areas that would have the greatest 
impact on reducing the size and annual growth of the illegal resident 
population. Certain criteria were used to develop the priorities and 
activities of the strategy. The criteria focused on potential risks to 
U.S. communities and persons, costs, capacity to be effective, impact 
on communities, potential impact on reducing the size of the problem, 
and potential value for prevention and deterrence. The strategy 
established the following five areas in priority order: 

1. Identify and remove criminal aliens and minimize recidivism. Under 
this strategic priority, INS is to identify and remove criminal aliens 
as they come out of the federal and state prison systems and those 
convicted of aggravated felonies currently in probation and parole 
status. 

2. Deter, dismantle, and diminish smuggling or trafficking of aliens. 
This strategic priority calls for INS to disrupt and dismantle the 
criminal infrastructure that encourages and benefits from illegal 
migration. INS efforts are to start in source and transit countries 
and continue inside the United States, focusing on smugglers, 
counterfeit document producers, transporters, and employers who 
exploit and benefit from illegal migration. 

3. Respond to community reports and complaints about illegal 
immigration. In addition to responding to local law enforcement issues 
and needs, this strategic priority emphasizes working with local 
communities to identify and address problems that arise from the 
impact of illegal immigration, based on local threat assessments. 

4. Minimize immigration benefit fraud and other document abuse. Under 
this strategic priority, INS is to aggressively investigate and 
prosecute benefit fraud and document abuse to promote integrity of the 
legal immigration system. 

5. Block and remove employers' access to undocumented workers. The 
strategy emphasizes denying employers access to unauthorized workers 
by checking their compliance with the employment verification 
requirements in the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. 
Coupled with its efforts to control smuggling activity, this effort 
could have a multiplier effect on access of employers to illegal 
workers and on the overall number of illegal residents in the country. 

Figure 1 shows that INS has generally allocated its interior 
enforcement resources consistent with these priorities and that the 
workyears devoted to several of INS's interior enforcement efforts 
have either declined or stayed about the same between fiscal years 
1998 and 2001. 

Figure 1: INS Investigations Workyears: 

[Refer to PDF for image: vertical bar graph] 

Graph depicts INS Investigations Workyears for the following five 
programs for the fiscal years 1998, 1999, 2000, and 2001: 

Criminal alien removal; 
Alien smuggling; 
Noncriminal removals; 
Benefit and other fraud; 
Employer investigations. 

Note: Workyear totals do not include administrative time. 

Source: GAO's analysis of INS's data. 

[End of figure] 

Challenges Exist in Implementing Interior Enforcement Programs: 

Our work has shown that INS faces numerous daunting enforcement 
issues. For example, the potential pool of removable criminal aliens 
and fugitives numbers in the hundreds of thousands. Many are 
incarcerated in hundreds of federal, state, and local facilities, 
while others are fugitives at large across the country. The number of 
individuals smuggled into the United States has increased 
dramatically, and alien smuggling has become more sophisticated, 
complex, organized, and flexible. Thousands of aliens annually 
illegally seek immigration benefits, such as work authorization and 
change of status, and some of these aliens use these benefits to 
enable them to conduct criminal activities. Hundreds of thousands of 
aliens unauthorized to work in the United States have used fraudulent 
documents to circumvent the process designed to prevent employers from 
hiring them. In many instances, employers are complicit in this 
activity. 

Given the nature, scope, and magnitude of these activities, INS needs 
to ensure that it is making the best use of its limited enforcement 
resources. We found that fundamental management challenges exist in 
several of INS's interior enforcement programs and that INS could do a 
better job using its limited resources. 

Need for Better Staff Levels and Allocations: 

In several reports we noted that INS did not believe it had sufficient 
staff to reach its program goals. Having data on how to effectively 
allocate staff and placing sufficient staff in the right locations is 
important if INS is to achieve program goals. 

Staff shortages have contributed to INS's inability to promptly remove 
the majority of criminal aliens after they have completed their prison 
sentences. In 1995, INS did not place into removal proceedings 57 
percent of potentially deportable criminal aliens who were released 
from federal prisons and state prisons from 5 states. In 1997, INS did 
not place about 50 percent of these aliens. We reported that, although 
the removal of criminal aliens was an INS management priority, INS was 
facing the same staff shortage issues in 1997 as it had in 1995. In 
particular, agent attrition - about 30 percent in 1995, and about 32 
percent in 1997 - continued to impede INS's ability to meet its 
program goals. INS has told us that since 1997, the attrition rates of 
agents in this program has stabilized and that, in fiscal year 2003, 
the agents from this program would be reclassified as detention 
removal officers, which INS believes should further help reduce 
attrition. 

INS's Forensic Document Laboratory (FDL) has been beset with staff 
shortages for years. According to FDL officials, staff shortages have 
made it difficult for the FDL to stay current with its workload and 
produce timely responses to requests for forensic document 
examination. Congress's January 2002 supplemental appropriation will 
nearly double FDL's current staff of 35. 

Even if INS had additional staff working in these program areas, it 
lacked good management information to determine how many staff it 
needed to meet its program goals and how best to allocate staff given 
the limited resources it did have. With respect to its program for 
removing incarcerated criminal aliens, INS told us that beginning in 
fiscal year 2002, the agency implemented our recommendation to use a 
workload analysis model to help identify the resources the agency 
needs for its criminal alien program in order to achieve overall 
program goals and support its funding and staffing requests. We have 
not reviewed this new model to ascertain its usefulness. 

With respect to alien smuggling, INS lacked field intelligence staff 
to collect and analyze information. Both 1998 and 1999 INS Annual 
Performance Plan reports stated that the lack of intelligence 
personnel hampered the collection, reporting, and analysis of 
intelligence information. Although INS's Intelligence Program proposed 
that each district office have an intelligence unit, as of January 
2000, 21 of INS's 33 districts did not have anyone assigned full-time 
to intelligence-related duties. 

The worksite enforcement program received a relatively small portion 
of INS's staffing and budget. In fiscal year 1998, INS completed a 
total of 6,500 worksite investigations, which equated to about 3 
percent of the estimated number of employers of unauthorized aliens. 
Many immigration experts have said that as long as opportunities for 
employment exist, the incentive to enter the United States illegally 
or overstay visas will persist, and efforts at the U.S. borders to 
prevent illegal entry will be undermined. 

Need for Better Information Technology: 

INS has had long-standing difficulty developing and fielding 
information systems to support its program operations. In 1990, we 
reported that INS managers and field officials did not have adequate, 
reliable, and timely information to effectively carry out the agency' 
s mission. We also reported that INS had not conducted a comprehensive 
agencywide information needs assessment. As a result, program and 
management data were kept in a loose collection of automated systems, 
as well as a number of ad hoc labor-intensive manual systems. 

Effectively using information technology continues to remain a 
challenge for INS. For example, benefit fraud investigations have been 
hampered by a lack of integrated information systems. The operations 
units at the four INS service centers that investigate benefit fraud 
operate different information systems that do not interface with each 
other or with the units that investigate benefit fraud at INS district 
offices. As a result, sharing information about benefit applicants is 
difficult. The INS staff who adjudicate applications did not have 
routine access to INS's National Automated Immigration Lookout System 
(NAILS) Not having access to or not using NAILS essentially means that 
officers may be making decisions without access to or using 
significant information and that benefits may be granted to 
individuals not entitled to receive them. Thus, INS is not in the best 
position to review numerous applications and detect patterns, trends, 
and potential schemes for benefit fraud. 

FDL's database, the Forensic Automated Case and Evidence Tracking 
System (FACETS), did not contain sufficient data for managers to know 
the exact size and status of the laboratory's pending workload or how 
much time is spent on each forensic case by priority category. As a 
result, FDL managers were not in the best position to make fact-based 
decisions about case priorities, staffing, and budgetary resource 
needs. 

With respect to the criminal alien program, INS lacked a nationwide 
data system containing the universe of foreign-born inmates for 
tracking the hearing status of each inmate. In response to our 
recommendation, INS developed a nationwide automated tracking system 
for the Bureau of Prisons and deployed the system to all federal 
institutional hearing program sites. INS said that it was working with 
the Florida Department of Corrections to integrate that state's system 
with INS's automated tracking system. INS also said that it planned to 
begin working with New York, New Jersey, and Texas to integrate their 
systems and then work with California, Illinois, and Massachusetts. 
INS projected that this entire project will be completed by the end of 
fiscal year 2002. We have not examined these new systems to ascertain 
their effectiveness. 

INS lacked an agencywide automated case tracking and management system 
that prevented antismuggling program managers from being able to 
monitor their ongoing investigations, determine if other antismuggling 
units were investigating the same target, or know if previous 
investigations had been conducted on a particular target. In response 
to our recommendation, INS deployed an automated case tracking and 
management system for its alien smuggling investigations to many of 
its antismuggling units by August 2001 and planned to complete 
deployment by the end of fiscal year 2002. Again, we have not examined 
the new system to ascertain its effectiveness. 

Need for Better Guidance to Program Staff: 

Our review of the various program components of the interior 
enforcement strategy found that working-level guidance was sometimes 
lacking or nonexistent. INS had not established guidance for opening 
benefit fraud investigations or for prioritizing investigative leads. 
Without such criteria, INS cannot be ensured that the highest-priority 
cases are investigated and resources are used optimally. 

INS's interior enforcement strategy did not define the criteria for 
opening investigations of employers suspected of criminal activities. 
In response to our recommendation, INS clarified the types of employer-
related criminal activities that should be the focus of INS 
investigations. 

INS's alien smuggling intelligence program had been impeded by a lack 
of understanding among field staff about how to report intelligence 
information. Staff were unclear about guidelines, procedures, and 
effective techniques for gathering, analyzing, and disseminating 
intelligence information. They said that training in this area was 
critically needed. 

Need for Better Program Collaboration/Coordination: 

Over the years, we have issued a number of reports identifying program 
coordination and cooperation both within INS and between INS and other 
agencies as problematic. This was verified as an issue in a 1995 GAO 
survey of INS managers and in our reviews of individual program 
components. For example, although both the Border Patrol and INS's 
Office of Investigations have antismuggling units that conduct alien 
smuggling investigations, these units operate through different chains 
of command with different reporting structures. INS's antismuggling 
program lacked coordination, resulting in multiple antismuggling units 
overlapping in their jurisdictions, making inconsistent decisions 
about which cases to open, and functioning autonomously and without a 
single chain of command. INS investigation officials told us that the 
autonomy of individual units and the lack of a single chain of command 
were major obstacles to building a more effective antismuggling 
program. 

INS's approach to addressing benefit fraud is fragmented and 
unfocused. INS's interior enforcement strategy does not address how 
the different INS components that conduct benefit fraud investigations 
are to coordinate their investigations. Also, INS had not established 
guidance to ensure the highest-priority cases are investigated. 

With respect to collaboration with other agencies, some of our reports 
have noted the importance of INS working with other governmental 
entities to achieve program objectives.[Footnote 7] For example, with 
respect to worksite enforcement, we recommended that INS seek 
assistance from federal and state agencies, such as the Department of 
Labor and state labor agencies, in disseminating information to 
employers about INS's pilot programs for verifying employees' 
eligibility to work. INS has implemented our recommendation with 
respect to state labor agencies, but coordinating with the Labor 
Department is problematic because of the different interests of the 
two agencies. That is, Labor officials will not delve into worksite 
immigration matters if it would have a detrimental effect on Labor's 
primary mission of enforcing worker protection laws. If employees 
perceived that Labor investigators were trying to determine their 
immigration status and possibly report those who may be unauthorized 
to INS, it would have a "chilling effect" on employees' willingness to 
report workplace violations. With respect to criminal aliens, INS 
needed to work with states to make enhancements to the removal 
process, such as reducing the number of state prison facilities that 
served as intake, hearing, and release sites for foreign-born inmates. 
At the time our work was completed, INS had variable success with 
getting states to agree to make such reductions. 

Need for Better Performance Measures: 

INS does not have established outcome-based performance measures in 
place that would help it assess the results of its interior 
enforcement strategy. We have found this to be an issue in both border 
enforcement and interior enforcement areas. For example, we have 
issued several reports pertaining to INS's border strategy and have 
noted that INS has not evaluated the strategy's overall effects on 
illegal entry and has not analyzed key performance data. 

While INS had met its numeric goals for its antismuggling program, it 
had not yet developed outcome-based measures that would indicate 
progress toward the strategy's objective of identifying, deterring, 
disrupting, and dismantling alien smuggling. This was also the case 
for the INS intelligence program. INS had not developed outcome-based 
performance measures to gauge the success of the intelligence program 
to optimize the collection, analysis, and dissemination of 
intelligence information. 

INS had not yet established outcome-based performance measures that 
would help it assess the results of its benefit fraud investigations. 
Additionally, INS had not established goals or measurement criteria 
for the service center operations units that conduct fraud 
investigation activities. 

INS's interior enforcement strategy did not clearly describe the 
specific measures INS would use to gauge its performance in worksite 
enforcement. For example, the strategy states that INS will evaluate 
its performance on the basis of such things as changes in the behavior 
or business practices of persons and organizations. Although INS 
indicated that it would gauge effectiveness in the worksite area by 
measuring change in the wage scales of certain targeted industries, it 
left unclear a number of questions related to how it would do this. 
For example, INS did not specify how wage scales would be measured; 
what constituted a targeted industry; and how it would relate any 
changes found to its enforcement efforts or other immigration-related 
causes. The strategy stated that specific performance measurements 
would be developed in the annual performance plans required by the 
Government Performance and Results Act. 

According to INS's fiscal year 2003 budget submission, the events of 
September 11th have required INS to reexamine strategies and 
approaches to ensure that INS efforts fully address threats to the 
United States by organizations engaging in national security crime. As 
a result, with regard to investigating employers who may be hiring 
undocumented workers, INS plans targeted investigations of industries 
and businesses where there is a threat of harm to the public interest. 
However, INS had not set any performance measures for these types of 
worksite investigations. 

Concluding Observations: 

Having an effective interior enforcement strategy is an essential 
complement to having an effective border strategy. To be sure, INS's 
tasks with regard to interior enforcement are considerable given the 
nature, scope, and magnitude of illegal activity. Nevertheless, in 
reviewing our work, we find that INS is an agency that faces 
significant challenges in appropriately staffing program areas, 
providing reliable information for program management, establishing 
clear and consistent guidance for working-level staff to do their jobs 
consistent with the goals of the program, promoting collaboration and 
coordination within INS and with other agencies, and developing 
outcome-based measures that would indicate progress toward the 
strategy's objectives. Addressing these issues is important if INS is 
to achieve full program potential. 

Mr. Chairman, this concludes my prepared statement, I would be pleased 
to answer any questions that you or other members of the subcommittees 
may have. 

Contacts and Acknowledgments: 

For further information regarding this testimony, please contact 
Richard M. Stana at (202) 512-8777. Individuals making key 
contributions to this testimony included Evi L. Rezmovic and Michael 
P. Dino. 

[End of section] 

Footnotes: 

[1] U.S. General Accounting Office, Criminal Aliens: INS' Efforts to 
Identify and Remove Imprisoned Aliens Continue to Need Improvement, 
[hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO/T-GGD-99-47] (Washington, 
D.C.: Feb. 25, 1999). 

[2] U.S. General Accounting Office, Illegal Aliens: Significant 
Obstacles to Reducing Unauthorized Alien Employment Exist, [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO/GGD-99-33] (Washington, D.C.: Apr. 2, 
1999). 

[3] U.S. General Accounting Office, Alien Smuggling: Management and 
Operational Improvements Needed to Address Growing Problem, 
[hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO/GGD-00-103] (Washington, 
D.C.: May 1, 2000). 

[4] U.S. General Accounting Office, Immigration Benefits: Several 
Factors Impede the Timeliness of Application Processing, [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov/products/GA0-01-488] (Washington, D.C.: May 4, 
2001). 

[5] U.S. General Accounting Office, Immigration Benefit Fraud: Focused 
Approach Is Needed to Address Problems, [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-02-66] (Washington, D.C.: Jan. 31, 
2002). 

[6] U.S. General Accounting Office, INS Forensic Document Laboratory: 
Several Factors Impeded Timeliness of Case Processing, [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-02-410] (Washington, D.C.: Mar. 13, 
2002). 

[7] [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO/T-GGD-99-47], 
[hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/products/GGD-99-33], [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov/products/GGD-00-103], [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-02-66]. 

[End of section]