Law Enforcement Support Center:

Name-Based Systems Limit Ability to Identify Arrested Aliens

AIMD-95-147: Published: Aug 21, 1995. Publicly Released: Aug 21, 1995.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) initiatives for identifying arrested individuals that are aliens, focusing on whether: (1) the Law Enforcement Support Center (LESC) can use existing databases to identify as aliens individuals arrested for aggravated felonies; (2) other INS initiatives will allow identification of aliens arrested for aggravated felonies; and (3) criminal alien information in two INS databases is complete and accurate.

GAO found that: (1) LESC allows law enforcement agencies continuous access to INS data, but LESC electronic searches cannot conclusively identify aliens arrested for aggravated felonies, since name-based data can be easily falsified; (2) LESC has initiated enforcement actions on 1,935 aliens, but released 920 additional aliens for various reasons; (3) at least 46 of the 920 aliens released had been arrested for aggravated felonies; (4) INS is planning to fully implement its INS Identification System in 1999 to provide a unique and effective identifier for aliens encountered for enforcement or benefit purposes, but it will include only known criminal aliens in INS databases; (5) INS has recently implemented an initiative to identify criminal aliens entering the country illegally, based on fingerprint data for criminal aliens deported from California; and (6) INS omitted important criminal alien information from certain databases, causing them to be incomplete and inaccurate.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The INS Commissioner directed all field offices to comply with procedures for required key DACS data elements and for updating DACS and CIS. The Commissioner also required that paper files supporting the electronic files for criminal aliens be located or substitute files be created. The INS General Counsel included data integrity as an objective in its FY 1997 Removal Priority Implementation Plan and the Office of Policy and Planning has developed a strategy for improving DACS data entry and reporting. In 1997, INS' Office of Internal Audit (OIA) incorporated audit steps into field assessments conducted under its INSpect Program to assess DACS data accuracy and completeness and to verify that procedures were being followed. OIA officials indicated that they have reviewed 21 field offices and have determined that DACS data is current and accurate for 3 of them. OIA's overall conclusion is that significant improvement has been made in improving DACS data integrity.

    Recommendation: To improve the reliability of the criminal alien data in DACS, and the corresponding electronic files in CIS, the Attorney General should direct the Commissioner of INS to develop procedures that will ensure data reliability for both DACS and CIS. At a minimum, these procedures should ensure that the Regional Directors and the Director of International Affairs are directed to take appropriate actions to ensure that all paper files supporting the criminal alien electronic files are located or, if necessary, reconstructed.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The INS Commissioner directed all field offices to comply with procedures for required key DACS data elements and for updating DACS and CIS. The Commissioner also required that paper files supporting the electronic files for criminal aliens be located or substitute files be created. The INS General Counsel included data integrity as an objective in its FY 1997 Removal Priority Implementation Plan and the Office of Policy and Planning has developed a strategy for improving DACS data entry and reporting. In 1997, INS' Office of Internal Audit (OIA) incorporated audit steps into field assessments conducted under its INSpect Program to assess DACS data accuracy and completeness and to verify that procedures were being followed. OIA officials indicated that they have reviewed 21 field offices and have determined that DACS data is current and accurate for 3 of them. OIA's overall conclusion is that significant improvement has been made in improving DACS data integrity.

    Recommendation: To improve the reliability of the criminal alien data in DACS, and the corresponding electronic files in CIS, the Attorney General should direct the Commissioner of INS to develop procedures that will ensure data reliability for both DACS and CIS. At a minimum, these procedures should ensure that alert codes are included in all criminal alien electronic files.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The INS Commissioner directed all field offices to comply with procedures for required key DACS data elements and for updating DACS and CIS. The Commissioner also required that paper files supporting the electronic files for criminal aliens be located or substitute files be created. The INS General Counsel included data integrity as an objective in its FY 1997 Removal Priority Implementation Plan and the Office of Policy and Planning has developed a strategy for improving DACS data entry and reporting. In 1997, INS' Office of Internal Audit (OIA) incorporated audit steps into field assessments conducted under its INSpect Program to assess DACS data accuracy and completeness and to verify that procedures were being followed. OIA officials indicated that they have reviewed 21 field offices and have determined that DACS data is current and accurate for 3 of them. OIA's overall conclusion is that significant improvement has been made in improving DACS data integrity.

    Recommendation: To improve the reliability of the criminal alien data in DACS, and the corresponding electronic files in CIS, the Attorney General should direct the Commissioner of INS to develop procedures that will ensure data reliability for both DACS and CIS. At a minimum, these procedures should ensure that all criminal alien information, including name, date of birth, nationality, and aliases used, is entered into the electronic files accurately and completely.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The INS Commissioner directed all field offices to comply with procedures for required key DACS data elements and for updating DACS and CIS. The Commissioner also required that paper files supporting the electronic files for criminal aliens be located or substitute files be created. The INS General Counsel included data integrity as an objective in its FY 1997 Removal Priority Implementation Plan and the Office of Policy and Planning has developed a strategy for improving DACS data entry and reporting. In 1997, INS' Office of Internal Audit (OIA) incorporated audit steps into field assessments conducted under its INSpect Program to assess DACS data accuracy and completeness and to verify that procedures were being followed. OIA officials indicated that they have reviewed 21 field offices and have determined that DACS data is current and accurate for 3 of them. OIA's overall conclusion is that significant improvement has been made in improving DACS data integrity.

    Recommendation: To improve the reliability of the criminal alien data in the Deportable Alien Control System (DACS), and the corresponding electronic files in the Central Index System (CIS), the Attorney General should direct the Commissioner of INS to develop procedures that will ensure data reliability for both DACS and CIS. At a minimum, these procedures should ensure that electronic files are created for all known criminal aliens.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  5. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: INS has chosen to expand the LESC to all 50 states, making this recommendation no longer applicable.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should direct the Commissioner of INS to determine whether any other alternative would be more effective and efficient than LESC in helping identify which individuals are aliens.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  6. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: On October 1, 1996, INS awarded a contract to evaluate and assess the Florida implementation of the LESC. Based on its evaluation of services provided to Florida law enforcement agencies, the contractor recommended in its final report that access to the LESC should be expanded to all 50 states as soon as possible. Congress directed INS to expand the LESC to all 50 states based on the request for this service from the law enforcement agencies in various states. To support this expansion, Congress appropriated $5 million and authorized 43 positions in FY 1998, and is proposing $3 million and an additional 17 positions in FY 1999, to expand this program. The LESC in Burlington, Vermont, is supporting law enforcement agencies in 14 states (Nebraska, Vermont, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Florida, Kentucky, Texas, Kansas, Iowa, South Dakota, Colorado, Utah, Arizona and California). In addition, Washington and Hawaii have requested access to the LESC and will be added.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should direct the Commissioner of INS to assess whether the information generated by LESC electronic searches justifies the expense and level of resources required to expand and maintain a nationwide facility.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  7. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The INS Commissioner directed all field offices to comply with procedures for required key DACS data elements and for updating DACS and CIS. The Commissioner also required that paper files supporting the electronic files for criminal aliens be located or substitute files be created. The INS General Counsel included data integrity as an objective in its FY 1997 Removal Priority Implementation Plan and the Office of Policy and Planning has developed a strategy for improving DACS data entry and reporting. In 1997, INS' Office of Internal Audit (OIA) incorporated audit steps into field assessments conducted under its INSpect Program to assess DACS data accuracy and completeness and to verify that procedures were being followed. OIA officials indicated that they have reviewed 21 field offices and have determined that DACS data is current and accurate for 3 of them. OIA's overall conclusion is that significant improvement has been made in improving DACS data integrity.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should direct the Commissioner of INS to develop a strategy to independently verify that the procedures are followed and that data reliability is improved.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

 

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