INS Forensic Document Laboratory:

Several Factors Impeded Timeliness of Case Processing

GAO-02-410: Published: Mar 13, 2002. Publicly Released: Apr 15, 2002.

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With nearly 200 countries using unique passports, official stamps, seals, and visas, the potential for immigration document fraud is great. The Immigration and Naturalization Service's Forensic Document Laboratory is the only federal laboratory dedicated to fraud detection. The Laboratory's budget was $4.1 million in fiscal year 2001, 15 percent higher than in fiscal year 1999. The Laboratory had 35 full-time equivalent staff, three more than in fiscal year 1999. Although the Laboratory's total forensic caseload declined from fiscal years 1999 to 2001, the number of forensic cases pending at the beginning of each year increased. According to laboratory officials, staff shortages have affected the Laboratory's ability to process cases promptly.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: According to the Acting Director of the Office of Professional Responsibility in DHS' Immigration and Customs Enforcement, case submitters are now required to indicate the date that the case should be returned. FDL has modified a form and its automated case management system to capture this information. An FDL supervisor has been tasked with tracking and reporting the case management information. The information is monitored through FDL's Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS), which was put into operation in February 2005. LIMS tracks cases from the time they enter FDL until they are completed. It allows for generation of real-time reports, which shows the status of all active cases, case aging, and examiner caseloads by case category. It enables supervisors and managers to actively monitor incoming examination requests, case assignments, and case completions. In addition, in September 2006, FDL was working cooperatively with ICE's Office of Principal Legal Advisor to provide FDL personnel with access to OPLA's database of administrative cases, the source of nearly all of FDL's administrative casework. This should enable FDL to further increase its responsiveness to its requesters.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should direct the INS Commissioner to collect and analyze data on requesters' deadlines for obtaining forensic case results so that FDL can better ensure that cases are processed in an order that is optimally responsive to both the requesters' needs and INS's case priority system.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Border and Transportation Security

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: According to the Acting Director of the Office of Professional Responsibility in DHS' Immigration and Customs Enforcement, FDL developed a time tracking work sheet to track both case-specific and non-specific forensic time. Also, an automated time card system was developed and integrated into FDL's automated case management system to fully capture these data for each forensic employee. Since the implementation of FDL's Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) in February 2005, FDL employees are required to make an accounting of their examination and nonexamination time. FDL managers and supervisors actively monitor entries of time accounting in LIMS to ensure the accuracy of LIMS generated statistics. This information helps FDL better manage its workload, project staff and budgetary needs, and establish benchmarks for case deadlines that are balanced between the requesters' needs and the established FDL case examination priority.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should direct the INS Commissioner to collect and analyze data on the total amount of time spent processing forensic cases in order to help FDL better manage its workload, project staff and budgetary needs, and establish benchmarks for case deadlines that are based on requesters' needs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Border and Transportation Security

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: FDL modified its case management system by separating intelligence case completions from the priority 4 forensic case category. As a result, case completion times and overdue cases by case category will be based only on forensic cases.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should direct the INS Commissioner to separate intelligence cases from the priority four forensic case category in the Forensic Automated Case and Evidence Tracking System when computing case completion times and overdue cases in order to help FDL more accurately determine case completion times for the different case categories.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Border and Transportation Security

 

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