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    Subject Term: Immigrants

    13 publications with a total of 66 open recommendations including 1 priority recommendation
    Director: Rebecca Gambler
    Phone: (202) 512-8777

    11 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To better address current and future staffing needs, the Director of EOIR should develop and implement a strategic workforce plan that addresses, among other areas, key principles of effective strategic workforce planning, including (1) determining critical skills and competencies needed to achieve current and future programmatic results; (2) developing strategies that are tailored to address gaps in number, deployment, and alignment of human capital approaches for enabling and sustaining the contributions of all critical skills and competencies; and (3) monitoring and evaluation of the agency's progress toward its human capital goals and the contribution that human capital results have made toward achieving programmatic results.

    Agency: Department of Justice: Executive Office for Immigration Review
    Status: Open

    Comments: In August 2017, EOIR officials reported that its Immigration Court Staffing Committee, established in April 2017, would, among other things, examine how to best leverage the judicial and court staff workload model to address its short- and long-term staffing needs, assess the critical skills and competencies needed to achieve future programmatic results, and develop strategies to address human capital gaps. This committee expects to complete its work in March 2018. EOIR also reported that it is developing an agency-wide strategic plan that includes human capital planning as a critical component, which will be used to guide workforce planning for the entire agency. To fully address this recommendation, EOIR's Immigration Court Staffing Committee should complete its work and provide documentation demonstrating that it: 1) addressed the agency's short- and long-term staffing needs; 2) identified the critical skills and competencies needed to achieve future programmatic results; and 3) developed strategies to address human capital gaps. EOIR should also provide documentation, including the completed strategic plan, describing how the agency tailored its human capital strategies to address gaps in the number, deployment, and alignment of human capital approaches; and is monitoring and evaluating the agency's progress toward its human capital goals.
    Recommendation: To better address EOIR's immigration judge staffing needs, the Director of EOIR should: (1) assess the immigration judge hiring process to identify opportunities for efficiency; (2) use the assessment results to develop a hiring strategy that targets short- and long-term human capital needs; and (3) implement any corrective actions related to the hiring process resulting from this assessment.

    Agency: Department of Justice: Executive Office for Immigration Review
    Status: Open

    Comments: In August 2017, EOIR stated that it is actively implementing a new streamlined hiring plan that aims to reduce the hiring timeline. According to EOIR, this revised hiring plan, among other things, sets clear deadlines for assessing applicants moving through different stages of the process and for making decisions on advancing applicants to the next stage, as well as allows for temporary appointments for all selected judges pending full background investigations. EOIR stated that it will use this revised process in the future to fill judge vacancies. Regarding the development of a hiring strategy, EOIR stated that it recognizes the importance of assessing immigration judge hiring needs holistically to continue to develop an overall immigration judge hiring strategy, and will utilize a planned human capital strategy and additional data to further refine the hiring process. To fully address this recommendation, EOIR should continue its efforts to assess and improve its hiring process and provide documentation describing: 1) its new hiring process, including how EOIR assessed the prior hiring process to identify opportunities for efficiency; 2) its hiring strategy targeting short- and long-term human capital needs; and (3) the corrective actions EOIR implemented in response to the assessment results, such as eliminating procedures that increased the length of the hiring process.
    Recommendation: To help ensure that EOIR meets its cost and schedule expectations for EOIR Courts and Appeals Systems (ECAS), the EOIR Director should identify and establish the appropriate entity for exercising oversight over ECAS through full implementation.

    Agency: Department of Justice: Executive Office for Immigration Review
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of August 2017, EOIR reported that it had selected the EOIR Investment Review Board to serve as the ECAS oversight body with the Office of Information Technology (OIT) directly responsible for the management of the ECAS program. To fully address this recommendation, EOIR should provide documentation related to this decision.
    Recommendation: To help ensure that EOIR meets its cost and schedule expectations for ECAS, the EOIR Director should document and implement an oversight plan that is consistent with best practices for overseeing IT projects, including (1) establishing how the oversight body is to monitor program performance and progress toward expected cost, schedule, and benefits; (2) ensuring that corrective actions are identified and assigned to the appropriate parties at the first sign of cost, schedule, or performance slippages; and (3) ensuring that corrective actions are tracked until the desired outcomes are achieved.

    Agency: Department of Justice: Executive Office for Immigration Review
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of August 2017, EOIR reported that it had selected the EOIR Investment Review Board to serve as the ECAS oversight body with the Office of Information Technology (OIT) directly responsible for the management of the ECAS program. According to EOIR, OIT will record on a weekly basis all financial metrics, risks, issues, and corrective actions in EOIR's project management tool, as well as regularly evaluating the program's performance and progress and immediately implementing any needed corrective actions. To fully address this recommendation, EOIR should document and implement an oversight plan that describes how the EOIR Investment Review Board and OIT will oversee the full implementation of ECAS, including how these bodies will, consistent with best practices for overseeing IT projects: 1) monitor program performance and progress toward expected cost, schedule, and benefits; (2) ensure that corrective actions are identified and assigned to the appropriate parties at the first sign of cost, schedule, or performance slippages; and (3) ensure that corrective actions are tracked until the desired outcomes are achieved.
    Recommendation: To provide further assurance that EOIR's use of video teleconference (VTC) in immigration hearings is outcome-neutral, the Director of EOIR should collect more complete and reliable data on the number and type of hearings it conducts through VTC.

    Agency: Department of Justice: Executive Office for Immigration Review
    Status: Open

    Comments: In August 2017, EOIR stated that it is studying how to collect more complete and reliable data on the number and type of hearings it conducts through video teleconference (VTC). To fully address this recommendation, once EOIR determines how to collect more complete and reliable VTC hearing data, EOIR should provide documentation describing its approach and evidence of its implementation.
    Recommendation: To provide further assurance that EOIR's use of VTC in immigration hearings is outcome-neutral, the Director of EOIR should collect data on appeals in which the use of VTC formed some basis for the appeal, and the number of in-person hearing motions filed.

    Agency: Department of Justice: Executive Office for Immigration Review
    Status: Open

    Comments: In August 2017, EOIR stated that it is planning a pilot project to collect data on the number and type of appeals to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) in which the use of video teleconference (VTC) formed an element of the basis for the appeal. EOIR expects to begin this 6-month pilot project in the first quarter of fiscal year 2018. Additionally, EOIR stated that it will assess the feasibility of collecting data on the number of filed motions requesting an in-person hearing instead of a VTC hearing. To fully address this recommendation, EOIR should continue these efforts and begin systematically collecting data on appeals in which the use of VTC formed some basis for the appeal and the number of in-person hearing motions filed.
    Recommendation: To provide further assurance that EOIR's use of VTC in immigration hearings is outcome-neutral, the Director of EOIR should use these and other data to assess any effects of VTC on immigration hearings and, as appropriate, address any issues identified through such an assessment.

    Agency: Department of Justice: Executive Office for Immigration Review
    Status: Open

    Comments: In August 2017, EOIR stated that it intends to analyze data on appeals in which the use of VTC formed some basis for the appeal from the Board of Immigration Appeals' pilot program as well as other data to further assess any effects of video teleconference (VTC) usage on immigration hearings. To fully address this recommendation, EOIR should, pending the results of the pilot program, use these and other data to assess any effects of VTC on immigration hearings and, as appropriate, address any issues identified through such an assessment.
    Recommendation: To further ensure that EOIR's VTC hearings meet all user needs and help EOIR identify and address technical issues with VTC hearings, the Director of EOIR should develop and implement a mechanism to solicit and monitor feedback from respondents regarding their satisfaction and experiences with VTC hearings, including the audio and visual quality of the hearing.

    Agency: Department of Justice: Executive Office for Immigration Review
    Status: Open

    Comments: In August 2017, EOIR stated that it partially agreed with this recommendation and would create a mechanism to solicit open-ended feedback from respondents regarding their satisfaction and experience with video teleconference (VTC) hearings, including the audio and visual quality of the hearing. EOIR reported that it is exploring and expects to implement some options by the first quarter of fiscal year 2018, such as a feedback portal on the EOIR website, a dedicated e-mail box, or a comment card for distribution to respondents at immigration courts and detention centers where VTC hearings are held. To fully address this recommendation, EOIR should continue to explore and implement a mechanism to solicit and monitor feedback from respondents regarding their satisfaction and experiences with VTC hearings, including the audio and visual quality of the hearing.
    Recommendation: To better assess court performance and use data to identify potential management challenges, the Director of EOIR should establish and monitor comprehensive case completion goals, including a goal for completing non-detained cases not currently captured by performance measures, and goals for cases it considers a priority.

    Agency: Department of Justice: Executive Office for Immigration Review
    Status: Open

    Comments: In August 2017, EOIR stated that it agrees that the agency should measure case completions in all categories and is evaluating the best way to measure its courts' performance to improve efficiency and productivity. Additionally, EOIR reported that it is working with the immigration judges' union to conduct this assessment and expects to complete this evaluation and begin working toward making any changes to its performance assessment system by the second quarter of fiscal year 2018. To fully address this recommendation, EOIR should continue these efforts and establish and monitor comprehensive case completion goals, including a goal for completing non-detained cases not currently captured by performance measures, and goals for cases it considers a priority.
    Recommendation: To better assess court performance and use data to identify potential management challenges, the Director of EOIR should systematically analyze immigration court continuance data to identify and address any operational challenges faced by courts or areas for additional guidance or training.

    Agency: Department of Justice: Executive Office for Immigration Review
    Status: Open

    Comments: In August 2017, EOIR stated that it will further analyze continuance data to identify and address operational challenges as well as determine areas where immigration judges might benefit from additional guidance or training on the use of continuances. EOIR plans to prepare new reports assessing continuance data by the first quarter of fiscal year 2018. Additionally, EOIR reported that it anticipates releasing a new Operating Policies and Procedures Memorandum addressing the appropriate use of continuances in August 2017. To fully address this recommendation, EOIR should continue to systematically analyze continuance data to identify any operational challenges faced by courts or areas for additional guidance or training, and address any challenges through taking actions such as issuing the new memorandum on continuances.
    Recommendation: To better assess court performance and use data to identify potential management challenges, the Director of EOIR should update policies and procedures to ensure the timely and accurate recording of Notices to Appear.

    Agency: Department of Justice: Executive Office for Immigration Review
    Status: Open

    Comments: In August 2017, EOIR stated that it partially agreed with this recommendation and will continue to monitor the timeliness and accuracy of NTA recording and implement corrective actions as needed. Additionally, EOIR stated that it will explore the need to create new guidance for immigration court staff to address instances where EOIR exceeds average recording times timeframes in the future. To fully implement this recommendation, EOIR should update its policies and procedures to better ensure the timely and accurate recording of NTAs, and thus provide greater assurance that EOIR's case management data are accurate, including case completion times and the size of its case backlog.
    Director: Gambler, Rebecca S
    Phone: (202) 512-6912

    9 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve management and oversight of the SAVE program, the director of USCIS should ensure SAVE guidance, including written materials and instructional videos, clearly and accurately reflects user agencies' responsibilities for completing each step of a SAVE check, as outlined in each agency's memorandum of agreement.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security: United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To improve management and oversight of the SAVE program, the director of USCIS should develop and implement a mechanism to oversee agencies' completion of training on additional verification in accordance with SAVE MOA provisions and program policies.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security: United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To improve management and oversight of the SAVE program, the director of USCIS should provide notifications to user agencies when a case is ready for the user agency to review.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security: United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To improve management and oversight of the SAVE program, the director of USCIS should develop and implement a more effective method for ensuring that individuals are aware of how they can access and correct their immigration records, such as by updating and improving the Fact Sheet for Benefit Applicants.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security: United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To improve management and oversight of the SAVE program, the director of USCIS should develop and implement a documented, risk-based approach to monitoring and compliance, including (1) a risk-based approach to selecting behaviors to monitor; (2) standards for what triggers compliance actions for the selected behaviors; and (3) a risk-based process for how USCIS will prioritize and select agencies for compliance actions.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security: United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To improve management and oversight of the SAVE program, the director of USCIS should develop and communicate a process for user agencies to update contact information.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security: United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To improve management and oversight of the SAVE program, the director of USCIS should ensure that user agencies participate in compliance reviews when selected, in accordance with SAVE MOA provisions and USCIS policy.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security: United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To improve management and oversight of the SAVE program, the director of USCIS should identify the root causes of agencies' noncompliance with SAVE MOA provisions and program policies and tailor agency recommendations to those identified causes.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security: United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To improve management and oversight of the SAVE program, the director of USCIS should develop and implement a process for ensuring user agencies implement corrective actions such as through a system of escalating compliance assistance actions and follow-up.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security: United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Director: Rebecca Gambler
    Phone: (202) 512-8777

    6 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To better inform on the effectiveness of CDS implementation and border security efforts, the Chief of Border Patrol should strengthen the methodology for calculating recidivism such as by using an alien's apprehension history beyond one fiscal year and excluding aliens for whom there is no record of removal and who may remain in the United States.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security: United States Customs and Border Protection: Office of the Commissioner: U.S. Border Patrol
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To better inform on the effectiveness of CDS implementation and border security efforts, the Chief of Border Patrol should collect information on reasons agents do not apply the CDS guides' Most Effective and Efficient consequences to assess the extent that agents' application of these consequences can be increased and modify development of CDS guides, as appropriate.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security: United States Customs and Border Protection: Office of the Commissioner: U.S. Border Patrol
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To better inform on the effectiveness of CDS implementation and border security efforts, the Chief of Border Patrol should revise CDS guidance to ensure consistent and accurate methodologies for estimating Border Patrol costs across consequences and to factor in, where appropriate and available, the relative costs of any federal partner resources necessary to implement each consequence.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security: United States Customs and Border Protection: Office of the Commissioner: U.S. Border Patrol
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To better inform on the effectiveness of CDS implementation and border security efforts, the Chief of Border Patrol should ensure that sector management is monitoring progress in meeting their performance targets and communicating performance results to Border Patrol headquarters management.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security: United States Customs and Border Protection: Office of the Commissioner: U.S. Border Patrol
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To better inform on the effectiveness of CDS implementation and border security efforts, the Chief of Border Patrol should provide consistent guidance for alien classification and take steps to ensure CDS Project Management Office and sector management conduct data integrity activities necessary to strengthen control over the classification of aliens.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security: United States Customs and Border Protection: Office of the Commissioner: U.S. Border Patrol
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Assistant Secretary of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection to collaborate on sharing immigration enforcement and removal data to help Border Patrol account for the removal status of apprehended aliens in its recidivism rate measure.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Director: Rebecca Gambler
    Phone: (202) 512-8777

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To better assess whether the LOP and LOPC are having a measurable impact in meeting their program objectives, the Director of EOIR should develop and implement a system of performance measures, including establishing a baseline, to regularly evaluate the effectiveness of LOP and LOPC and assess whether the programs are achieving their stated goals.

    Agency: Department of Justice: Executive Office for Immigration Review
    Status: Open

    Comments: In January 2017, EOIR reported that the agency is working with a contractor to redesign EOIR's performance management system consistent with the principles outlined in the Government Performance and Results Modernization Act of 2010. In addition, EOIR reported that staff from its Office of Legal Access Programs (OLAP) plan to participate in strategic planning training, which will include how to establish performance measurements. To fully address the recommendation, EOIR should develop and implement a system of performance measures for LOP and LOPC, including establishing a baseline, and assess program performance against such measures.
    Director: Seto Bagdoyan
    Phone: (202) 512-6722

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To strengthen USCIS's EB-5 Program fraud risk management, the Director of USCIS should develop a fraud risk profile that aligns with leading practices identified in GAO's Fraud Risk Framework.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security: United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: In November 2016, Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)stated that the program would implement GAO's recommendation to develop a fraud risk profile and anticipated completion by September 30, 2017. In April 2017, USCIS provided an update including supporting documentation which reported that USCIS had contracted with an outside consultant to, among other things, develop a fraud risk profile that aligns with leading practices identified in GAO's Fraud Risk Framework. According to its response, USCIS expected to complete development of the profile by September 30, 2017.
    Director: Carol C. Harris
    Phone: (202) 512-4456

    9 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To provide reasonable assurance that the program executes Agile software development for USCIS ELIS consistent with its own policies and guidance and follows applicable leading practices, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) should direct the Director of USCIS to direct the USCIS Chief Information Officer (CIO), in coordination with the DHS CIO and the Chief of the Office of Transformation Coordination (OTC), to review and update, as needed, existing policies and guidance and consider additional controls to complete planning for software releases prior to initiating development and ensure software meets business expectations prior to deployment.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of July 2017, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had taken steps to address this recommendation. In particular, in June 2017, USCIS provided an updated policy, dated April 2017, governing planning and deploying software releases. USCIS also demonstrated partial compliance with that policy. For example, it provided some release planning review documentation for recent releases that are required by the updated policy, including readiness review memos for releases 7.2 and 8.1. However, USCIS did not demonstrate that the program responsible for developing the USCIS Electronic Immigration System (USCIS ELIS) was consistently following its updated policy. For example, USCIS did not demonstrate that the program was completing all planning activities prior to initiating development, as called for in its updated policy. Moreover, the agency did not demonstrate compliance with its previous policy for all software releases planned and deployed since our July 2016 report. We will continue to work with USCIS to monitor actions the agency is taking to address this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To provide reasonable assurance that the program executes Agile software development for USCIS ELIS consistent with its own policies and guidance and follows applicable leading practices, the Secretary of DHS should direct the Director of USCIS to direct the USCIS CIO, in coordination with the DHS CIO and the Chief of OTC, to review and update, as needed, existing policies and guidance and consider additional controls to consistently implement the principles of the framework adopted for Agile software development.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of July 2017, USCIS had taken steps to address this recommendation. For example, in May 2017, USCIS provided updated policy governing the development of software releases, dated April 2017, along with release planning artifacts specific to USCIS ELIS. The updated policy included an appendix devoted to generally accepted agency practices and applying Agile principles in the agency. However, USCIS had not clearly indicated if USCIS ELIS was to implement the practices described in the policy. For example, the updated policy did not require program compliance with the generally accepted agency practices. Moreover, supporting artifacts from the release planning process did not always define a commitment to a particular development methodology or set of development practices. For example, the team process agreements, which describe how members of individual teams will work with each other, did not indicate if developers were to adhere to the practices described in updated USCIS policy. We will continue to work with USCIS to obtain additional documentation about actions it is taking to address this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To provide reasonable assurance that the program executes Agile software development for USCIS ELIS consistent with its own policies and guidance and follows applicable leading practices, the Secretary of DHS should direct the Director of USCIS to direct the USCIS CIO, in coordination with the DHS CIO and the Chief of OTC, to review and update, as needed, existing policies and guidance and consider additional controls to define and consistently execute appropriate roles and responsibilities for individuals responsible for development activities consistent with its selected development framework.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of July 2017, USCIS had taken steps to address this recommendation. For example, in June 2017, USCIS provided updated policy, dated April 2017, governing the development of software releases and release planning artifacts. The updated policy and release documentation defined some roles and responsibilities that were previously only described by USCIS in its informal November 2014 management model, such as the authority and responsibility of a product owner. However, program documentation and policy did not define all of the roles and responsibilities. For example, program documentation and policy did not define the roles and responsibilities of a facilitator, or Scrum Master, which is a position identified in leading practices for software development using Scrum, the development methodology previously identified by the program. In addition, USCIS did not demonstrate that it had defined and committed to an updated development methodology for software releases. Such a defined methodology will impact expectations for the roles and responsibilities in software development. Without such a defined methodology or approach to Agile software development, it is not clear if roles and responsibilities defined by previously documented approach to Agile software development are still applicable for the current development approach. Moreover, documentation associated with program releases and updated policy did not define all of the roles and responsibilities for positions described by USCIS in its May 2017 written response to GAO. We will continue to work with USCIS to obtain additional documentation about actions it is taking to address this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To provide reasonable assurance that the program executes Agile software development for USCIS ELIS consistent with its own policies and guidance and follows applicable leading practices, the Secretary of DHS should direct the Director of USCIS to direct the USCIS CIO, in coordination with the DHS CIO and the Chief of OTC, to review and update, as needed, existing policies and guidance and consider additional controls to identify all system users and involve them in release planning activities.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of July 2017, DHS and USCIS had not provided information demonstrating that the department has addressed this recommendation. In October 2016, DHS provided a written response stating that the USCIS Office of Information Technology and Office of Transformation Coordination were working closely with the various USCIS directorates to obtain and integrate feedback through regular review sessions with the end users and through additional end user testing. However, as of July 2017, DHS and USCIS have not provided new information about the status of this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To provide reasonable assurance that the program executes Agile software development for USCIS ELIS consistent with its own policies and guidance and follows applicable leading practices, the Secretary of DHS should direct the Director of USCIS to direct the USCIS CIO, in coordination with the DHS CIO and the Chief of OTC, to review and update, as needed, existing policies and guidance and consider additional controls to write user stories that identify user roles, include estimates of complexity, take no longer than one sprint to complete, and describe business value.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of July 2017, USCIS had provided GAO with documentation intended to demonstrate that the agency had taken steps to address this recommendation. For example, in May 2017, USCIS provided updated policy governing the development of software releases along with release planning artifacts specific to USCIS ELIS and an Independent Verification and Validation assessment. The agency also provided a series of backlogs that captured user stories for some software releases. In addition, the Independent Verification and Validation assessment indicated that the program was tracking user story quality as part of assessing whether value was continuously discovered and aligned to the mission. However, the assessment report provided to GAO indicated a negative trend for this outcome. Moreover, USCIS policy no longer set expectations regarding user story development. In addition, supporting artifacts from the release planning process did not always define a commitment to a particular development methodology, which is turn impacts the expectations for writing user stories. Finally, backlogs provided by USCIS did not cover all releases in development since our July 2016 report and did not include enough detail to assess all aspects of the user story process (e.g., story size and user involvement). We will continue to work with USCIS to obtain additional documentation about actions it is taking to address this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To provide reasonable assurance that the program executes Agile software development for USCIS ELIS consistent with its own policies and guidance and follows applicable leading practices, the Secretary of DHS should direct the Director of USCIS to direct the USCIS CIO, in coordination with the DHS CIO and the Chief of OTC, to review and update, as needed, existing policies and guidance and consider additional controls to establish outcomes for Agile software development.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of July 2017, USCIS had taken steps to address this recommendation. For example, in April 2017, USCIS issued updated policy governing software development at the agency. The updated policy included an appendix devoted to generally accepted agency practices and applying Agile principles in the agency. This appendix also included a set of ten outcomes associated with using Agile practices at USCIS. For example, outcomes included that value is continuously discovered and aligned to the mission. However, the updated policy did not require program compliance with the practices and principles described in the appendix. Moreover, the agency did not demonstrate that USCIS ELIS had committed to achieving a specific set of outcomes for Agile software development, such as the outcomes described in the USCIS policy. We will continue to work with USCIS to obtain additional documentation about actions it is taking to address this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To provide reasonable assurance that the program executes Agile software development for USCIS ELIS consistent with its own policies and guidance and follows applicable leading practices, the Secretary of DHS should direct the Director of USCIS to direct the USCIS CIO, in coordination with the DHS CIO and the Chief of OTC, to review and update, as needed, existing policies and guidance and consider additional controls to monitor program performance and report to appropriate entities through the collection of reliable metrics.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of July 2017, USCIS had taken steps to address this recommendation. For example, in May 2017, USCIS provided updated policy governing the development of software that called for teams to prepare an Operations Monitoring Plan or dashboard showing the practices, tools, and measures that will monitor applications in production. The agency also provided a series of documents from internal systems and processes intended to monitor performance, such as a product dashboard for analyzing code quality (i.e., SonarQube) and a report from its Independent Verification and Validation team. However, the program was undergoing a re-baseline and had yet to document updated cost, schedule, and performance expectations against which to monitor. Moreover, the agency did not demonstrate that other metrics, such as customer satisfaction and team velocity, were being reliably collected. We will continue to work with USCIS to obtain additional documentation about actions it is taking to address this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To help manage the USCIS ELIS system, the Secretary of DHS should direct the Director of USCIS to direct the USCIS CIO, in coordination with the DHS CIO and the Chief of OTC, to review and update existing policies and guidance and consider additional controls to conduct unit and integration, and functional acceptance tests, and code inspection consistent with stated program goals.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of July 2017, USCIS had taken steps to address this recommendation. For example, in May 2017, USCIS provided artifacts from internal systems in place to monitor software development performance. These metrics monitored aspects of testing, such as code quality and code coverage. However, the program did not provide an updated Test and Evaluation Master Plan, which is a document it will produce as part of its ongoing effort to re-baseline. A Test and Evaluation Master Plan sets the testing expectations for the program as agreed upon with its stakeholders in DHS and USCIS. The updated plan will provide a basis for further evaluation of the steps DHS and USCIS have taken to address this recommendation. Moreover, the agency did not demonstrate that functional acceptance tests were being conducted in accordance with stated program goals. For example, the agency did not provide acceptance criteria or the associated tests demonstrating that user stories passed the defined acceptance criteria. We will continue to work with USCIS to obtain additional documentation about actions it is taking to address this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To help manage the USCIS ELIS system, the Secretary of DHS should direct the Director of USCIS to direct the USCIS CIO, in coordination with the DHS CIO and the Chief of OTC, to review and update existing policies and guidance and consider additional controls to develop complete test plans and cases for interoperability and end user testing, as defined in the USCIS Transformation Program Test and Evaluation Master Plan, and document the results.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of July 2017, DHS and USCIS had not provided information demonstrating that they had addressed this recommendation. In October 2016, DHS provided a written response indicating that an internal process for revisiting the USCIS ELIS Test and Evaluation Master Plan had been initiated, with participation from all relevant stakeholder groups. A Test and Evaluation Master Plan sets the testing expectations for the program as agreed upon with its stakeholders in DHS and USCIS. The updated plan will provide a basis for further evaluation of the steps DHS and USCIS have taken to address this recommendation. The letter also stated that USCIS had begun to work on a policy for new interoperability test procedures. Moreover, the letter added that end user testing is a continuing activity, including providing feedback of observed issues into the development queue, with the slow launch of the naturalization capabilities in USCIS ELIS being a model. However, as of July 2017, DHS and USCIS had not provided new information about the status of this recommendation. We will continue to work with DHS and USCIS to obtain additional documentation about actions they are taking to address this recommendation.
    Director: Marcia Crosse
    Phone: (202) 512-7114

    10 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To increase awareness of the health and legal consequences of FGM/C among visa recipients, the Secretary of State should update the Foreign Affairs Manual to require posts located in countries where FGM/C is commonly practiced to directly provide information about FGM/C to nonimmigrant visa recipients in the same manner as is done for immigrant visa recipients.

    Agency: Department of State
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of State (State) concurred with this recommendation, and noted in a September 2016 update that it will expand the pool of visa applicants who will receive information on FGM/C. Specifically, once its transition to providing paperwork electronically during the visa application process is complete, State will directly distribute the fact sheet on FGM/C to both immigrant and nonimmigrant visa recipients. According to State, both immigrant and nonimmigrant visa recipients will have to certify that they have read and understood the fact sheet on FGM/C before signing and submitting their respective visa applications. As of August 2017, State has not yet completed these actions.
    Recommendation: To increase awareness of the health and legal consequences of FGM/C among visa recipients, the Secretary of State should update the Foreign Affairs Manual to require posts located outside of the countries where FGM/C is commonly practiced to directly provide information on FGM/C to immigrant and nonimmigrant visa recipients who are nationals of countries where FGM/C is commonly practiced.

    Agency: Department of State
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of State (State) concurred with this recommendation, and noted in a September 2016 update that it will expand the pool of visa applicants who will receive information on FGM/C. Specifically, once its transition to providing paperwork electronically during the visa application process is complete, State will directly distribute the fact sheet on FGM/C to both immigrant and nonimmigrant visa recipients who are from or were nationals of a country where FGM/C is commonly practiced. State noted that this change will ensure the widest distribution possible by providing all individuals from countries where FGM/C is commonly practiced with access to the fact sheet on FGM/C regardless of place of application or visa recipient type. As of August 2017, State has not yet completed these actions.
    Recommendation: To make the best use of federal resources directed toward combating FGM/C in the United States, the Attorney General and the Secretaries of Education, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, and State should each develop a written plan that describes the agency's approach for conducting education and outreach to key stakeholders in the United States regarding FGM/C.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Education (Education) concurred with this recommendation, and noted in a September 2016 update that it will develop a written plan for disseminating relevant FGM/C resources to the agency?s key stakeholder groups. As of August 2017, Education reported that action is still pending.
    Recommendation: To make the best use of federal resources directed toward combating FGM/C in the United States, the Attorney General and the Secretaries of Education, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, and State should each develop a written plan that describes the agency's approach for conducting education and outreach to key stakeholders in the United States regarding FGM/C.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) concurred with this recommendation, and noted in a September 2016 update that various HHS offices and agencies are working together to develop a written plan for its approaches to addressing FGM/C. In August 2017, HHS reported that once a key leadership position has been filled, it will provide more information on developing a written plan.
    Recommendation: To make the best use of federal resources directed toward combating FGM/C in the United States, the Attorney General and the Secretaries of Education, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, and State should each develop a written plan that describes the agency's approach for conducting education and outreach to key stakeholders in the United States regarding FGM/C.

    Agency: Department of Justice
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Justice (DOJ) concurred with this recommendation, and noted in a September 2016 update that the Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section of its Criminal Division is taking the lead on developing a written plan on its FGM/C outreach and awareness efforts. As of August 2017, DOJ has not yet developed a written plan.
    Recommendation: To make the best use of federal resources directed toward combating FGM/C in the United States, the Attorney General and the Secretaries of Education, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, and State should each develop a written plan that describes the agency's approach for conducting education and outreach to key stakeholders in the United States regarding FGM/C.

    Agency: Department of State
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of State (State) did not concur with our recommendation, and, as of August 2017, has not indicated that it would implement this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To make the best use of federal resources directed toward combating FGM/C in the United States, the Attorney General and the Secretaries of Education, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, and State should each communicate the plan with other relevant federal agencies and stakeholder groups, as appropriate.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Education (Education) concurred with this recommendation, and noted in a September 2016 update that it will develop a written plan for disseminating relevant FGM/C resources to the agency?s key stakeholder groups and will explore how to best communicate and coordinate efforts at the federal level. As of August 2017, Education reported that action is still pending.
    Recommendation: To make the best use of federal resources directed toward combating FGM/C in the United States, the Attorney General and the Secretaries of Education, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, and State should each communicate the plan with other relevant federal agencies and stakeholder groups, as appropriate.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) concurred with this recommendation, and noted in a September 2016 update that various HHS offices and agencies are working together to develop a written plan for its approaches to addressing FGM/C. HHS also noted that it would share this plan with other federal partners and key stakeholders. In August 2017, HHS reported that once a key leadership position has been filled, it will provide more information on disseminating a written plan.
    Recommendation: To make the best use of federal resources directed toward combating FGM/C in the United States, the Attorney General and the Secretaries of Education, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, and State should each communicate the plan with other relevant federal agencies and stakeholder groups, as appropriate.

    Agency: Department of Justice
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Justice (DOJ) concurred with this recommendation, and noted in a September 2016 update that the Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section of its Criminal Division is taking the lead on developing a written plan on its FGM/C outreach and awareness efforts. DOJ also noted that it would communicate its written plan with other relevant federal agencies and stakeholder groups, as appropriate. As of August 2017, DOJ has not yet disseminated a written plan.
    Recommendation: To make the best use of federal resources directed toward combating FGM/C in the United States, the Attorney General and the Secretaries of Education, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, and State should each communicate the plan with other relevant federal agencies and stakeholder groups, as appropriate.

    Agency: Department of State
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of State (State) did not concur with our recommendation, and, as of August 2017, has not indicated that it would implement this recommendation.
    Director: Rebecca Gambler
    Phone: (202) 512-8777

    4 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To enhance the monitoring of holding facilities, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct Border Patrol and ICE to develop and implement a process to assess their time in custody data for all individuals in holding facilities, including: (1) identifying and addressing potential data quality issues; and (2) identifying cases where time in custody exceeded guidelines and assessing the factors impacting time in custody.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To strengthen the transparency of the complaints process, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct CBP and ICE to develop and issue guidance on how and which complaint mechanisms should be communicated to individuals in custody at holding facilities.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To facilitate the tracking of holding facility complaints, the Secretary of Homeland Security should include a classification code in all complaint tracking systems related to DHS holding facilities.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To provide useful information for compliance monitoring, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct CBP and ICE to develop and implement a process for analyzing trends related to holding facility complaints across their respective component.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Director: Rebecca Gambler
    Phone: (202) 512-8777

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To enhance Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) ability to make more effective business decisions across immigration detention facilities with respect to the provision of medical care, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct ICE to track inspection results and conduct analyses of oversight data over time, by standards, and by facility type.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of May 2017, ICE has not provided a status update regarding the implementation of this recommendation. We will provide updated information after confirming any agency actions.
    Director: Kay E. Brown
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    3 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services should direct the Office of Refugee Resettlement to develop a process to update its bed capacity framework on an annual basis to include the most recent data related to numbers of unaccompanied children who may be referred to its care and adjust its planning scenarios that guide its bed capacity as appropriate.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) developed a bed capacity framework for fiscal year 2016, and produced a FY 2017 bed capacity framework in June 2017. The frameworks include a discussion of the indicators, referrals and triggers ACF uses to monitor bed capacity, as well as the agency's framework for ensuring that it has sufficient capacity to meet its need for shelter beds and services.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services should direct the Office of Refugee Resettlement to review its monitoring program to ensure that onsite visits are conducted in a timely manner, case files are systematically reviewed as part of or separate from onsite visits, and that grantees properly document the services they provide to children.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: HHS agreed with our recommendation. According to HHS, in the beginning of FY 2016, the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) conducted a review of its monitoring procedures to develop uniform protocols for all ORR monitoring activities. In addition, ORR reported that it completed its scheduled monitoring visits for FY 2016. HHS reported that for FY 2017 and FY 2018 the UAC Program Monitoring Team will biannually monitor all of its ORR UAC care providers.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services should direct the Office of Refugee Resettlement to develop a process to ensure all information collected through its existing post-release efforts are reliable and systematically collected so that they can be compiled in summary form and provide useful information to other entities internally and externally.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) created a new section in its unaccompanied children's policy guide that, among other things, includes case reporting, records management, retention, and information sharing requirements for post-release service providers. However, as of August 2017, case management functionality has not been built into ORR's UAC Portal, a web-based database that contains, among other things, intake, placement, and sponsor information, as well as individual service plans for the children. Also, the post-release service program does not yet have OMB-approved forms that ORR can require grantees use for reporting purposes. Nevertheless, ORR has collected and released data on Safety and Well-Being (SWB) follow-up calls that were made to children and their sponsors. In addition, ORR has developed a plan for collecting and analyzing National Call Center data.
    Director: Kimberly Gianopoulos
    Phone: (202)512-8612

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To strengthen agency performance measurement related to deterring child smuggling, the Secretary of Homeland Security should instruct DHS's U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to establish annual performance targets associated with the performance measures it has established for its Transnational Criminal Investigative Units.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: In its comments on the report in July 2015, the Department of Homeland Security stated that it concurred with this recommendation, and that it would work with host nation partners to establish goals to measure these units' investigative activities and capacity development. In September 2015, DHS noted that it planned to use law enforcement data to measure TCIU success rates and inform efforts going forward. GAO has followed up with DHS--most recently in June 2017--on the status of its efforts to establish performance targets, but has not yet received a response.
    Director: Rebecca Gambler
    Phone: (202) 512-8777

    9 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To better ensure that DHS complies with TVPRA requirements for training, screening, and transferring UAC to HHS, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection to develop and implement TVPRA training for OFO officers at airports who have substantive contact with UAC.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Office of Field Operations (OFO) within U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), in collaboration with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, conducted a "Train-the-Trainer" conference in August 2015 that focused on juvenile and unaccompanied alien children (UAC). The conference, among other things, addressed screening requirements for UAC consistent with Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (TVPRA). CBP officers who received this additional training were then responsible for training other officers who process UAC at the ports of entry. According to CBP, while the conference was comprehensive, it did not fully encompass CBP's needs. In June 2016, CBP reported that OFO, Office of Chief Counsel, and a headquarters-level working group on UAC issues are finalizing a revised Form CBP-93 and with that are developing a detailed, relevant Train-the-Trainer course for officers responsible for TVPRA at all CBP ports of entry. In December 2016, CBP notified GAO that OFO, in coordination with CBP's Office of Training and Development, was concluding the design and embarking on the development phase of a distance learning course, tentatively entitled "Processing, Holding, and Transfer of Unaccompanied Alien Children by CBP." This course will be an annual requirement for all OFO officers. In April 2017, CBP reported that OFO was no longer pursuing a separate Train-the-Trainer course for CBP officers at air ports of entry. However, CBP continues to develop a new UAC training course. The new course is a collaborative effort between OFO and USBP, in consultation with CBP's Office of Chief Counsel, and in partnership with CBP's Office of Training and Development (OTD) to develop, deconflict, and revise training consistent with requirements under TVPRA, specifically outlining rules to identify and screen UAC, among other things. As of September 2017, CBP estimates that they will finalize the training module by June 2018. To fully address this recommendation, CBP needs to ensure that OFO officers at airports who have substantive contact with UAC complete this training.
    Recommendation: To better ensure that DHS complies with TVPRA requirements for training, screening, and transferring UAC to HHS, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection to revise the Form 93 to include indicators or questions that agents and officers should ask UAC to better assess (1) a child's ability to make an independent decision to withdraw his or her application for admission to the United States and (2) credible evidence of the child's risk of being trafficked if returned to his or her country of nationality or last habitual residence.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: In September 2015, CBP officials stated that CBP formed a working group in headquarters with representatives from the department's Office of Policy and Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties to examine the screening process for UAC. In addition, CBP officials noted that CBP is in the process of convening a similar group in the field. According to CBP officials, the working group meets weekly and is coordinating with nongovernmental organizations and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, among others. As of June 30, 2016, CBP reported that CBP's Office of Field Operations (OFO) and U.S. Border Patrol (BP) have finalized and routed the Form CBP-93 to the OFO Executive Assistant Commissioner and United States Border Patrol Chief for final approval. As of June 2017, the revised CBP Form 93 is still under review and CBP officials estimate that the review process will be completed by December 31, 2017. To fully address this recommendation, CBP should revise the Form 93 to include indicators or questions that CBP officers and Border Patrol agents should ask UAC relative to their ability to make an independent decision and regarding the potential risk of the UAC being trafficked if returned to their country of nationality or last habitual residence.
    Recommendation: To better ensure that DHS complies with TVPRA requirements for training, screening, and transferring UAC to HHS, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection to provide guidance to Border Patrol agents and OFO officers that clarifies how they are to implement the TVPRA requirement to transfer to HHS all Mexican UAC who have fear of returning to Mexico owing to a credible fear of persecution.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: In commenting on a draft of our report, DHS indicated that CBP's U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) and Office of Field Operations (OFO) would issue further guidance to agents and officers emphasizing TVPRA transfer procedures for UAC who are nationals or habitual residents of Canada or Mexico and who are victims of a severe form of trafficking in persons. In September 2015, CBP reported that USBP and OFO estimated implementing this additional guidance by the end of calendar year 2015. In January 2016, CBP reported to GAO that, since June 2015, a headquarters level working group had been reviewing CBP's screening process for UAC. According to CBP officials, the activities of this working group will influence the guidance that will be deployed to Border Patrol agents and OFO officers and that USBP and OFO will be working together to develop additional guidance to the field by September 2016. In December 2016, CBP notified GAO that Border Patrol and OFO have partnered with CBP's Office of Training and Development, as well as the Office of Chief Counsel, to develop a distance learning course, tentatively entitled "Processing, Holding, and Transfer of Unaccompanied Alien Children by CBP." According to CBP, this course will be an annual requirement for all CBP agents and officers. As of September 2017, CBP estimates that they will finalize the training module by June 2018. To fully address this recommendation, CBP should ensure that this distance learning training module on how to implement the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (TVPRA) criteria is developed and implemented, as required by CBP policy, to all Border Patrol agents and OFO officers.
    Recommendation: To better ensure that DHS complies with TVPRA requirements for training, screening, and transferring UAC to HHS, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection to develop and implement guidance on how Border Patrol agents and OFO officers are to implement the TVPRA requirement to transfer to HHS all Canadian and Mexican UAC who are victims of a severe form of trafficking in persons.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: In commenting on a draft of our report, DHS indicated that CBP's U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) and Office of Field Operations (OFO) would issue further guidance to agents and officers emphasizing TVPRA transfer procedures for UAC who are nationals or habitual residents of Canada or Mexico and who are victims of a severe form of trafficking in persons. In September 2015, CBP reported that USBP and OFO estimated implementing this additional guidance by the end of calendar year 2015. In January 2016, CBP reported to GAO that, since June 2015, a headquarters level working group has been reviewing CBP's screening process for UAC. According to CBP officials, the activities of this working group will influence the guidance that will be deployed to Border Patrol agents and OFO officers and that USBP and OFO will be working together to develop additional guidance to the field by September 2016. In December 2016, CBP notified GAO that Border Patrol and OFO have partnered with CBP's Office of Training and Development as well as the Office of Chief Counsel to develop a distance learning course, tentatively entitled "Processing, Holding, and Transfer of Unaccompanied Alien Children by CBP." According to CBP, this course will be an annual requirement for all CBP agents and officers. As of September 2017, CBP estimates that they will finalize the training module by June 2018. To fully address this recommendation, CBP should ensure that this distance learning training module on how to implement the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (TVPRA) criteria is developed and implemented, as required by CBP policy, to all Border Patrol agents and OFO officers.
    Recommendation: To better ensure that DHS complies with TVPRA requirements for training, screening, and transferring UAC to HHS, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection to ensure that Border Patrol agents document the basis for their decisions when assessing screening criteria related to (1) an unaccompanied alien child's ability to make an independent decision to withdraw his or her application for admission to the United States, and (2) whether UAC are victims of a severe form of trafficking in persons.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of December 2015, CBP officials reported that an internal working group charged with assessing UAC screening procedures was considering issues related to independent decision-making and appropriate documentation as it develops a revised screening tool. As of June 30, 2016, CBP reported that CBP's Office of Field Operations (OFO) and U.S. Border Patrol (BP) had finalized and routed a revised CBP Form 93 to the OFO Executive Assistant Commissioner and United States Border Patrol Chief for final approval. As of August 31, 2016, the revised CBP Form 93 was still under review and CBP officials estimated that the review process would be completed by December 31, 2016. In January 2017, CBP notified GAO that the expected completion date for the revised form is April 2017, and that direction to Border Patrol agents on the new form would be delivered by June 2017. In June 2017, CBP told GAO that Border Patrol and other CBP partners were continuing to determine which changes are necessary to the CBP Form 93 and estimated that these efforts would not be completed until December 31, 2017. As of September 2017, CBP reported that these efforts would not be completed until June 2018. To fully address this recommendation, CBP should ensure that Border Patrol agents document the basis for their decisions when assessing screening criteria related to (1) an unaccompanied alien child's ability to make an independent decision to withdraw his or her application for admission to the United States, and (2) whether UAC are victims of a severe form of trafficking in persons.
    Recommendation: To better ensure that DHS complies with TVPRA requirements for training, screening, and transferring UAC to HHS, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection to determine which agents and officers who have substantive contact with UAC, complete the annual UAC training, and ensure that they do so, as required.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: On July 1, 2015, the Assistant Commissioner for Field Operations (OFO) disseminated a memorandum to all OFO Field Office Directors regarding the mandatory annual UAC training requirement. The Assistant Commissioner directed all Field Offices to ensure that officers completed the required training by December 31, 2015 (the memo also specified which officers are required to complete the training). On July 31, 2015, the Chief of the U.S. Border Patrol disseminated a memorandum to all Chief Patrol Agents and Directorate Chiefs for dissemination to all uniformed personnel, including supervisors, regarding the mandatory annual UAC training requirement. CBP documentation indicates that CBP implemented a new learning management system mandated by DHS on July 13, 2015, through which online training courses are offered to all CBP employees. Further, in 2016 DHS added a feature to this system that provided the capability to produce reports on courses completed by CBP employees. In April 2017, CBP provided 2016 data on the OFO officers and Border Patrol agents that had completed the required UAC training course. According to the data, 23 percent of OFO officers and 7 percent of Border Patrol agents required to complete the training had not done so. CBP officials stated that they plan to take steps to increase the percent of agents and officers who complete the required training in 2017 and will provide new data to GAO in early 2018. To fully address this recommendation, Border Patrol and OFO should ensure that all required personnel have completed the annual training, as required.
    Recommendation: To help ensure that DHS has complete and reliable data needed to ensure compliance with the UAC time-in-custody requirement under TVPRA and for required reports on UAC time in custody under the Flores Agreement, the Secretary of Homeland Security should require ICE officers to record accurate and reliable data in their automated system when UAC leave ICE custody in order to track the length of time UAC are in ICE custody.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: In a July 23, 2015 memo, ICE's Assistant Director for Custody Management, with concurrence from the Acting Assistant Director for Field Operations, provided instructions to all ICE Field Office Directors, Deputy Field Office Directors, and Field Office Juvenile Coordinators (FOJCs) with instructions for processing juveniles, including unaccompanied alien children (UAC). The memo stated that FOJCs or assigned officers must immediately book UAC into ICE's automated system upon the UAC's transfer into ICE's custody (including ICE transportation contractors). The instructions state that no more than 4 hours may elapse without recording the UAC's time in ICE custody. Further, the instructions stated that when ICE transfers UAC to a new location, that FOJCs, or other assigned officers, must also ensure that ICE's automated system is updated to reflect the exact location of the transfer. According to ICE, these instructions are to be included in a juvenile processing handbook that will provide detailed instructions for officers in processing and managing juvenile cases. ICE expects to complete this handbook by June 30, 2016. As of October 2016, the handbook was still being cleared within ICE. To fully implement our recommendation, ICE should require that officers record accurate and reliable data (date and time) in their automated system when UAC leave ICE custody.
    Recommendation: To increase the efficiency and improve the accuracy of the interagency UAC referral and placement process, the Secretaries of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services should jointly develop and implement a documented interagency process with clearly defined roles and responsibilities, as well as procedures to disseminate placement decisions, for all agencies involved in the referral and placement of UAC in HHS shelters.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: In September 2015, DHS stated that the department was collaborating with HHS on finalizing a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) regarding UAC procedures. According to DHS, the MOA is meant to provide a framework for interagency coordination on the responsibilities of the parties in coordinating and establishing procedures, shared goals, and interagency cooperation with respect to UAC. In February 2016, DHS and HHS finalized the MOA. The MOA states that DHS and HHS agree to establish a Joint Concept of Operations (JCO) that should be completed no later than one year following the signing of the MOA. According to the MOA, the JCO should include, among other things, standard protocols for consistent interagency cooperation on the care, processing, and transport of UAC during both steady state operations, as well as in the event the number of UAC exceeds the standard capabilities of the departments to process, transport, and/or shelter with existing resources. As of February 2017, HHS told GAO that HHS and DHS are still in the process of drafting the JCO. To fully address the recommendation, DHS and HHS will need to ensure that the JCO, once finalized and implemented, includes a documented interagency process with clearly defined roles and responsibilities, as well as procedures to disseminate placement decisions, for all agencies involved in the referral and placement of UAC in HHS shelters.
    Recommendation: To increase the efficiency and improve the accuracy of the interagency UAC referral and placement process, the Secretaries of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services should jointly develop and implement a documented interagency process with clearly defined roles and responsibilities, as well as procedures to disseminate placement decisions, for all agencies involved in the referral and placement of UAC in HHS shelters.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: In September 2015, DHS stated that the department was collaborating with HHS on finalizing a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) regarding UAC procedures. According to DHS, the MOA is meant to provide a framework for interagency coordination on the responsibilities of the parties in coordinating and establishing procedures, shared goals, and interagency cooperation with respect to UAC. In February 2016, DHS and HHS finalized the MOA. The MOA states that DHS and HHS agree to establish a Joint Concept of Operations (JCO) that should be completed no later than one year following the signing of the MOA. According to the MOA, the JCO should include, among other things, standard protocols for consistent interagency cooperation on the care, processing, and transport of UAC during both steady state operations, as well as in the event the number of UAC exceeds the standard capabilities of the departments to process, transport, and/or shelter with existing resources. As of August 2017, HHS told GAO that HHS and DHS are still in the process of drafting the JCO. To fully address the recommendation, DHS and HHS will need to ensure that the JCO, once finalized and implemented, includes a documented interagency process with clearly defined roles and responsibilities, as well as procedures to disseminate placement decisions, for all agencies involved in the referral and placement of UAC in HHS shelters.
    Director: Kingsbury, Nancy R
    Phone: (202)512-2700

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help correct undercounts, eliminate conceptual problems, and where possible, fill gaps for information on immigration flow, the Commissioner of INS should: (1) evaluate and, where feasible, improve data on flow; and (2) utilize an effective information typology (either the one put forward in table 2.1 of this report or an alternative designed by INS) to clearly distinguish different demographic concepts and to determine which statistics can fairly be compared to others.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security: Office of the Secretary
    Status: Open

    Comments: On September 5, 2017, GAO called the Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Immigration Statistics, and discussed this open recommendation. The Deputy Assistant Secretary said that in response to the February 6, 2017, e-mail and a brief personal discussion with GAO during a Migration Policy Institute conference in August 2017, he had assigned a staff member to complete work on the typology, but that the staff member was one of several who were temporarily reassigned to work in Houston as a consequence of Hurricane Harvey, and for that reason work on the typology would be delayed. He said DHS would like to have this typology completed and published before the end of 2017, but could not guarantee that, and said that it would be completed. On February 6, 2017, GAO sent an e-mail to the Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Immigration Statistics at DHS, which included a PDF of the typology GAO created, as well as a PDF of the published report. GAO followed up with a telephone call to the Deputy Assistant Secretary on February 24, 2017, and noted the former Director of the Office of Immigration Statistics had been working on adding some categories to the typology and planned on completing those and publishing it. The Deputy Assistant Secretary said he agreed that doing the typology and publishing it is important, and that he would be addressing it in the near future. On June 1, 2016, the Special Assistant for the Office of Policy at the Department of Homeland Security told GAO that it has initiated an examination of this recommendation to determine how it might be closed. When the typology is published and utilized, this recommendation will be closed.