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    Subject Term: Immigration

    30 publications with a total of 106 open recommendations including 3 priority recommendations
    Director: Rebecca Gambler
    Phone: (202) 512-8777

    6 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To better assess whether RSCs are meeting USRAP objectives, the Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration should develop outcome-based indicators, as required by State policy.

    Agency: Department of State: Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration
    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 assess whether RSCs are meeting USRAP objectives, the Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration should monitor RSC performance against such indicators on a regular basis.

    Agency: Department of State: Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration
    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 ensure that USCIS officers effectively adjudicate applications for refugee status, the Director of USCIS should develop and implement a plan to deploy officers with national security expertise on circuit rides.

    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 better ensure that USCIS officers effectively adjudicate applications for refugee status, the Director of USCIS should conduct regular quality assurance assessments of refugee application adjudications across USCIS's Refugee Affairs Division and International Operations Division.

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

    Comments: USCIS provided documentation that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officials conducted a quality assurance assessment of refugee adjudications in July 2017 and has plans to conduct an additional quality assurance assessment in January or February 2018. To fully address this recommendation, USCIS should demonstrate a continued commitment to conducting regular quality assurance assessments of refugee application adjudications.
    Recommendation: To provide reasonable assurance that USRAP applicant fraud prevention and detection controls are adequate and effectively implemented, the Secretaries of Homeland Security and State should conduct regular joint assessments of applicant fraud risk across USRAP.

    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 reasonable assurance that USRAP applicant fraud prevention and detection controls are adequate and effectively implemented, the Secretaries of Homeland Security and State should conduct regular joint assessments of applicant fraud risk across USRAP.

    Agency: Department of State
    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

    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: Rebecca Gambler
    Phone: (202) 512-8777

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve the usefulness of airport wait time data that CBP currently reports on its public website, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection to report airport wait time data for different categories of travelers.

    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: 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: Shea, Rebecca
    Phone: (202) 512-2834

    2 open recommendations
    including 2 priority recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve federal agency LMR procurement practices, the Director of OMB should direct the Office of Federal Procurement Policy to examine the feasibility of including LMR technology in the category management initiative.

    Agency: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: OMB generally agreed with this recommendation and noted that it is working to identify which information-technology strategies will produce the best return on investment and that it continues to evaluate its category-specific plans. We will update the status of this recommendation after we receive additional information from OMB.
    Recommendation: To improve federal agency LMR procurement practices, the Director of OMB should direct the Office of Federal Procurement Policy to, if warranted, include LMR technology within the appropriate spend category.

    Agency: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: OMB generally agreed with this recommendation and noted that it is working to identify which information-technology strategies will produce the best return on investment and that it continues to evaluate its category-specific plans. We will update the status of this recommendation after we receive additional information from OMB.
    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: Andrew Von Ah
    Phone: (213) 830-1011

    4 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To ensure effective management and oversight of DHS programs receiving fees and other collections, and to ensure that component management take the following actions for each fee and other collections program that they administer, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the DHS Chief Financial Officer to use some means, such as the DHS Fee Governance Council, to document the processes and analyses for assessing and, as appropriate, for managing the difference between program costs and collections and document resulting decisions.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: DHS's Fee Governance Council, led by the Deputy CFO plans to draft and publish a revised section of the Financial Management Policy Manual devoted to documenting the processes and analyses for assessing and managing the difference between program costs and collections and document resulting decisions. The Council is currently working to establish interim milestones associated with this objective.
    Recommendation: To ensure effective management and oversight of DHS programs receiving fees and other collections, and to ensure that component management take the following actions for each fee and other collections program that they administer, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the DHS Chief Financial Officer to use some means, such as the DHS Fee Governance Council, to establish processes for managing unobligated carryover balances, to include targets for minimum and maximum balances for programs that lack such processes and targets.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Fee Governance Council will draft and publish a revised section of the Financial Management Policy Manual devoted to managing unobligated carryover balances. The Council is currently working to develop specific milestones associated with this objective.
    Recommendation: To ensure effective management and oversight of DHS programs receiving fees and other collections, and to ensure that component management take the following actions for each fee and other collections program that they administer, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the DHS Chief Financial Officer to use some means, such as the DHS Fee Governance Council, to conduct reviews to identify any management and operational deficiencies.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: The DHS Fee Governance Council plans to publish a revised section of the Financial Management Policy Manual devoted to how components conduct studies of fee programs to identify any management or operational deficiencies. The Council is currently working to establish specific milestones associated with this objective.
    Recommendation: To ensure effective management and oversight of DHS programs receiving fees and other collections, and to ensure that component management take the following actions for each fee and other collections program that they administer, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the DHS Chief Financial Officer to use some means, such as the DHS Fee Governance Council, to take action to track and report on management and operational deficiencies--including reasons supporting any decisions to not pursue recommended actions--identified in fee reviews or through other means.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: The DHS Fee Governance Council will publish a revised section of the Financial Management Policy Manual devoted to how regular biennial reviews are conducted at DHS and how any findings and recommendations on management and operational deficiencies identified in these fee studies are tracked and reported.
    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: Kay E. Brown
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help ensure vulnerable unaccompanied children receive child advocate services, the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services should direct ORR to develop a monitoring process that includes: (1) regularly reviewing referrals to the program contractor, including identifying which care providers in locations with a child advocate program do not make referrals; and (2) reviewing information on the children the program contractor determines it is unable to serve.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: In June 2016, the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) reported that it is working with the child advocate contractor to develop standard operating procedures (SOP) to assign child advocates for children as well as address issues identified in the report and monitor the referral and selection process. ORR also reported that its field staff are working with care providers to ensure that care providers are making referrals for child advocates where a local program exists. In July 2017, ORR reported that new SOPs are under development and the program continues to deny cases when child advocates are unavailable due to the limited number of child advocates. Finalizing standard operating procedures for program referrals and developing a process to review information on the children the program contractor determines it is unable to serve would be positive steps towards addressing the recommendation.
    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: Alicia Puente Cackley
    Phone: (202) 512-8678

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve the reliability of the annual official U.S. estimate of remittances, the Secretary of Commerce should direct the BEA Director to conduct additional analyses of BEA's estimates using estimation techniques appropriate for dealing with the shortcomings of the data. Analyses should also be conducted to understand the effect of various assumptions behind and limitations of the data on the estimates.

    Agency: Department of Commerce
    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 the transparency and quality of BEA's international remittances estimate, the Secretary of Commerce should direct the BEA Director to follow established BEA best practices, OMB policies, and NRC guidance for documenting BEA's methods and analyses used to revise its model for estimating remittances and for producing its annual estimates.

    Agency: Department of Commerce
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    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 anticipated completing its fiscal year 2017 bed capacity framework by September 30, 2016. The framework includes bed capacity projections, including expected referrals and placement needs, based, in part, on data from the previous year. GAO will close this recommendation when HHS completes its 2017 bed capacity framework.
    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 and ORR is in the process of reviewing its monitoring templates and tools and, according to HHS, has conducted a monitoring training for its Project Officers. In addition, ORR is sending additional Project Officers into the field to complete scheduled monitoring visits to its care provider facilities. HHS reports that ORR is on track to complete all scheduled monitoring visits for FY 2016. We will close this recommendation when ORR has completed its review of its monitoring templates and tools and demonstrates that it can complete its planned monitoring visits on schedule.
    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. Post-release service providers are required to maintain this information in an ORR-provided database. Also, the section requires that all reports made to ORR's National Call Center be documented and reported in accordance with mandatory reporting laws, state licensing requirements, federal laws and regulations, and ORR policies and procedures. Lastly, in May 2016, ORR released data for the first quarter of fiscal year 2016 on Safety and Well-Being (SWB) follow-up calls that were made to children and their sponsors.
    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: Carol R. Cha
    Phone: (202) 512-4456

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve Transformation Program governance, the Secretary of DHS should direct the Under Secretary for Management to ensure that the Acquisition Review Board is effectively monitoring the Transformation Program's performance and progress toward a predefined cost and schedule; ensuring that corrective actions are tracked until the desired outcomes are achieved; and relying on complete and accurate program data to review the performance of the Transformation Program against stated expectations.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of August 2017, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had demonstrated that it had taken steps to address this recommendation, but additional steps were needed. Since we issued this recommendation in May 2015, the Office of Program Accountability and Risk Management (PARM), which serves as the Acquisition Review Board (ARB) executive secretariat and is to oversee DHS's acquisition portfolio, in coordination with the Office of the Chief Information Officer, has actively increased program oversight. For example, beginning in May 2015, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) demonstrated that it submitted data supporting cost, schedule, and technical performance metrics to DHS on a monthly basis. The ARB has also held a number of meetings to discuss the Transformation Program and issued associated Acquisition Decision Memoranda with related action items. In addition, in February 2016, PARM demonstrated that DHS developed a procedure to help ensure acquisition decision memorandum actions, including corrective actions, are tracked until the desired outcomes are achieved. However, as of August 2017, the USCIS Transformation Program was in breach of its previously approved schedule expectations and was taking a strategic pause in developing new software while working to re-baseline cost and schedule expectations. During this strategic pause, the program is working to complete various action items assigned by the Acquisition Review Board, including completing an updated Release Roadmap and submitting it to PARM no later than December 29, 2017; updated Lifecycle Cost Estimate and providing it to the Cost Analysis Division no later than December 29, 2017; updated Test and Evaluation Master Plan and submitting it to the Office of Test and Evaluation no later than January 31, 2018; and an updated Acquisition Program Baseline and providing it to PARM no later than December 29, 2017. We will continue to monitor DHS?s efforts to re-baseline the USCIS Transformation Program and the Acquisition Review Board's efforts to monitor the Transformation Program's performance and progress toward a predefined cost and schedule; ensure that corrective actions are tracked until the desired outcomes are achieved; and rely on complete and accurate program data to review the performance of the Transformation Program against stated expectations until and after a new baseline is established.
    Recommendation: To improve Transformation Program governance, the Secretary of DHS should direct the DHS Under Secretary for Management, in coordination with the Director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services, to ensure that the Executive Steering Committee is effectively monitoring the Transformation Program's performance and progress toward a predefined cost and schedule and relying on complete and accurate program data to review the performance of the Transformation Program against stated expectations.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of August 2017, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had demonstrated that it had taken steps to address this recommendation, but additional steps were needed. More specifically, as of July 2016, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Transformation program office provided evidence that the Executive Steering Committee (ESC) continued to discuss cost, schedule, and operational performance metrics as part of the program's ESC meetings. However, as of August 2017, the USCIS Transformation Program was in breach of its previously approved schedule expectations and was taking a strategic pause in developing new software while working to re-baseline its cost and schedule expectations. During this strategic pause, the program is working to complete various action items assigned by the Acquisition Review Board, including completing an updated Release Roadmap and submitting it to the Office of Program Accountability and Risk Management (PARM) no later than December 29, 2017; updated Lifecycle Cost Estimate and providing it to the Cost Analysis Division no later than December 29, 2017; updated Test and Evaluation Master Plan and submitting it to the Office of Test and Evaluation no later than January 31, 2018; and an updated Acquisition Program Baseline and providing it to PARM no later than December 29, 2017. In addition, according to the program?s August 2017 Acquisition Decision Memorandum, the ESC has been transformed into a component-only body with no headquarters involvement, and the program was to establish a Program Management Integrated Product Team, which was to meet bi-weekly beginning in September 2017. We will continue to monitor DHS's efforts to re-baseline the USCIS Transformation Program, the impact of changes to the ESC, and the ESC?s efforts to effectively monitor the Transformation Program's performance and progress toward a predefined cost and schedule and rely on complete and accurate program data to review the performance of the Transformation Program against stated expectations until and after a new program baseline is established.
    Recommendation: To help ensure that assessments prepared by the Office of the Chief Information Officer in support of the department's updates to the federal IT Dashboard more fully reflect the current status of the Transformation Program, the Secretary of DHS should direct the department's Chief Information Officer to use accurate and reliable information, such as operational assessments of the new architecture and cost and schedule parameters approved by the Under Secretary of Management.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of September 2017, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had demonstrated that it had taken steps to address this recommendation, but additional steps were needed. In particular, in February 2016, the DHS Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO), in coordination with the Office of Program Accountability and Risk Management (PARM), had consolidated the department's Investment Management System and Next Generation Periodic Reporting System tools into a single enterprise information management and repository system named Investment Evaluation, Submission, and Tracking (INVEST). According to the department, this effort should improve the reliability of the metrics used by OCIO's Enterprise Business Management Office (EBMO), as well as the other line of business and component program offices, and ensure data integrity. The data reported in INVEST include cost, schedule, and operational performance metrics that are to align with the OMB's Information Technology (IT) Dashboard reporting requirements. In addition, as of September 2017, the program was listed as a high-risk program on the federal IT dashboard, in contrast to its April 2015 rating of medium risk. However, as of August 2017, the program was in breach of its previously approved schedule expectations and was taking a strategic pause in developing new software while working to re-baseline its cost and schedule expectations. We will continue to monitor DHS?s efforts to re-baseline the USCIS Transformation Program and the Office of the Chief Information Officer's efforts to use accurate and reliable information to update the federal IT dashboard until and after a new program baseline is established.
    Director: Rebecca Gambler
    Phone: (202) 512-8777

    6 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To ensure that CBP's land mobile radio systems are functioning as intended in each location and are meeting user needs, the CBP Commissioner should develop a plan to monitor the performance of its deployed radio systems.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security: United States Customs and Border Protection
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To ensure the ICE TACCOM program is effectively managed, the Assistant Secretary of ICE should develop a program plan to ensure that the agency establishes the appropriate documentation of resource needs, program goals, and measures to monitor the performance of its deployed radio systems.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Border and Transportation Security: Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement
    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 CBP training efforts, CBP Commissioner should develop and implement a plan to address any skills gaps for CBP agents and officers related to understanding the new digital radio systems and interagency radio use protocols.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security: United States Customs and Border Protection
    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 CBP training efforts, CBP Commissioner should develop a mechanism to verify that all Border Patrol and OFO radio users receive radio training.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security: United States Customs and Border Protection
    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 ICE training efforts, the Assistant Secretary of ICE should develop and implement a plan to address any skills gaps for ICE agents related to understanding the new digital radio systems and interagency radio use protocols.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Border and Transportation Security: Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement
    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 ICE training efforts, the Assistant Secretary of ICE should develop a mechanism to verify that all ICE radio users receive radio training.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Border and Transportation Security: Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Director: Andrew Sherrill
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    5 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To better report the occupations filled by H-2B workers who have been approved by DHS, the Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services should implement during its transformation process to an electronic petition form, an occupation classification system that conforms to a national standard.

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

    Comments: In September 2016, USCIS indicated that it was revising its Transformation Roadmap (schedule). The conversion to electronic nonimmigrant petitions is expected to be completed during the second quarter of fiscal year 2018. USCIS also noted that it is exploring the adoption of a single set of occupation codes across multiple form types, but has not yet made a final decision whether to implement this. USCIS estimates this recommendation will be completed by March 31, 2018.
    Recommendation: To help potential H-2A and H-2B workers and their advocates better assess employment offers and reduce their vulnerability to abuse, the Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services should, during its transformation to an electronic petition form, ensure that petition job information is collected in an electronic manner and made available to the public as soon as possible following a final adjudication decision. Such job information should include number of positions, wage, and any staffing, placement or recruitment agency the employer plans to use.

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

    Comments: In September 2016, USCIS indicated that it was revising its Transformation Roadmap (schedule). The conversion to electronic nonimmigrant petitions is expected to be completed during the second quarter of fiscal year 2018. Therefore, USCIS estimates this recommendation will be completed by March 31, 2018.
    Recommendation: To help protect workers from being hired by employers who have been debarred from program participation, the Secretary of Labor should direct the Assistant Secretary, Employment and Training Administration, to use all employer-related information it collects on debarred employers to screen new applications.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: In June 2016, the agency noted that it continues to screen for debarred employers in two ways: 1) by adding debarred employers to its iCERT System, which matches incoming employer applications using the federal Employer Identification Number; and 2) by conducting additional reviews during analyst case adjudications using a more expansive set of employer-related information. While the Employment and Training Administration explored enhancing its iCERT system in 2015 to flag more information on debarred employers, the agency said this enhancement was not pursued due to technical difficulties in matching open text fields (e.g., physical employer addresses).
    Recommendation: To ensure that H-2B workers are adequately protected and that DOL's investigative resources are appropriately focused, the Secretary of Labor should direct the Administrator, Wage and Hour Division, to review its enforcement efforts and conduct a national investigations-based evaluation of H-2B employers.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: In June 2016, DOL's Wage and Hour Division (WHD) indicated that it is coordinating closely with the department's Chief Evaluation Office on evaluations and special projects involving data analytics. As a result of that coordination, it is shifting away from large-scale compliance surveys and toward leveraging internal enforcement data and external survey data to assess compliance levels in priority industries. Therefore, WHD is not currently considering a national level survey of the H-2B program. However, WHD indicated that its focus of enforcement resources on industries that employ workers vulnerable to violations of labor laws will include H-2B workers and employers.
    Recommendation: To determine to what extent, if any, the 2-year statute of limitations on debarment limits its use as a remedy for employers who violate program requirements: (1) the Secretary of Labor should direct the Assistant Secretary, Employment and Training Administration, and the Administrator, Wage and Hour Division, to collect data on the nature of the cases where debarment would have been recommended but was not because the 2-year statute of limitations had expired, and based on that data determine whether to pursue a legislative proposal to extend the statute of limitations; and (2) the Department of Labor Inspector General should direct the Assistant Inspector General, Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations to provide the Assistant Secretary, Employment and Training Administration, and the Administrator, Wage and Hour Division, data on the number of referrals for debarment that the Inspector General's Office sent to the department after the 2-year statute of limitations had expired.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: In June 2016, DOL indicated that it was considering the utility of collecting these data in light of the fact that the new H-2B regulations that were issued in April 2015 eliminated the 2-year statute of limitations for the H-2B program. We continue to believe, however, that this data collection would be valuable given that the H-2A program is still subject to the 2-year statute of limitations. The department indicated it is undertaking a modernization of its data systems--by implementing a data governance structure that will manage its data as a business asset--and our recommendation for the collection of these data will be vetted through this process.
    Director: Rebecca Gambler
    Phone: (202) 512-8777

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To ensure data required by IMBRA are collected, maintained, and reliable, the Director of USCIS should ensure that IMBRA-required data elements will be collected in an automated manner with the release of the electronic I-129F petition.

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

    Comments: In January 2015, USCIS reported that it expected to start development for the electronic I-129F petition in March 2016. As of March 2016, USCIS officials confirmed that the electronic I-129F petition is tied to the Family-Based Adjustment of Status (AOS) product line for USCIS ELIS. USCIS officials stated that, as of March 2016, the requirements-gathering phase for this product line is underway and, as of June 2016, USCIS began the requirements-gathering phase. In October 2016, the Office of Transformation Coordination reported that there have been some delays in the product line that includes the I-129F petition and the tentative expected completion date is the second quarter of fiscal year 2018. To fully implement this recommendation, USCIS should ensure that IMBRA-required data elements are collected in an automated manner with the release of the electronic I-129F petition.
    Director: Maurer, Diana C
    Phone: (202) 512-9627

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To ensure effective evaluation of federal training programs and enhance DHS's stewardship of resources for federal training programs, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct DHS components to ensure that their documented training evaluation processes fully address attributes for effective training evaluation processes as they are drafted, updated, or revised.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: In September 2014, we reported on the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) training efforts, including the extent to which DHS has a documented process to evaluate training and development programs. We found that all five DHS components in GAO's review--U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Transportation Security Administration, and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center--have a documented process to evaluate their training programs. Their documented processes fully included three of six attributes of effective training evaluation processes identifying goals, programs to evaluate, and how results are to be used. However, the documented processes did not consistently include the other three attributes: methodology, timeframes, and roles and responsibilities. We concluded that by updating documentation to address these attributes, DHS components would have more complete information to guide its efforts in conducting effective evaluations. We therefore recommended that DHS direct its components to ensure that their documented training evaluation processes fully address attributes for effective training evaluation processes as they are drafted, updated, or revised. In September 2016, DHS officials reported that a DHS-wide self-audit of training evaluation processes was completed on March 31, 2016 and found that DHS has current documentation addressing effective learning evaluation programs and that there are commonalities in evaluation procedures across the components. As a part of the self-audit, components provided policy and procedures documents related to their training evaluation processes and found that they adhere to sound instructional systems design models. However, the self-audit focused on identifying the specific training evaluation practices for a sample of courses at each component and not whether the component-level guidance included the attributes for effective training evaluation processes we identified in our report. Further, although DHS updated its department-wide guidance on training evaluation in April 2016 to incorporate the attributes for effective training evaluation processes and some components have followed suit, other components have not. For example, we found that some components, such as Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Coast Guard, had updated their training evaluation guidance to include the attributes we identified in our report. Others, such as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement were in the process of updating their guidance. However, as of April 2017, the guidance from the Transportation Security Administration remained in draft and the guidance from the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center had not been updated since our review. Therefore, this recommendation remains open pending action on the above noted items.
    Recommendation: To ensure effective evaluation of federal training programs and enhance DHS's stewardship of resources for federal training programs, the Secretary of Homeland Security should identify existing challenges that prevent DHS from accurately capturing training costs department-wide and, to the extent that the benefits of addressing those challenges exceed the costs, implement corrective measures to overcome these challenges..

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: In September 2014, we reported on the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) training efforts, including the extent to which DHS has a documented process to reliably capture costs. We found that DHS identified efficiencies and cost savings for delivering a number of training programs. However, different methods are used for capturing training costs across the department, which poses challenges for reliably capturing these costs across DHS. Components capture training costs differently, contributing to inconsistencies in training costs captured across DHS. Variation in methods used to collect data can affect the reliability and quality of DHS-wide training program costs. However, DHS has not identified all challenges that contribute to these inconsistencies. We concluded that DHS could improve its awareness about the costs of training programs DHS-wide and thereby enhance its resource stewardship by identifying existing challenges that prevent DHS from accurately capturing training costs and implementing corrective measures. We therefore recommended that DHS identify existing challenges that prevent DHS from accurately capturing training costs department-wide and, to the extent that the benefits of addressing those challenges exceed the costs, implement corrective measures to overcome these challenges. As of September 2016, DHS reported that its Office of the Chief Human Capital Officer and Office of the Chief Financial Officer worked together to research the issue and determine the best course of action to standardize training cost reporting. However, this did not require a formal root cause analysis. In order to identify a way for the components to capture training costs in a standardized manner, DHS formed a Tiger Team that included officials from each component which identified 12 common functional areas for training to capture training costs. Components were directed to prepare implementation plans outlining how they will begin capturing cost data within the identified functional training areas and, according to DHS, began capturing the data on September 29, 2016. In January 2017, the DHS Chief Financial Officer provided guidance to the components as to how they are to report their training costs to DHS on a quarterly basis. Components provided their first quarterly submission to DHS in January 2017. These steps are in line with the intent of our recommendation. This recommendation will remain open as we monitor its continued implementation over the next two quarters.
    Director: Rebecca Gambler
    Phone: (202) 512-8777

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To better ensure DSOs' and students' compliance with OPT requirements, and strengthen efforts to identify and assess potential risks in OPT, the Director of ICE should direct SEVP to develop and distribute guidance to DSOs on how to determine whether a job is related to a student's area of study and require DSOs to provide information in SEVIS to show that they took steps, based on this guidance, to help ensure that the student's work is related to the area of study.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security: United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of April 2015, SEVP has made progress in developing employment guidance to support DSOs in determining whether a job is related to a student's area of study and requiring DSOs to provide such information in SEVIS. SEVP stated that it has drafted such guidance and it is being reviewed by SEVP subject matter experts. In addition, SEVP stated that it is developing information requirements for DSOs to attest that they adhered to the new employment guidance document in SEVIS, which requires system enhancements. In May 2016, the new STEM OPT regulation went into effect and, among other things, SEVP officials stated that it requires much greater detail on the scope of the employment and how it is related to the earned degree. As of October 2016, SEVP expects that non-STEM guidance on field of study will be finalized by the second quarter of fiscal year 2017.
    Director: Powner, David A
    Phone: (202) 512-9286

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct appropriate officials to assess whether it would be cost effective to consolidate the remaining functions of the Medicare coverage determination systems.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: We contacted the department and are awaiting a response on its efforts to implement this recommendation.
    Director: Larence, Eileen
    Phone: (202)512-6510

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To ensure that USNCB and ICE are providing more comprehensive information to their respective foreign counterparts regarding registered sex offenders traveling internationally, the Attorney General and the Secretary of Homeland Security should take steps to help ensure that USNCB and ICE have information on the same number of registered sex offenders as well as the same level of detail on registered sex offenders traveling internationally. Such steps could include USNCB and ICE copying each other on their notifications to their foreign counterparts or USNCB receiving information directly from the CBP National Targeting Center (NTC).

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: We reported that U.S. National Central Bureau (USNCB) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) did not have information on the same registered sex offenders or the same level of detail on registered sex offenders traveling internationally, which affected their ability to notify their respective foreign counterparts. In part, this is because the two agencies rely on different information sources and do not share information with one another. We recommended that DOJ and DHS develop mechanisms that would enable these two agencies to have access to the same information on traveling sex offenders. In August 2013, ICE provided documentation showing that it copied several U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) officials on notifications that ICE sent to other countries regarding registered sex offenders traveling internationally. However, ICE did not copy USNCB on these notifications. ICE explained that it thought sharing information on traveling sex offenders with USMS and relying on USMS to pass that information along to USNCB was the most efficient way to share information with USNCB. However, we analyzed notifications from ICE, USNCB, and USMS regarding sex offenders who initiated international travel in February 2014 and found that USMS only passed along about 30 percent of the notifications it received from ICE to USNCB. We provided the results of this analysis to all three agencies in July 2014. We met with relevant U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), ICE, USMS, and USNCB officials in September 2014 to discuss options for ensuring that USNCB receives more comprehensive information regarding traveling sex offenders. ICE officials stated that since CBP is the source of the information ICE receives on traveling sex offenders, as well as one of the information sources for USMS, that it may be best for CBP to provide information directly to USNCB. USNCB officials also stated that their preference was to receive information directly from CBP, and it was their understanding that CBP and USNCB were in the process of developing an MOU that would allow for this. In October 2015, CBP confirmed that the MOU would enable CBP to share information with USNCB regarding traveling sex offenders. CBP also stated that the MOU had been approved by CBP and sent to USNCB for review. In an April 2016 update, CBP reported that the MOU had been tentatively approved by USNCB and is expected to be finalized and signed in July 2016. In August 2016, CBP stated that the completion date for the MOU was pushed back to September 30, 2016, to allow time for CBP and USNCB to negotiate additional edits. We followed up with CBP about the status of the MOU in February 2017. We are awaiting a response.
    Director: Sherrill, Andrew
    Phone: (202)512-7252

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help ensure that the number of new H-1B workers who are subject to the cap--both entering the United States and changing to H-1B status within the United States--does not exceed the cap each year, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services should take steps to improve its tracking of the number of approved H-1B applications and the number of issued visas under the cap by fully leveraging the transformation effort currently under way, which involves the adoption of an electronic petition processing system that will be linked to the Department of State's tracking system. Such steps should ensure that linkages to the Department of State's tracking system will provide Homeland Security with timely access to data on visa issuances, and that mechanisms for tracking petitions and visas against the cap are incorporated into U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' business rules to be developed for the new electronic petition system.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: In 2016, USCIS officials reported that, according to their current timeframes, the business rules associated with the nonimmigrant visa petition process (including Form I-129) in the USCIS Electronic Immigration System (ELIS) were slated to be developed in late 2017, with implementation projected for the beginning of 2018. They stated that during the requirements-gathering phase, the Service Center Operations officials and the Office of Transformation Program officials planned to discuss potential options for improving the tracking of the number of approved H-1B applications and the number of issued visas under the cap, including assessing the feasibility of linking DHS and State Department data. GAO will follow-up with USCIS on the status of this recommendation when business rules for the nonimmigrant line of the ELIS are developed and released.
    Director: Caldwell, Stephen L
    Phone: (202) 512-9610

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To facilitate better agency understanding of the potential need and feasibility of expanding electronic verification of seafarers, to improve data collection and sharing, and to comply with the Inflation Adjustment Act, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Commandant of the Coast Guard and Commissioner of CBP to jointly establish an interagency process for sharing and reconciling records of absconder and deserter incidents occurring at U.S. seaports.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) concurred and stated that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Coast Guard would begin to assess the appropriate offices within each component involved in the review and to establish a working group to evaluate the current reporting process within each component, and between CBP and Coast Guard. Further, DHS noted that it was working to co-locate the Coast Guard's ICC Coastwatch and CBP's National Targeting Center-Passenger and that this would help to eliminate many of the absconder-and deserter- reporting inconsistencies GAO identified between Coast Guard and CBP. In January 2013, CBP and Coast Guard officials reported that they had studied the CBP and Coast Guard data and found that multiple factors had likely contributed to the data variances, including differences in definitions for absconders/deserters among CBP and Coast Guard field units, and the method in which field units had recorded and reported absconder and deserter incidents. Officials reported that the two agencies were planning to develop an interagency memorandum of agreement (MOA) with field guidance for reporting absconder and deserter incidents. Officials reported that they expected to finalize and implement the MOA and field guidance by November 30, 2013. In July 2014, CBP described a new process in place for interagency data reconciliation, reporting that this action was taken in lieu of previously discussed plans to develop an interagency MOU. In December 2015, CBP reported that it expected to complete the effort by March 2016. In March 2016, CBP report that it expected to complete the effort by September 2016. CBP officials reported that the Coast Guard and CBP determined that the absconder data variances were caused by the agencies using different reporting criteria. Officials reported that the two agencies were preparing a memo and guidance to issue to field units by August 31, 2016. Officials reported that the recommendation would be fully implemented by September 30, 2016. In September 2016, CBP reported that it expected to implement the effort by December 31, 2016. In December 2016, CBP reported that the agency had drafted a memo to coincide with new Coast Guard procedure for conducting asymmetric migration vetting and deconfliction. CBP was also working to require all ports of entry to report all maritime asymmetric migration events directly to Coastwatch or a Targeting Framework event. However, on October 18, 2016, the DHS Deputy Secretary issued Department Policy Regarding Investigative Data and Event Deconfliction Policy Directive 045-04 that sets forth DHS policy for investigative data and event deconfliction and the use of related deconfliction systems in the course of certain law enforcement activity. As a result of the newly published Directive, DHS requires that CBP develop and implement related policy, by January 17, 2017. The policy directive requires DHS components to develop a policy applicable to components having equities in Investigative Data and Event Deconfliction. The policy will focus on more effective coordination of investigative activity to ensure officer safety by identifying links between ongoing criminal investigations. The Policy also requires that CBP components, at a minimum, conduct deconfliction thru the Deconfliction and Information Coordination Endeavor, Regional Information Sharing Systems Officer Safety Event Deconfliction System, Secure Automated Fast Event Tracking Network or Case Explorer systems. CBP and Coast Guard are now looking at a directive which makes it a port responsibility to deconflict case related information. The timeline for drafting and finalizing that directive is January 2017. Because of this change in direction, CBP and Coast Guard are requesting an extension to March 31, 2017 to finalize and disseminate the new policy.
    Director: White, James
    Phone: (202) 512-9039

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: Given the increasing extent of business travel to the U.S. and the eroding effect of inflation, Congress may wish to consider raising the amount of U.S. income paid by a foreign employer that is exempt from tax for nonresidents who meet the other conditions of the exemption.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of August 2017, the Congress had not raised the amount of U.S. income paid by a foreign employer that is exempt from tax for nonresidents who meet the other conditions of the exemption.
    Recommendation: Given the difficulty of enforcing the requirement for aliens to obtain certificates of compliance--sailing permits--before departing the country and the existence of withholding requirements and tax treaties, Congress may wish to consider eliminating the sailing permit requirement.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of August 2017, the Congress has not eliminated the sailing permit requirement.
    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.