Alien Smuggling:

Management and Operational Improvements Needed to Address Growing Problem

GGD-00-103: Published: May 1, 2000. Publicly Released: May 1, 2000.

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Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO reviewed the Immigration and Naturalization Service's (INS) implementation of a strategy to combat alien smuggling, focusing on: (1) the nature and extent of alien smuggling into the United States; (2) INS' strategy for combatting alien smuggling; and (3) how well the strategy has been implemented and the results to date.

GAO noted that: (1) in fiscal year (FY) 1999, 14 percent of all Border Patrol apprehensions were smuggled aliens compared to 9 percent in 1997; (2) according to INS, aliens from countries other than Mexico purportedly rely more heavily on organized smugglers and an increase in apprehensions of aliens from other countries would indicate an increase in alien smuggling; (3) apprehensions of aliens from countries other than Mexico increased from 58,000 in FY 1997 to about 81,000 in FY 1999; (4) INS believes that alien smuggling will become a more significant enforcement problem in the future because alien smuggling organizations are expected to become more sophisticated, organized, and complex; (5) INS issued an anti-smuggling strategy in 1997 that contains domestic and international components; (6) the domestic component calls for: (a) INS to focus its investigations on major smuggling operations; and (b) INS' anti-smuggling investigative field units to coordinate their activities and share anti-smuggling intelligence information with each other; (7) as part of the domestic component, the strategy calls for INS' Intelligence Program to optimize its ability to collect, analyze, and disseminate intelligence information to identify targets for enforcement and help focus INS' anti-smuggling resources on efforts that would have the greatest impact; (8) the international component includes INS' conducting operations in cooperation with foreign governments to disrupt alien smuggling in countries that either are major sources of illegal immigration or through which illegal aliens travel on their way to the United States; (9) INS' ability to implement and evaluate the effectiveness of the domestic component of its strategy is impeded by several factors: (a) lack of program coordination; (b) absence of an automated case tracking and management system; and (c) limited performance measures; (10) as part of its international component, INS conducted operations in 34 countries between August 1995 and November 1999; (11) during these operations, INS assisted in intercepting undocumented aliens destined for the United States, trained foreign officials on migration controls, and provided assistance in prosecuting alien smugglers; (12) however, there have been impediments to INS' ability to have more than a temporary impact on alien smuggling overseas; and (13) according to INS and Department of State officials, these impediments include corruption of some foreign officials and the lack of laws against alien smuggling in some countries.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In October 2002, INS established a Comprehensive Investigations Reporting, Analysis, and Control system describing the policies and procedures for opening and managing anti-smuggling cases. The system defines and prioritizes for investigation the different types of anti-smuggling cases that can be opened.

    Recommendation: The Commissioner of INS should establish criteria for opening an anti-smuggling case to help ensure that INS' anti-smuggling resources are focused on the highest priority cases.

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

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: On April 8, 2002, INS mandated the use of the Criminal Investigative Reporting System (CIRS), an agencywide automated case tracking system, by all INS investigative components by October 1, 2002. CIRS integration with other automated INS enforcement systems should be completed during fiscal year 2004, assuming DOJ budget recommendations for fiscal years 2003 and 2004 are not severely reduced.

    Recommendation: The Commissioner of INS should establish a cost-effective case tracking and management system of alien smuggling investigations that is automated, agencywide, and readily available to investigative personnel and program managers to facilitate the sharing of case information and prevent duplication of effort.

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

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In fiscal year 2009, Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Office of Investigations (OI)established as a performance measure for its alien smuggling investigative efforts the percentage of closed cases that result in an enforcement effort, defined as an arrest, indictment, conviction, seizure, fine or penalty. OI has an Intelligence Program to support OI investigations. The Intelligence Program's performance measure is the number of counter-narcotics intelligence requests satisfied. The program does not have a performance measure related to alien smuggling.

    Recommendation: The Commissioner of INS should establish performance measures for the anti-smuggling efforts and intelligence program with which to gauge program effects.

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

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: INS has developed an automated intelligence reporting form in database format that is available to every officer in INS. The analytical software used to systematically analyze the data is available INS wide.

    Recommendation: The Commissioner of INS should require that intelligence reports be prepared using a database format so the information can be systematically analyzed.

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


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