New Alien Identification System--Little Help in Stopping Illegal Aliens

GGD-79-44: Published: May 30, 1979. Publicly Released: May 30, 1979.

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In recent years there has been increased entry of illegal aliens into the United States. A review was made of the new system used by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) for documenting legal aliens. The system, called the Alien Documentation, Identification, and Telecommunication (ADIT) System, is intended to prevent aliens from using fraudulent identity cards to enter the United States. By using a machine-verifiable card with features making it hard to tamper with, the INS hopes to detect illegal entry more easily. Another feature will be a central database containing additional data which federal inspectors can use to question aliens. INS statistics for fiscal years 1974 through 1977 show that 89 percent of the deportable aliens who were apprehended had entered without inspection.

There is little likelihood that the new system will control the entry of illegal aliens, however. For the most part, the new system will simply be an inconvenience for aliens who would illegally enter anyway. Projected development and operating costs for the new system are $67 million through 1984, which is the date the system cards are to replace existing ones. The system is a long way from completion, however. Production problems have included: (1) inability to develop computer software necessary to meet production goals; (2) inability to produce a functional camera for use at ports of entry to photograph data for use on the front of the system card; and (3) problems with production processes which forced a move to another facility. In addition, the machine verification feature could cause problems at ports of entry by slowing traffic flow. GAO concluded that system automation has not been justified, and that the card with machine verification features may be too sophisticated. In any case, the fraud-resistant card will not be effective until it replaces existing cards, but whether the 1984 replacement target date will be met is questionable.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should direct the Commissioner, INS, to cease further development of the automated verification portion of the ADIT system, and determine the cost effectiveness of retaining the machine verification features of the identification card.

    Agency Affected:


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