Immigration Reform:

Systematic Alien Verification System Could Be Improved

IMTEC-87-45BR: Published: Sep 30, 1987. Publicly Released: Nov 2, 1987.

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Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO examined the effectiveness of the Immigration and Naturalization Service's (INS) Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) system, particularly its implementation nationwide.

GAO found that: (1) the SAVE system provides quick and positive verification of an alien's immigration status; (2) during a 6-month period, INS detected 734 illegal aliens out of about 13,426 applicants for unemployment compensation benefits; and (3) of the 13,426 cases it examined, approximately 4,100 aliens required secondary verification of their legal status and of those, about 96 percent were legal. GAO also found that: (1) although INS intends to improve its data to ensure accurate, positive primary verifications, such improvement will not occur before the middle of 1988; (2) INS plans to correct the deficiencies in its central system on a case-by-case basis during secondary verification until it implements a nationwide verification system; and (3) since the system is still in the developmental stage, INS has not determined its overall cost.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: A plan was completed on March 18, 1988. Many actions called for in this plan have been implemented by INS, resulting in significant improvements in the quality and completeness of SAVE data. INS collected and analyzed statistical trend data on primary and secondary verifications and issued a final report on January 24, 1990.

    Recommendation: To ensure that the nationwide SAVE system meets the needs of state and local officials, the Commissioner, INS, should develop: (1) a formal corrective action plan that clearly identifies both short-term and long-term corrective actions INS plans to take to improve the quality and completeness of the database accessed by the SAVE system; and (2) statistical and trend data on the magnitude of primary verifications, together with magnitude, turnaround time, and records corrected during secondary verification.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice: Immigration and Naturalization Service

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Plans were prepared, but dissemination to cabinet secretaries was limited. Critical dates for waiver decisions have now passed, and agencies will have their own statistical trend data for future waiver considerations. However, INS progress in identifying actions and in developing statistical trend data will continue to be monitored through follow-up on another GAO recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Commissioner, INS, should share these plans with appropriate Cabinet Secretaries in time to support their decisions on whether to waive the use of SAVE, since they will be comparing the effectiveness and timeliness of SAVE versus other verification methods.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice: Immigration and Naturalization Service


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