Naturalization of Aliens:

INS Internal Controls

T-GGD-97-57: Published: Apr 30, 1997. Publicly Released: Apr 30, 1997.

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Norman J. Rabkin
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GAO discussed the Immigration and Naturalization Service's (INS) process for naturalizing aliens, including its fingerprinting procedures.

GAO noted that: (1) aliens who apply to the INS to become naturalized citizens have to meet certain requirements, such as being of good moral character (e.g., not being convicted of certain felonies); (2) to determine whether aliens applying for citizenship have been convicted of a crime that would preclude them from being naturalized, INS submits the aliens' fingerprints to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which is to determine if the person with those fingerprints has a criminal history record on file; (3) between September 1995 and September 1996, some aliens with certain disqualifying criminal felony convictions were improperly naturalized probably because INS adjudicators were not made aware of the results of the FBI check of the aliens' criminal history records; (4) in addition, both the Department of Justice's Inspector General and GAO have identified problems with the fingerprinting component of the process; (5) in November 1996 the INS Commissioner announced changes designed to enhance the naturalization process in several key areas; (6) to try to deal with the problem of adjudicators making decisions without having a definitive response from the FBI on the completed criminal history checks, the Commissioner ordered that no aliens were to be approved for naturalization until INS positively knew that they had no disqualifying felony convictions; (7) in addition, the Commissioner ordered that no naturalization cases were to be scheduled for hearings or oath ceremonies until all changes were "in place and working"; (8) previously, INS had issued regulations establishing internal controls to help ensure that people applying for naturalization were using their own fingerprints; (9) however, an April 17, 1997, report by Peat Marwick showed that INS has not ensured that its field units were carrying out the Commissioner's instructions; and (10) GAO believes that its work on the fingerprinting process and other aspects of INS management, and the Peat Marwick report, raise questions about the extent to which INS can today assure itself and the Congress that it is granting citizenship to only those applicants who deserve it.

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