Immigration Enforcement: Challenges to Implementing the INS Interior Enforcement Strategy

GAO-02-861T Published: Jun 19, 2002. Publicly Released: Jun 19, 2002.
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The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) developed strategies in the 1990s to control illegal immigration across U.S. borders and to address enforcement priorities within the country. In 1994, INS's Border Patrol issued a strategy to deter illegal entry through "prevention through deterrence;" that is, to raise the risk of being apprehended for illegal aliens to where they would consider it futile to try to enter. The plan called for targeting resources in a phased approach, starting in areas with the greatest illegal activity. In 1999, INS issued its Interior Enforcement Strategy to focus resources on areas that would have the greatest impact on reducing the size and annual growth of the illegal resident population. The strategy established the following five areas: (1) identify and remove criminal aliens and minimize recidivism; (2) deter, dismantle, and diminish smuggling or trafficking of aliens; (3) respond to community reports and complaints about illegal immigration; (4) minimize immigration benefit fraud and other document abuse; and (5) block and remove employers' access to undocumented workers. For these to be effective, INS needs better data to determine staff needs, reliable information technology, clear and consistent guidelines and procedures for working level staff, effective collaboration and coordination within INS and with other agencies, and performance measures that help INS assess program results. Having an effective interior strategy is an essential complement to having an effective border strategy.

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