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    Subject Term: "Immigration status"

    3 publications with a total of 16 open recommendations
    Director: Gambler, Rebecca S
    Phone: (202) 512-6912

    6 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve management and oversight of the SAVE program, the director of USCIS should develop and implement a mechanism to oversee agencies' completion of training on additional verification in accordance with SAVE MOA provisions and program policies.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security: United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: In March 2017, we found that USCIS does not track or monitor whether SAVE users have completed training and therefore does not have reasonable assurance that users have mastered SAVE policies and procedures prior to accessing the system. We recommended that USCIS develop and implement a mechanism to oversee agencies' completion of training on additional verification in accordance with SAVE provisions and program policies. The USCIS Verification Division reported that it intends to have a plan to address providing additional training for SAVE users developed by December 31, 2017. The SAVE Program will then offer training events for agencies on the new material reflecting the agency user requirements for additional verification as well as system enhancements. The estimated completion date for these activities is September 30, 2018.
    Recommendation: To improve management and oversight of the SAVE program, the director of USCIS should provide notifications to user agencies when a case is ready for the user agency to review.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security: United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: We found that from fiscal years 2012 through 2015, USCIS exceeded its targets for providing agencies with timely SAVE responses, but agencies and benefit applicants were not always aware the SAVE response has been returned to them and therefore may be delayed in processing benefit determinations. We recommended that USCIS provide notifications to user agencies when a SAVE case is ready for the user agency to review. SAVE Program officials reported that they will develop an Automated Case Response Alerts feature for second and third-level responses with expected completion of the planning by December 31, 2017 and full implementation by the end of September, 2018.
    Recommendation: To improve management and oversight of the SAVE program, the director of USCIS should develop and implement a documented, risk-based approach to monitoring and compliance, including (1) a risk-based approach to selecting behaviors to monitor; (2) standards for what triggers compliance actions for the selected behaviors; and (3) a risk-based process for how USCIS will prioritize and select agencies for compliance actions.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security: United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: In March 2017, we reported that the SAVE Monitoring and Compliance (M&C) Division does not have a documented, risk-based strategy that addresses a risk-based approach to selecting behaviors or memorandum of agreement (MOA) provisions to monitor, compliance standards for selected behaviors, and a risk-based process for how to prioritize and select agencies for compliance actions. In May 2017, USCIS reported that the Verification Division will create risk assessment standard operating procedures that include a risk based approach that incorporates GAO standards. The activities will include the development of a risk intake form; the development of an impact analysis form; and the completion of a master risk register and tracker spreadsheet. The Verification Division will also conduct risk assessments on all current and pending behaviors monitored by SAVE M&C, as well as existing policies, by September 30, 2017. Before the end of the calendar year, the Verification Division will hold meetings with colleagues to identify additional risks and gaps to better inform risk assessments. The Verification Division will create and/or amend policies and behaviors monitored by SAVE M&C based on risk assessment outcomes, to include the development and testing of new behavior reports, which fully implement monitoring of all behaviors after testing. USCIS estimates completing these activities by March 31, 2018.
    Recommendation: To improve management and oversight of the SAVE program, the director of USCIS should develop and communicate a process for user agencies to update contact information.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security: United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: In March 2017, we found that the SAVE program's list of user agency points of contact (POCs) was not kept up to date and the SAVE program did not have a systematic process for ensuring the POCs are current and accurate, which presents challenges when contacting agencies for site visits or desk reviews. We recommended that USCIS develop and communicate a process for user agencies to update contact information. In December 2017, USCIS reported that SAVE was on track with its planning and prioritization work to improve user administration, including more effective ways to update contact information. However, because this system enhancement will be completed as part of a larger SAVE Modernization effort that is not scheduled for completion until December 2018, the estimated date of completion is December 31, 2018.
    Recommendation: To improve management and oversight of the SAVE program, the director of USCIS should identify the root causes of agencies' noncompliance with SAVE MOA provisions and program policies and tailor agency recommendations to those identified causes.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security: United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: In March 2017, we found that SAVE Monitoring and Compliance (M&C) does not consistently identify the root cause of noncompliance and develop or tailor recommendations specific to each agency and cause as part of its compliance activities. As a result, we recommended that USCIS identify the root causes of agencies' noncompliance with SAVE Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) provisions and program policies and tailor agency recommendations to those identified causes. In December, 2017, USCIS reported that the Verification Division expects to complete its review of current policies and behavior reports to identify areas for improvement by December 31, 2017. In addition, it will undertake a variety of activities to determine the root causes for agency non-compliance. These activities will include reviewing all past compliance assistance activities, conducting interviews with SAVE Program account managers, and increasing engagements with agencies through phone calls, desk reviews, and site visits (including virtual site visits). These efforts should be completed by March 31, 2018, followed by the development of a template of tailored responses for all SAVE M&C behaviors. USCIS expects to complete these activities by June 30, 2018.
    Recommendation: To improve management and oversight of the SAVE program, the director of USCIS should develop and implement a process for ensuring user agencies implement corrective actions such as through a system of escalating compliance assistance actions and follow-up.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security: United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: In March 2017, we reported that SAVE Monitoring and Compliance (M&C) monitoring and oversight efforts have generally not improved agency compliance with SAVE Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) provisions. This is in part because SAVE M&C does not engage in escalating compliance assistance actions for those agencies that remain noncompliant and because SAVE M&C does not ensure agencies take corrective actions after receiving recommendations. We recommended that USCIS develop and implement a process for ensuring user agencies implement corrective actions, such as through a system of escalating compliance assistance actions and follow-up. In March 2017, USCIS reported that the Verification Division will identify ways to incorporate improved escalating compliance assistance models into its procedures. This will include ongoing monitoring of agency use to ensure SAVE customer agencies comply with SAVE program requirements. In May 2017, UCIS reported that SAVE M&C is developing a Quality Control Review approach that includes the requested GAO escalations and follow-up compliance actions. These activities are expected to be completed by March 30, 2018.
    Director: Alicia Puente Cackley
    Phone: (202) 512-8678

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve the reliability of the annual official U.S. estimate of remittances, the Secretary of Commerce should direct the BEA Director to conduct additional analyses of BEA's estimates using estimation techniques appropriate for dealing with the shortcomings of the data. Analyses should also be conducted to understand the effect of various assumptions behind and limitations of the data on the estimates.

    Agency: Department of Commerce
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To improve the transparency and quality of BEA's international remittances estimate, the Secretary of Commerce should direct the BEA Director to follow established BEA best practices, OMB policies, and NRC guidance for documenting BEA's methods and analyses used to revise its model for estimating remittances and for producing its annual estimates.

    Agency: Department of Commerce
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Director: Rebecca Gambler
    Phone: (202) 512-8777

    8 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To better ensure that DHS complies with TVPRA requirements for training, screening, and transferring UAC to HHS, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection to develop and implement TVPRA training for OFO officers at airports who have substantive contact with UAC.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Office of Field Operations (OFO) within U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), in collaboration with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, conducted a "Train-the-Trainer" conference in August 2015 that focused on juvenile and unaccompanied alien children (UAC). The conference, among other things, addressed screening requirements for UAC consistent with Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (TVPRA). CBP officers who received this additional training were then responsible for training other officers who process UAC at the ports of entry. According to CBP, while the conference was comprehensive, it did not fully encompass CBP's needs. In June 2016, CBP reported that OFO, Office of Chief Counsel, and a headquarters-level working group on UAC issues are finalizing a revised Form CBP-93 and with that are developing a detailed, relevant Train-the-Trainer course for officers responsible for TVPRA at all CBP ports of entry. In December 2016, CBP notified GAO that OFO, in coordination with CBP's Office of Training and Development, was concluding the design and embarking on the development phase of a distance learning course, tentatively entitled "Processing, Holding, and Transfer of Unaccompanied Alien Children by CBP." This course will be an annual requirement for all OFO officers. In April 2017, CBP reported that OFO was no longer pursuing a separate Train-the-Trainer course for CBP officers at air ports of entry. However, CBP continues to develop a new UAC training course. The new course is a collaborative effort between OFO and USBP, in consultation with CBP's Office of Chief Counsel, and in partnership with CBP's Office of Training and Development (OTD) to develop, deconflict, and revise training consistent with requirements under TVPRA, specifically outlining rules to identify and screen UAC, among other things. As of September 2017, CBP estimates that they will finalize the training module by June 2018. To fully address this recommendation, CBP needs to ensure that OFO officers at airports who have substantive contact with UAC complete this training.
    Recommendation: To better ensure that DHS complies with TVPRA requirements for training, screening, and transferring UAC to HHS, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection to revise the Form 93 to include indicators or questions that agents and officers should ask UAC to better assess (1) a child's ability to make an independent decision to withdraw his or her application for admission to the United States and (2) credible evidence of the child's risk of being trafficked if returned to his or her country of nationality or last habitual residence.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: In September 2015, CBP officials stated that CBP formed a working group in headquarters with representatives from the department's Office of Policy and Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties to examine the screening process for UAC. In addition, CBP officials noted that CBP is in the process of convening a similar group in the field. According to CBP officials, the working group meets weekly and is coordinating with nongovernmental organizations and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, among others. As of June 30, 2016, CBP reported that CBP's Office of Field Operations (OFO) and U.S. Border Patrol (BP) have finalized and routed the Form CBP-93 to the OFO Executive Assistant Commissioner and United States Border Patrol Chief for final approval. As of June 2017, the revised CBP Form 93 is still under review and CBP officials estimate that the review process will be completed by December 31, 2017. To fully address this recommendation, CBP should revise the Form 93 to include indicators or questions that CBP officers and Border Patrol agents should ask UAC relative to their ability to make an independent decision and regarding the potential risk of the UAC being trafficked if returned to their country of nationality or last habitual residence.
    Recommendation: To better ensure that DHS complies with TVPRA requirements for training, screening, and transferring UAC to HHS, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection to provide guidance to Border Patrol agents and OFO officers that clarifies how they are to implement the TVPRA requirement to transfer to HHS all Mexican UAC who have fear of returning to Mexico owing to a credible fear of persecution.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: In commenting on a draft of our report, DHS indicated that CBP's U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) and Office of Field Operations (OFO) would issue further guidance to agents and officers emphasizing TVPRA transfer procedures for UAC who are nationals or habitual residents of Canada or Mexico and who are victims of a severe form of trafficking in persons. In September 2015, CBP reported that USBP and OFO estimated implementing this additional guidance by the end of calendar year 2015. In January 2016, CBP reported to GAO that, since June 2015, a headquarters level working group had been reviewing CBP's screening process for UAC. According to CBP officials, the activities of this working group will influence the guidance that will be deployed to Border Patrol agents and OFO officers and that USBP and OFO will be working together to develop additional guidance to the field by September 2016. In December 2016, CBP notified GAO that Border Patrol and OFO have partnered with CBP's Office of Training and Development, as well as the Office of Chief Counsel, to develop a distance learning course, tentatively entitled "Processing, Holding, and Transfer of Unaccompanied Alien Children by CBP." According to CBP, this course will be an annual requirement for all CBP agents and officers. As of September 2017, CBP estimates that they will finalize the training module by June 2018. To fully address this recommendation, CBP should ensure that this distance learning training module on how to implement the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (TVPRA) criteria is developed and implemented, as required by CBP policy, to all Border Patrol agents and OFO officers.
    Recommendation: To better ensure that DHS complies with TVPRA requirements for training, screening, and transferring UAC to HHS, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection to develop and implement guidance on how Border Patrol agents and OFO officers are to implement the TVPRA requirement to transfer to HHS all Canadian and Mexican UAC who are victims of a severe form of trafficking in persons.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: In commenting on a draft of our report, DHS indicated that CBP's U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) and Office of Field Operations (OFO) would issue further guidance to agents and officers emphasizing TVPRA transfer procedures for UAC who are nationals or habitual residents of Canada or Mexico and who are victims of a severe form of trafficking in persons. In September 2015, CBP reported that USBP and OFO estimated implementing this additional guidance by the end of calendar year 2015. In January 2016, CBP reported to GAO that, since June 2015, a headquarters level working group has been reviewing CBP's screening process for UAC. According to CBP officials, the activities of this working group will influence the guidance that will be deployed to Border Patrol agents and OFO officers and that USBP and OFO will be working together to develop additional guidance to the field by September 2016. In December 2016, CBP notified GAO that Border Patrol and OFO have partnered with CBP's Office of Training and Development as well as the Office of Chief Counsel to develop a distance learning course, tentatively entitled "Processing, Holding, and Transfer of Unaccompanied Alien Children by CBP." According to CBP, this course will be an annual requirement for all CBP agents and officers. As of September 2017, CBP estimates that they will finalize the training module by June 2018. To fully address this recommendation, CBP should ensure that this distance learning training module on how to implement the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (TVPRA) criteria is developed and implemented, as required by CBP policy, to all Border Patrol agents and OFO officers.
    Recommendation: To better ensure that DHS complies with TVPRA requirements for training, screening, and transferring UAC to HHS, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection to ensure that Border Patrol agents document the basis for their decisions when assessing screening criteria related to (1) an unaccompanied alien child's ability to make an independent decision to withdraw his or her application for admission to the United States, and (2) whether UAC are victims of a severe form of trafficking in persons.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of December 2015, CBP officials reported that an internal working group charged with assessing UAC screening procedures was considering issues related to independent decision-making and appropriate documentation as it develops a revised screening tool. As of June 30, 2016, CBP reported that CBP's Office of Field Operations (OFO) and U.S. Border Patrol (BP) had finalized and routed a revised CBP Form 93 to the OFO Executive Assistant Commissioner and United States Border Patrol Chief for final approval. As of August 31, 2016, the revised CBP Form 93 was still under review and CBP officials estimated that the review process would be completed by December 31, 2016. In January 2017, CBP notified GAO that the expected completion date for the revised form is April 2017, and that direction to Border Patrol agents on the new form would be delivered by June 2017. In June 2017, CBP told GAO that Border Patrol and other CBP partners were continuing to determine which changes are necessary to the CBP Form 93 and estimated that these efforts would not be completed until December 31, 2017. As of September 2017, CBP reported that these efforts would not be completed until June 2018. To fully address this recommendation, CBP should ensure that Border Patrol agents document the basis for their decisions when assessing screening criteria related to (1) an unaccompanied alien child's ability to make an independent decision to withdraw his or her application for admission to the United States, and (2) whether UAC are victims of a severe form of trafficking in persons.
    Recommendation: To better ensure that DHS complies with TVPRA requirements for training, screening, and transferring UAC to HHS, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection to determine which agents and officers who have substantive contact with UAC, complete the annual UAC training, and ensure that they do so, as required.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: On July 1, 2015, the Assistant Commissioner for Field Operations (OFO) disseminated a memorandum to all OFO Field Office Directors regarding the mandatory annual UAC training requirement. The Assistant Commissioner directed all Field Offices to ensure that officers completed the required training by December 31, 2015 (the memo also specified which officers are required to complete the training). On July 31, 2015, the Chief of the U.S. Border Patrol disseminated a memorandum to all Chief Patrol Agents and Directorate Chiefs for dissemination to all uniformed personnel, including supervisors, regarding the mandatory annual UAC training requirement. CBP documentation indicates that CBP implemented a new learning management system mandated by DHS on July 13, 2015, through which online training courses are offered to all CBP employees. Further, in 2016 DHS added a feature to this system that provided the capability to produce reports on courses completed by CBP employees. In April 2017, CBP provided 2016 data on the OFO officers and Border Patrol agents that had completed the required UAC training course. According to the data, 23 percent of OFO officers and 7 percent of Border Patrol agents required to complete the training had not done so. CBP officials stated that they plan to take steps to increase the percent of agents and officers who complete the required training in 2017 and will provide new data to GAO by the end of February 2018. To fully address this recommendation, Border Patrol and OFO should ensure that all required personnel have completed the annual training, as required.
    Recommendation: To increase the efficiency and improve the accuracy of the interagency UAC referral and placement process, the Secretaries of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services should jointly develop and implement a documented interagency process with clearly defined roles and responsibilities, as well as procedures to disseminate placement decisions, for all agencies involved in the referral and placement of UAC in HHS shelters.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: In September 2015, DHS stated that the department was collaborating with HHS on finalizing a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) regarding UAC procedures. According to DHS, the MOA is meant to provide a framework for interagency coordination on the responsibilities of the parties in coordinating and establishing procedures, shared goals, and interagency cooperation with respect to UAC. In February 2016, DHS and HHS finalized the MOA. The MOA states that DHS and HHS agree to establish a Joint Concept of Operations (JCO) that should be completed no later than one year following the signing of the MOA. According to the MOA, the JCO should include, among other things, standard protocols for consistent interagency cooperation on the care, processing, and transport of UAC during both steady state operations, as well as in the event the number of UAC exceeds the standard capabilities of the departments to process, transport, and/or shelter with existing resources. As of February 2017, HHS told GAO that HHS and DHS are still in the process of drafting the JCO. To fully address the recommendation, DHS and HHS will need to ensure that the JCO, once finalized and implemented, includes a documented interagency process with clearly defined roles and responsibilities, as well as procedures to disseminate placement decisions, for all agencies involved in the referral and placement of UAC in HHS shelters.
    Recommendation: To increase the efficiency and improve the accuracy of the interagency UAC referral and placement process, the Secretaries of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services should jointly develop and implement a documented interagency process with clearly defined roles and responsibilities, as well as procedures to disseminate placement decisions, for all agencies involved in the referral and placement of UAC in HHS shelters.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: In September 2015, DHS stated that the department was collaborating with HHS on finalizing a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) regarding UAC procedures. According to DHS, the MOA is meant to provide a framework for interagency coordination on the responsibilities of the parties in coordinating and establishing procedures, shared goals, and interagency cooperation with respect to UAC. In February 2016, DHS and HHS finalized the MOA. The MOA states that DHS and HHS agree to establish a Joint Concept of Operations (JCO) that should be completed no later than one year following the signing of the MOA. According to the MOA, the JCO should include, among other things, standard protocols for consistent interagency cooperation on the care, processing, and transport of UAC during both steady state operations, as well as in the event the number of UAC exceeds the standard capabilities of the departments to process, transport, and/or shelter with existing resources. As of August 2017, HHS told GAO that HHS and DHS are still in the process of drafting the JCO. To fully address the recommendation, DHS and HHS will need to ensure that the JCO, once finalized and implemented, includes a documented interagency process with clearly defined roles and responsibilities, as well as procedures to disseminate placement decisions, for all agencies involved in the referral and placement of UAC in HHS shelters.