SPEAKERS CONTENTS INSERTS
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JUSTICE DEPARTMENT INSPECTOR GENERAL'S INVESTIGATION OF CITIZENSHIP USA
IMMIGRATION AND CLAIMS
COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED SIXTH CONGRESS
SEPTEMBER 7, 2000
Serial No. 125
Printed for the use of the Committee on the Judiciary
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For sale by the U.S. Government Printing Office
Superintendent of Documents, Congressional Sales Office, Washington, DC 20402
COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY
HENRY J. HYDE, Illinois, Chairman
F. JAMES SENSENBRENNER, Jr., Wisconsin
BILL McCOLLUM, Florida
GEORGE W. GEKAS, Pennsylvania
HOWARD COBLE, North Carolina
LAMAR S. SMITH, Texas
ELTON GALLEGLY, California
CHARLES T. CANADY, Florida
BOB GOODLATTE, Virginia
STEVE CHABOT, Ohio
BOB BARR, Georgia
WILLIAM L. JENKINS, Tennessee
ASA HUTCHINSON, Arkansas
EDWARD A. PEASE, Indiana
CHRIS CANNON, Utah
JAMES E. ROGAN, California
LINDSEY O. GRAHAM, South Carolina
MARY BONO, California
SPENCER BACHUS, Alabama
JOE SCARBOROUGH, Florida
Page 3 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCDAVID VITTER, Louisiana
JOHN CONYERS, Jr., Michigan
BARNEY FRANK, Massachusetts
HOWARD L. BERMAN, California
RICK BOUCHER, Virginia
JERROLD NADLER, New York
ROBERT C. SCOTT, Virginia
MELVIN L. WATT, North Carolina
ZOE LOFGREN, California
SHEILA JACKSON LEE, Texas
MAXINE WATERS, California
MARTIN T. MEEHAN, Massachusetts
WILLIAM D. DELAHUNT, Massachusetts
ROBERT WEXLER, Florida
STEVEN R. ROTHMAN, New Jersey
TAMMY BALDWIN, Wisconsin
ANTHONY D. WEINER, New York
THOMAS E. MOONEY, SR., General Counsel-Chief of Staff
JULIAN EPSTEIN, Minority Chief Counsel and Staff Director
Subcommittee on Immigration and Claims
LAMAR S. SMITH, Texas, Chairman
BILL McCOLLUM, Florida
Page 4 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCELTON GALLEGLY, California
EDWARD A. PEASE, Indiana
CHRIS CANNON, Utah
CHARLES T. CANADY, Florida
BOB GOODLATTE, Virginia
JOE SCARBOROUGH, Florida
SHEILA JACKSON LEE, Texas
HOWARD L. BERMAN, California
ZOE LOFGREN, California
BARNEY FRANK, Massachusetts
MARTIN T. MEEHAN, Massachusetts
GEORGE FISHMAN, Chief Counsel
JIM WILON, Counsel
LORA RIES, Counsel
CINDY BLACKSTON, Professional Staff
LEON BUCK, Minority Counsel
C O N T E N T S
September 7, 2000
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Smith, Hon. Lamar S., a Representative in Congress From the State of Texas, and chairman, Subcommittee on Immigration and Claims
Ashbaugh, Robert L., Deputy Inspector General, Department of Justice-
LETTERS, STATEMENTS, ETC., SUBMITTED FOR THE HEARING
Ashbaugh, Robert L., Deputy Inspector General, Department of Justice-
Jackson Lee, Hon. Sheila, a Representative in Congress From the State of Texas: Prepared statement
Smith, Hon. Lamar S., a Representative in Congress From the State of Texas, and chairman, Subcommittee on Immigration and Claims: Prepared statement
JUSTICE DEPARTMENT INSPECTOR
GENERAL'S INVESTIGATION OF
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 7, 2000
House of Representatives,
Page 6 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCSubcommittee on Immigration and Claims,
Committee on the Judiciary,
The subcommittee met, pursuant to call, at 10:05 a.m., in Room 2226, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Lamar S. Smith [chairman of the subcommittee] presiding.
Present: Representatives Lamar S. Smith, Edward A. Pease, Bob Goodlatte, Sheila Jackson Lee, Howard L. Berman, Zoe Lofgren, John Conyers, Jr. and Martin T. Meehan.
Staff present: George Fishman, chief counsel; Jim Wilon, counsel; Kelly Dixon, clerk; Leon Buck, minority counsel; and Nolan Rappaport, minority counsel.
OPENING STATEMENT OF CHAIRMAN SMITH
Mr. SMITH. I welcome all members back from our August break and appreciate the interest in the subject at hand. I am going to recognize members for opening statements, and then we look forward to hearing from our only witness today, whom I will introduce momentarily.
The Inspector General's investigation of Citizenship USA was the most expensive in its history. The OIG released its report at the beginning of the August recess and requested a public hearing, which we are having at the earliest opportunity.
Page 7 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Streamlining the naturalization process and reducing waiting times are legitimate goals that I have strongly supported through congressional oversight and allocation of funds, but there is no excuse any time or anywhere for officials to use the people's government for partisan advantage. Millions of Americans pay for government services expecting that they will be provided impartially, for the good of all, and without putting them at risk.
To become a citizen, an alien must be a legal permanent resident for 5 years, pass an English and civics test, and demonstrate good moral character. Citizenship may be denied to aliens who have committed crimes, fraud, domestic violence, or failed to meet other legal obligations. The INS checks criminal backgrounds by submitting applicants' fingerprints to the FBI, which sends back criminal histories or rap sheets to the INS.
INS Commissioner Doris Meissner, in part because of a backlog of applications, initiated the Citizenship USA program, which ran from September 1995 to September 1996. Previously the INS granted citizenship to 300,000 to 400,000 aliens per year, but under CUSA that increased to 1.1 million cases, three times the previous pace. About two-thirds of the CUSA cases were granted during the second half of the program, from March to September 1996.
Beginning in May 1996, the media reported that the speed of CUSA was seriously degrading the integrity of the naturalization process. To achieve production goals, the INS management sacrificed the quality of adjudications. The recordkeeping system collapsed under the strain. Applicants who were ineligible because of criminal records, or because they fraudulently obtained green cards, were granted citizenship because the INS was moving too fast to check their records.
Page 8 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC INS employees alleged that CUSA was accelerated for political reasons. The White House and Vice President Gore's office were accused of pressuring the INS to naturalize aliens by September 1996 in hopes of getting their votes in the November 1996 elections.
In public statements, the INS tried to minimize CUSA's shortcomings, but after the election the Justice Department stepped in to conduct its own review. DOJ hired the accounting firm of KPMG Peat Marwick to conduct audits. The Justice Department Inspector General's Office also began an investigation of CUSA in April 1997.
KPMG did statistical analysis of the naturalization of ineligible criminals and released a report in December 1997. They determined that INS naturalized more than 180,000 aliens without doing fingerprint checks. In addition, more than 80,000 aliens had fingerprint checks that generated criminal records, but they were naturalized anyway.
Of the individuals with confirmed criminal records, DOJ selected 6,300 of the most serious cases for denaturalization. The INS tried to use an administrative procedure for denaturalization but was blocked by Federal court decisions. To date, INS has succeeded in denaturalizing only six criminal aliens.
KPMG also did a sample file review and reported in February 1998 that more than 90 percent of all CUSA cases were adjudicated improperly, including more than 70 percent with defective or nonexistent fingerprint checks. The study concluded that a bare minimum of 11,500 individuals, and perhaps many more, were naturalized despite their disqualifying criminal records.
In March 1999, the INS discovered an additional 70,000 CUSA cases that were adjudicated near the end of the program, when the rate of errors was highest. Had those cases been included in the KPMG audits, the numbers of naturalized criminals would have been higher.
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The OIG's investigation of CUSA was obviously necessary. Section 7 of the OIG report documents high-level political influences on CUSA, motivated in part by the desire to naturalize potential voters before the election. Following this intervention the pace of naturalization doubled.
CUSA may have begun for legitimate reasons, but the OIG's conclusion that INS did not develop CUSA to further inappropriate political ends did not apply to high-level officials such as the Vice President and the President's advisors who, the OIG said, had mixed motives. The motives behind intervention by the White House and the Vice President were clearly improper. The OIG's conclusions drew distinctions, which many readers missed, between the motives of INS and those of other officials.
The negative effect of their intervention is difficult to quantify, but whether the effect was great or small, the attempt to speed up naturalization for partisan reasons still was wrong and unethical. Attempted robbery is a crime even if unsuccessful.
The OIG report's findings and conclusions should be used to ensure that the integrity of the INS' naturalization process is never again sacrificed to bureaucratic mismanagement and political expediency.
That concludes my opening statement, and I look to the ranking member of the full Judiciary Committee and ask Mr. Conyers if he has an opening statement.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Smith follows:]
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PREPARED STATEMENT OF HON. LAMAR S. SMITH, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF TEXAS, AND CHAIRMAN, SUBCOMMITTEE ON IMMIGRATION AND CLAIMS
The Inspector General's investigation of Citizenship USA was the most extensive in its history. The OIG released its report at the beginning of the August recess and requested a public hearing, which we are having today at the earliest opportunity.
Streamlining the naturalization process and reducing waiting times are legitimate goals that I have strongly supported through Congressional oversight and allocation of funds. But there is no excuse any time or anywhere for officials to use the people's government for partisan advantage. Millions of Americans pay for government services, expecting they will be provided impartially, for the good of all, and without putting them at risk.
To become a citizen, an alien must be a legal permanent resident for five years, pass an English and civics test, and demonstrate ''good moral character.'' Citizenship may be denied to aliens who have committed crimes, fraud, domestic violence, or failed to meet other legal obligations. The INS checks criminal backgrounds by submitting applicants' fingerprints to the FBI, which sends back criminal histories or ''rap sheets'' to the INS.
INS Commissioner Doris Meissner, in part because of a backlog of applications, initiated the Citizenship USA program, which ran from September 1995 to September 1996. Previously the INS granted citizenship to 300,000 or 400,000 aliens per year, but under CUSA that increased to 1,100,000 cases, three times the previous pace. About two-thirds of the CUSA cases were granted during the second half of the program, from March to September 1996.
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Beginning in May 1996, the media reported that the speed of CUSA was seriously degrading the integrity of the naturalization process. To achieve ''production goals,'' the INS' management sacrificed the quality of adjudications. The record-keeping system collapsed under the strain. Applicants who were ineligible because of criminal records, or because they fraudulently obtained green cards, were granted citizenship because the INS was moving too fast to check their records.
Some INS employees alleged that CUSA was accelerated for political reasons. The White House and Vice President Gore's office were accused of pressuring the INS to naturalize aliens by September 1996 in hopes of getting their votes in the November 1996 elections.
In public statements, the INS tried to minimize CUSA's shortcomings, but after the election the Justice Department stepped in to conduct its own review. DOJ hired the accounting firm of KPMG Peat Marwick to conduct audits. The Justice Department Inspector General's Office also began an investigation of CUSA in April 1997.
KPMG did statistical analysis of the naturalization of ineligible criminals and released a report in December 1997. They determined that INS naturalized more than 180,000 aliens without doing fingerprint checks. In addition, more than 80,000 aliens had fingerprint checks that generated criminal records, but they were naturalized anyway.
Of the individuals with confirmed criminal records, DOJ selected 6,300 of the most serious cases for denaturalization. The INS tried to use an administrative procedure for denaturalization but was blocked by federal court decisions. To date, INS has succeeded in denaturalizing only 6 criminal aliens.
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KPMG also did a sample file review and reported in February 1998 that more than 90% of all CUSA cases were adjudicated improperly, including more than 70% with defective or nonexistent fingerprint checks. The study concluded that a bare minimum of 11,500 individuals, and perhaps many more, were naturalized despite their disqualifying criminal records.
In March 1999, the INS ''discovered'' an additional 70,000 CUSA cases that were adjudicated near the end of the program, when the rate of errors was highest. Had those cases been included in the KPMG audits, the numbers of naturalized criminals would have been even higher.
The OIG's investigation of CUSA was obviously necessary. Section 7 of the OIG report documents high-level political influences on CUSA, motivated in part by the desire to naturalize potential voters before the election. Following this intervention, the pace of naturalization doubled.
CUSA may have begun for legitimate reasons. But the OIG's conclusion that INS did not develop CUSA to ''further inappropriate political ends'' did not apply to high-level officials such as the Vice President and the President's advisors who, the OIG said, had ''mixed motives.'' The motives behind intervention by the White House and the Vice President were clearly improper. The OIG's conclusions drew distinctions, which many readers missed, between the motives of INS and those of other officials.
The negative effect of their intervention is difficult to quantify. But whether the effect was great or small, the attempt to speed up naturalization for partisan reasons still was wrong and unethical. Attempted robbery is a crime even if unsuccessful.
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The OIG report's findings and conclusions should be used to ensure that the integrity of the INS' naturalization process is never again sacrificed to bureaucratic mismanagement and political expediency.
Mr. CONYERS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Good morning to members of the committee and those in the witness room. I am delighted to be back to review this subject once again, and I have just been reminded that we had a measure that was before this subcommittee to reorganize the Immigration and Naturalization Service that sort of met a watery grave. It didn't go anywhere. I was wondering if that is something we might want to take into consideration since we are looking once again at this subject.
I would also like to identify myself as one who has criticized the Immigration and Naturalization Service on many fronts, and I guess I neglected to add this one, and I will. I will include it. There was a lot of overreaction and incorrect activity that was engaged in, but I think if we look carefully at the Inspector General's report, we might get a view that puts this in a little bit better perspective, and that is what I am hoping will happen here today at this hearing.
The Citizenship USA program, created in 1995, was started with the agreed-upon bipartisan commitment to reduce the naturalization backlogs which were as high as 3 years in some instances, and both Democrats and Republicans joined together on it. I was one of those that had given it great support and endorsement.
The accuracy, however, of the criminal history review process in INS wasn't as good as we would have hoped it would be, and so the result was the Justice Department's inspector general began an investigation to analyze this part of the CUSA initiative.
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So we come to the hearing acknowledging that mistakes were made. One of the ones that were made that may come into discussion was the continuation of the presumptive policy that presumed an applicant had no criminal record if the FBI failed to return a history or rap sheet within 45 to 60 days.
Now, that policy began during the Reagan administration and was continued on, and the independent report referred to by the subcommittee chairman concluded that less than 1 percent of the 1 million individuals naturalized under the Citizenship USA program might have been naturalized incorrectly. That is an independent report.
So we in our oversight capacity want to find mistakes. I personally believe the INS perhaps has committed more serious problems that need revision than the one we are looking at today.
The immigration service has tried to identify and denaturalize persons who should not be citizens, and to its credit it has largely remedied the problems which arose.
Now the Citizenship USA program wasn't created out of a partisan game because it was a bipartisancreated in a bipartisan spirit to begin with, so I think that we ought to inquire into that, if it needs any further inquiry. I emphasize there were both Democrats and Republicans involved.
The Inspector General's report itself concludes that the involvement of the White House and the National Performance Review had little direct negative impact on the naturalization programs. The inspector general also found that the administration's interests in reinventing the INS naturalization process did not result in INS lowering the standards for citizenship. So, that is my contribution to the discussion about the measure before us.
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I would like to end, if I can, Chairman Smith, with a question about calling this hearing at such a late stage in the session. They have been poured over, I think, pretty carefully in the past, and this, as I understand it, is the fourth hearing on Citizenship USA. Far be it for me to give any direction, more than a suggestion, about some of the things that I have pending beforewell, not just me, but members of the subcommittee and members of the full committee, that have pending before your subcommittee the main one; and I had to look past the ranking member to see you to address this, is the attempt to repair the 1996 bill. It is a bipartisan bill that I do not believe had any hearings, a measure which has been endorsed by the Asian American caucuses, the Hispanic caucus, the congressional black caucus and almost every major immigration group and we have not had a hearing.
Now, I conclude this by not suggesting that we not hold this hearing and do hold the hearing that hasn't been held yet, but we could do both. I mean, I am happy to
Mr. SMITH. Would the gentleman yield.
Mr. CONYERS. Of course.
Mr. SMITH. The gentleman's time has expired. I would like to respond directly to some of the points that the ranking member has made.
First, you referenced the late date of this hearing.
Page 16 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The Attorney General's office several times had to delay the actual release of this report, which was delayed until July 31, 2000. That was also the day that Congress left to go on its August recess. So as I mentioned in my opening statement, this is the first realistic possible day that we could have a hearing on such an important subject.
The Inspector General requested the hearing, and I would have had the hearing in any case because of the importance of this subject. As I mentioned in my opening statement, this is the most extensive investigation ever conducted by the Office of Inspector General, and I think it is particularly helpful to all Members of Congress. And so that, I hope, will respond to a couple of the points that you made.
I would like to recognize the gentleman from Indiana and on the way to recognizing him appreciate again his continuing presence at these hearings. He is the only individual on this subcommittee who, I believe, holds a hundred percent attendance record. The gentleman from Indiana is recognized.
Mr. PEASE. I thank you, Mr. Chairman. I do understand the sensitive nature of the material that is before us today. I do not have an opening statement, wanting to leave as much time as possible so we can hear from Mr. Ashbaugh and apologize for the committee in advance for the fact you having said such nice things that I will have to be leaving shortly. But I do appreciate the written testimony that we have received and the report that will come later.
Mr. SMITH. Thank you, Mr. Pease. I should alert all members of the subcommittee that we are expecting a vote at 11:00. I hope that we can finish with opening statements and Mr. Ashbaugh's statement before then.
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The ranking member of the subcommittee, Ms. Jackson Lee, is recognized for her opening statement at this time.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate the members of the Democrat committee, who are both dedicated and diligent in making sure that all important meetings and hearings they are very much accounted for, and I thank them for their commitment and service and I thank the ranking member of the full Judiciary Committee for sharing his time with this subcommittee. He has done it on many, many occasions, and I do appreciate it.
Mr. Chairman, let me thank you as well. We are 20 days, some have said 17 days, maybe we will have the pleasure of having a lot of fun in October, but it looks like we are toward the end of our tenure in doing and being able to put forward legislative initiatives. We have had the opportunity on several occasions in this committee to work together. And frankly I want to thank you for that. We may have some additional hearings, and I would hope that as we do so you would take my comments in the constructive way that they are offered.
I believe that this is an important oversight hearing and I will comment very briefly, Mr. Chairman, and I would ask that the entirety of my opening statement be submitted into the record.
Mr. SMITH. Without objection, so ordered.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Let me raise with you concerns and they somewhat track that of my ranking member. Certainly the fix 1996 is a crucial issue, and we have yet to hold a hearing. Also I note that this deals with the INS, and its potential failures. And we all hope that we will eventually have a government that really works, that is truly reinvented in a bipartisan way, and that we serve the people of the United States of America in whatever status they may be.
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We have a restructuring bill that we are still looking to finalize. I know that it has made its way and is winding its way. That would go a long way, I believe, in promoting the position of the Democratic caucus and how it should be restructured. But oversight hearings, the purpose is to give us constructive information to fix problems; and we have not moved on the restructuring of the INS, which I think is important.
Secondarily, if we are talking about how we may have let in individuals who did not meet all of the citizenship criteria in the review process, I am concerned as well that we have not had hearings on fixing the INS created problem of late amnesty and correcting the NACARA problem and that is with Nicaraguans and Haitians. It is interesting that as the Elian Gonzalez case unfolded, how many Americans wanted to know how do we treat nonstatus children. And we have no policy, and certainly a hearing dealing with addressing the question of how we treat children who come in who are unaccompanied would be a worthy hearing to have.
The late amnesty problem is reaching a crisis perspective, and several of us have legislative initiatives and have yet to have an opportunity to be heard.
Lastly, as I conclude my statement to say one or two points about this hearing. We had a number of Liberians who had an extension. These are individuals who fled because of the turmoil in Liberia. They are coming upon a fast deadline where they will have to be immediately deported. Families will have to be destroyed or separated and we have no present relief. I would like to ask for a hearing regarding the status of Liberians, taxpayers that they are, individuals who came in, as I said, under the fleeing of oppression so they could have the opportunity to make their case.
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And I do thank Mr. Ashbaugh for your presence today. And if this hearing is to fix a problem, then I am all for it, Mr. Chairman. I think we should acknowledge on the record that the INS inspector general's report of the Department of Justice reaffirms that this effort was to, in fact, and did, in fact, comply with attempting to reduce the backlog and was not in any way attempting to boost a victory, Democratic victory in 1996. I think we should clear the record on that. I think we should understand that the Vice President's reinventing government effort was a positive effort; and it was directed toward fixing a problem as opposed to creating a problem. I do think that it is important to note that as the INS pushed this effort out into its field offices, it did not have enough staff persons, as noted nor were they trained effectively. So in many instances there is limited documentation or inappropriate documentation on the individuals that were ultimately granted citizen.
I think that this hearing should be hopefully, Mr. Chairman, a fix it hearing; but as I noted for the recordand I would be happy to yield to you to see if we have interest in some of these very important oversight questions and Liberian question, the late amnesty question, the NACARA question, even the question of how we deal with undocumented children, would be something that we could continue discussion on and really address some of the failings of not only the INS as an agency but of immigration policies in this country.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Jackson Lee follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF HON. SHEILA JACKSON LEE, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF TEXAS
Page 20 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I will begin by thanking Robert L. Ashbaugh, the Acting Inspector General, for completing this remarkable investigation, which was begun three years ago by then-Inspector General Michael Bromwich. It is the largest investigation of its kind every undertaken by the Office of the Inspector General. You have done a fine job.
For some time now, concern has been expressed over the possibility that Citizenship USA was designed to maximize the number of persons who would be eligible to vote in the November 1996 election. You have put this concern to rest, for good, I hope. The evidence you uncovered during your investigation contradicts the contention that Citizenship USA was created for such narrow partisan gain. To the contrary, the facts show that the purpose of Citizenship USA was to reduce the backlog in naturalization applications.
The criticism of Citizenship USA should be directed instead at the way the INS implemented it. The IG report criticized the INS for having failed to follow normal naturalization procedures and having let numerous people with criminal histories become citizens. I am concerned about the pressure that the INS put on its employees to improve and speed up the naturalization process in one year's time. I also would like to applaud the Vice-President's initiative on Reinventing Government. I do think that we are seeing its effects throughout the government, as many agencies have been able to streamline their operations. I think that it was a good idea for the Vice-President's National Performance Review program to have been involved in trying to assist the INS in fixing its backlog problems. However, I am troubled by the findings of the Inspector General that INS officials ''failed to address known system weaknesses before implementing a program that they knew would tax that system as it had never been before.'' The report goes on to conclude that rather than fixing the system that had created the backlog in the first place, they simply crammed as many people through it as they could. To accomplish this, the agency hired rapidly and gave new hires responsible for adjudicating naturalization requests scant training and little supervision. The report also goes on to say that the agency failed to prevent fraud by outside entities responsible for language testing, and it failed to improve its inadequate system for checking an applicant's criminal history. I will be interested to hear from Mr. Ausbaugh about what his thoughts are about how he thinks the INS have improved their operations.
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It seems clear from reading the Executive Summary of his report that some of his recommendations have been acted upon by the INS. I do wonder Mr. Chairman why we are having this hearing. If we are having this hearing to take another opportunity to criticize the INS for their mismanagement and their backlogs. I say that we have been there and have done that. We have talked about this since my tenure began as Ranking Member of this subcommittee, and even before that. We have had oversight hearing after oversight hearing about these various problems, and we have marked-up several restructuring bills in our subcommittee. We have already been here.
If this is a time to beat up on the Administration two months before the Presidential election, then I really think we need to stay away from that and let the voters decide in November, but let's not waist any more of the taxpayer's money and time bringing up allegations that simply can not be proven.
This subcommittee would be much better served if we were to address the late amnesty issue for thousands of people, bring relief to people who have been in this country under NACARA, and finally, trying to prevent 20,000 Liberians from being deported at the end of the
We all agree that INS is an agency in need of reorganization. We have less than a month left in this Congress. Instead of having yet another hearing on INS operational difficulties, we should be working on the immigration issues that have not been resolved yet.
Page 22 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. SMITH. I thank the ranking member for her comments, and yes, she knows that these are all issues that we can continue to discuss.
The gentleman from California, Mr. Berman, is recognized for an opening statement.
Mr. BERMAN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. While I do not have a hundred percent attendance record at this hearing
Ms. JACKSON LEE. You are here when it is important.
Mr. BERMAN. Not all of the time.
Mr. SMITH. The gentleman's presence is always appreciated.
Mr. BERMAN. I would like to provide some context. I am not at all embarrassed about the fact that I am one of the people that was pressuring INS to expedite the processing of naturalization applications during the fall of 1995, the winter of 1996, the spring, the summer, the fall of 1996.
The context of this was an unbelievable torrent of pleas, phone calls, and visits to my office from people who had been waiting and waiting and waiting interminably for a citizen swearing-in date. The context of this is that in the mid-1980's in a piece of legislation that I believe the chairman did not think well of, we created a legalization program. 1.8 million people were legalized over and above the regular immigration processes. 1.1 million people in a special agricultural worker program were legalized. Those people applied, were processed, were adjusted to permanent resident status and then spent 5 years in this country, in almost all cases, as law-abiding residents, working people, and many children. As early as 1992, 1993, we started seeing a growing backlog of naturalization cases that reached the point by 1996 of being 3 years between the time you were eligible to be a U.S. citizen and the time that you could actually become a U.S. citizen, an outrageous and unconscionable length of time not only for the right to vote but for a whole variety of other things. If you think, as I do, that it is not healthy for this country to have huge numbers of permanent resident aliens and citizenship is something that we want to promote for all kinds of tangible and intangible reasons, then this is a very, very negative situation.
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Now, add to that in 1994 in California the voters passed an initiative which, among other things, essentially says that even if you are the child of legal residents, if your status hadn't been adjusted, you are going to be kicked out of the public schools. On top of that, in 1996 the leadership of this Congress pushed through, both in the immigration legislation and in the welfare legislation, provisions which took legal residents and made them ineligible for food stamps even if they were already here, not future immigrants, existing immigrants. This group of people who now have to wait 3 years to be naturalized, are ineligible for SSI, senior citizens, poor people, health care, almost every single means tested program, all AFDC programs, all of these were rendered ineligible for legal immigrants of this country. So we have a waiting period of 3 years, and you have huge new Draconian provisions all of which the leadership of this Congress was shamed into fixing in subsequent years. And in that context we are hearing from organizations and people who are desperate to get naturalized and to become American citizens under the rights that they are entitled to. A 3-year backlog in that situation was intolerable.
Now, the chairman made reference to mixed motives. I am not in the business of trying to analyze motives because if I were, I would say we are sitting here today very legitimately, because an inspector general has finished a report. We are pretty close to the first chance we have after that report is finished to let him come and testify. That is a very positive motive. But there is another motive too. We can once again drag our reference to politicize and discredit this process, to bash the administration, to give vent to some anti-immigrant feelings that might exist.
Mr. SMITH. The gentleman's time has expired. Without objection we will grant him an additional 2 minutes.
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Mr. BERMAN. Thank you.
I can think of all kinds of improper motives that might be causing this hearing. But by and large the inspector general has finished a report. It is appropriate to have a hearing on that report. A naturalization backlog of 3 years has developed which keeps people who are eligible to become U.S. citizens from becoming U.S. citizens and threatens to cut them from programs for which all U.S. citizens are eligible, and it is improper for the political process, at the behest of its constituency, to be pressuring the bureaucracy to speed this process up. Were mistakes made, undoubtedly. Could it have been done better, yes. But the intolerable situation was that we allowed this situation to develop and actions to correct that situation are to be praised, not to be condemned.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. SMITH. Thank you, Mr. Berman.
The gentlewoman from California, Ms. Lofgren, is recognized for an opening statement.
Ms. LOFGREN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I want to make similar comments to my colleague from California, perhaps because the situation in California was so extreme and I will reportcontinues to be extreme. As a matter of fact, I recently went to a senior citizen center in downtown San Jose and met with hundreds of little old people who are still waiting for their naturalization, and they filed hoping they could be voters in the last Presidential election. Some of these people have had their fingerprints taken 6, 7 times. One little old lady had her fingerprints taken 10 times.
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The INS is the most incompetent agency in the Federal Government, and these people are still waiting. These are not criminals. These are little old people who want to be full participants in the American system. They pay their taxes; they want to vote also. And they are still waiting. So I look forward to this report; but I also urged, and I still urge, the immigration service to get off the dime and process these applications in a timely manner.
I have never suggested nor am I aware of anyone else who has ever suggested that the proper procedures be violated. But if the proper procedures could be done in our lifetime, in half a decade, that would be a wonderful event to celebrate.
I do have qualms, I will say, about the timing of this hearing. Further, I think we need to explore this. I have concerns about the origin, not the witness here, but the origin of how all of this came to public light. And I will explain what I mean. All of us on the Judiciary Committee participated in the impeachment proceedings against the President. Volumes of material, boxes and boxes of stuff was lodged over in the Ford building and all of us were admonishedeven though we didn't think it was appropriate, we think that there were things that were hidden from public view. All of us were admonished that there was a whole raft of stuff that was to be kept in executive session.
We were prohibited from discussing any of it, and we still are. All of our staff is prohibited from discussing it and now we have the chief investigator hired by the majority which appears to bring forward or at least raises a question in my mind whether he has plumbed that information for commercial value in violation of the obligations that he and every other staff member and every member of the committee still suffers under.
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So I do believe that is something that we need to take a look at. The other committee that we serve on, Mr. Chairman, I do not mean the science committee, may need to take a look at because this is very troubling. There are many things I would like to say about the discussions that we had, but I am prohibited from doing that to this very day. I think that is a very serious problem and needs to beI am not one who wants to investigate everything, I would rather get to the people's business. But it is very troubling when someone who has taken their oath as a lawyer to represent their clients and live within all of the rules at least raises these questions. I think it is very serious.
I do not want to reach a conclusion that happened. That would not be fair. I actually went out and got the book. They do not sell it in San Jose, but they do here. And it is very troubling to see that there is maybe a violation of the rules here. I think we need to refer this on the efficacy
Mr. SMITH. Would the gentlewoman yield? If you have a chance to read it, there is a short chapter on Citizenship USA in that book that is very interesting, too. Is the gentlewoman finished with her opening statement?
Ms. LOFGREN. I do believe that the people who are waiting who filed in 1995 to become citizens in San Jose, some of them have died, and they deserve better than we have got.
Mr. SMITH. Thank you, Ms. Lofgren. I do not think that there is a single member of the subcommittee that doesn't agree that the waiting time is too long. I have said publicly that 6 months should be the outside limit.
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Does the gentleman from Massachusetts, Mr. Meehan, have an opening statement?
Mr. MEEHAN. Yes, Mr. Chairman.
We all know the saying ''beating a dead horse.'' Today, we beat an already beaten dead horse. I appreciate the fact that Mr. Ashbaugh is here to testify. I appreciate the hard work that the Justice Department's Office of Inspector General has done on this, but I think we all know what is going on here. We are into another election cycle and we are going to look atand take another run at an issue that frankly we have been looking at for some time.
We have had a number of congressional hearings on Citizenship USA. I was aware of the chapter in the book, but I have not had a chance to look at it. Specifically there have been a number of hearings on the integrity of the naturalization process and at least one hearing dedicated exclusively to looking at the naturalization backlog. Now we are here today; and we are going to take another run at it in a very charged, political election season.
I do hope against hope that the IG's report puts to rest a matter that really should have been put to rest some time ago. In a nutshell, the creation and implementation of Citizenship USA was motivated by good intentions, namely to reduce the naturalization backlog. Members of both parties agreed that this was a worthy objective. Unfortunately, there were flaws in the naturalization process that predated Citizenship USA and evenit has been mentioned earlier by Mr. Conyers, predated this administration. Those flaws became extremely evident and produced very unfortunate consequences when INS, again with good intentions, attempted to accelerate the naturalization process.
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INS is correcting the problem and, I do not want to sit here and defend an agency which I think has a long way to go in terms of customer service and backlog processing, but I think it is fair to say that no one can deny that the INS has significantly improved or enhanced the integrity of the naturalization process over the last few years.
I do not expect Mr. Ashbaugh to read the IG report to but I do want to just read two quotes. ''Citizenship USA was neither created nor executed for reasons relating to increasing the number of persons who would be eligible to vote in the November 1996 election.''
Finally, ''We did not find that Citizenship USA, was developed, implemented or otherwise directed to further inappropriate political ends.'' So in spite of the fact that we are going to have a hearing here today and look at some old issues, I think today's hearings stands in marked contrast to inaction on a number of bills that are important to immigrants and frankly important to a lot of Americans.
No action on NACARA parity. No action on section 245(i) or updating the registry date, and even H1B seems to me to be a distant memory. There are a lot of things that we could be doing. I appreciate the report, and we have had an opportunity to look at the press reports or parts of the report. I just think that as this session ends there are a lot of things that we could be doing to move legislation that is absolutely critical to immigrants and to all Americans. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. SMITH. Thank you, Mr. Meehan.
Page 29 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We will now go to our witness today, Mr. Ashbaugh, Deputy Inspector General, Department of Justice. We welcome him; and, Mr. Ashbaugh, we didn't tell you this ahead of time, but you are not going to be constrained by our 5-minute rule. I realize that such an extensive report will take more time. We look forward to your testimony. Please proceed.
STATEMENT OF ROBERT L. ASHBAUGH, DEPUTY INSPECTOR GENERAL, DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
Mr. ASHBAUGH. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Congresswoman Jackson Lee, Congressman Conyers, members of the subcommittee, I am pleased to appear before you today to discuss my office's review of the Immigration and Naturalization Service Citizenship USA, the CUSA program. I do not have a prepared written statement of the traditional kind. Instead what I provided for the members of the subcommittee was the complete excerpt of our executive summary and of the conclusions and recommendations that were made in the report because I think that is a better vehicle for what that very large report contains and discusses.
I do have a few brief oral remarks. As you know, our investigation was a massive undertaking that involved more than 18 hundred interviews and a review of 80,000 pages of documents. Of the many, many reviews that the OIG has undertaken of INS, this was the most ambitious and the most complex.
In our review we did an extensive analysis of the naturalization process, of the criminal history checks, of the adjudication interviews, of the testing for language and civics competency, and the use of A files; and we examined a host of subordinate facilities and operations and programs that were part of the constituent whole that was CUSA.
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A lot of attention has been devoted to the problems associated with the fingerprints, the deficiency in the fingerprint and the criminal history check and the flaws in the 60-day presumption. You all know that subject very well.
What this report contains that I think you will find to be new information has to do with the discussion of the A files, the adjudication process, the training and preparation that goes into it, the kinds of duties that are supposed to be associated with that evaluation as aliens present themselves to become citizens. The problems and the confusion associated with language and civics testing in INS, these are still problems; and this information has not been ventilated as well as the fingerprint deficiencies.
In addition to that, in order for us to find out whether or not Citizenship USA resulted in a devaluation in the way that INS adjudicated these applications, we had to go back into history in order to find out what the historical practice was to use as a benchmark against the practice that we found in CUSA. So I think a second lesson that we have learned and that the report contains that may be newer news than perhaps we think is that the deficiencies that were uncovered or laid bare and attributed to CUSA in fact had origins that went far deeper into the past. The problems associated with the naturalization process aren't simply CUSA problems. They are systemic and they are historic and that is another, if you will, headline I think that describes the report.
All of the different segments, the coordinate programs, the facilities, the different aspects of naturalization that we looked at, illustrate INS' difficulties in communicating with the field, its problems when attempting to devise and install prudent business practices and its acceptance of deficiencies, of known deficiencies as a fact of life and a way of business.
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I am hopeful that anyone who reads our 700-page report will appreciate the depth of the analysis that it contains and the time it took to complete. In this regard, I would like to express my appreciation to you, Mr. Chairman, for your continuing interest and support and your great patience as we have labored to bring this to conclusion.
Briefly what we found and as I have mentioned already, we said INS' naturalization process was seriously flawed in every significant aspect well before CUSA began. Neglect, understaffing, ill-considered presumptions, inattention, all contributed to a devaluation of citizenship determinations by INS. Problems of which Commissioner Meissner and her senior managers were aware, by the summary of 1995, as they began CUSA included the inconsistent application of adjudication criteria, like the good moral character standard, and the English language standards, the widespread use of temporary files that necessarily meant that the adjudicators were not reviewing an applicant's immigrant history before making a determination about naturalization, and the inadequate criminal history checking procedures that had been thoroughly documented in earlier reports by both my office and GAO.
INS leadership took no serious steps before implementing CUSA to protect the naturalization process from further degradation. Instead they added highly unrealistic production quotas which overtaxed the system and led to further diminution of naturalization quality.
In addition, our investigation examined the effects of White House involvement with CUSA. We found that CUSA was neither created nor executed for reasons relating to increasing the number of persons who would be eligible to vote in November 1996. We did find that the brief involvement by the National Performance Review in February and March 1996 might have encouraged INS officials to press toward the goals that they had set, but they had already set these goals for the program.
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We concluded that blame for CUSA's flawed practices as a whole and especially its rushed production schedule cannot fairly be laid at the feet of NPR or at the White House officials. That said, neither can we describe NPR's involvement in the CUSA program as constructive. This conclusion is based on our extensive efforts which traced the genesis both of CUSA and of its flaws back to sources or origins that are clearly independent of the White House or NPR involvement. The refusal by certain officials to be personally interviewed prevented us from exploring in greater detail their motives. They might have able to shed more light on whether and to what extent electoral concerns motivated the involvement of NPR into CUSA. However, and I think this is an important point to emphasize, no additional interview or testimony in our judgment was necessary to shed light on the impact that involvement actually had on INS or CUSA programs. We believe that we had a firm factual basis for our assessment of how INS officials acted and why CUSA went awry.
Finally, in our report, we detail the aspects of the naturalization process that continue unrepaired to this day. The most significant is the lack of adjudicative standards. INS has promised since 1997 to develop a manual to address these deficiencies, but that work has still not yet been done.
Mr. Chairman, that concludes my oral remarks. I would be pleased to answer any questions.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Ashbaugh follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF ROBERT L. ASHBAUGH, DEPUTY INSPECTOR GENERAL, DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
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This investigation by the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General (OIG) examined the Immigration and Naturalization Service's (INS) ''Citizenship USA'' initiative of fiscal year 1996.
Beginning in 1993, the demand for naturalization began to increase at a staggering rate and application backlogs developed at INS offices throughout the country. By June 1995, INS was receiving applications for naturalization at a rate twice as high as it had the previous year. INS projected that without a serious effort to reduce this application backlog, by the summer of 1996 an eligible applicant would have to wait three years from the date of application to be naturalized as a U.S. citizen.
On August 31, 1995, INS Commissioner Doris M. Meissner announced ''Citizenship USA'' (CUSA), an initiative to reduce the backlog of pending naturalization applications to the point where an eligible applicant would be naturalized within six months of application. The goal of the initiative was to reach this level of processing ''currency'' within one year. The effort focused on the workload in the five districts in the countrydubbed ''Key Cities'' for CUSAwhich then had the largest application backlogs: Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Miami, and Chicago. To reach the CUSA goal, INS dramatically increased its naturalization workforce in the Key Cities, opened new offices dedicated to naturalization adjudication, and engaged new processing strategies in an effort to ''streamline'' the naturalization process.
Page 34 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In the spring of 1996, however, just as CUSA moved into its most aggressive phase, media reports began to question the integrity of INS naturalization processing. Initially, INS' off-site testing program came under fire.
Beginning in 1991, a naturalization applicant was able to satisfy the English proficiency and knowledge of U.S. history and government requirements of naturalization by passing a test administered by certain private entities. This off-site testing program was expanded during CUSA. In April 1996, INS learned that ABC Television, following up on local media reports, was researching fraudulent testing practices by one of INS' largest off-site testing contractors. In June 1996, ABC aired a program that exposed many of the vulnerabilities of INS' outside testing program.
In May 1996, The Washington Times published an article about INS employees who criticized the acceleration of naturalization processing. The report quoted INS employees who questioned the motives of CUSA. The National Performance Review (NPR) of the Office of the Vice President had targeted CUSA for ''reinvention'' and NPR officials had traveled to the Key Cities to facilitate INS efforts at hiring new staff. This link between the naturalization initiative and the Vice President's Office during an election year fueled speculation and media stories that the rush to naturalize approximately one million applicants during fiscal year 1996 was an attempt to swell voting rolls with new citizens who were anticipated to vote for Democratic candidates, including President Clinton and Vice President Gore. In the wake of such reports, Members of Congress sought information from INS concerning various aspects of CUSA.
As Congress began to inquire, the media reports continued. Of particular concern were reports that some INS offices were naturalizing applicants so quickly that applicant criminal history reportsgenerated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) after INS submitted applicant fingerprint cards for analysiswere arriving in INS offices only after the applicant had been sworn in as a United States citizen. These and other allegations of flaws in naturalization processing suggested that INS had sacrificed naturalization processing integrity in the name of processing applicants more quickly. In September 1996, the Subcommittee on National Security, International Affairs, and Criminal Justice of the House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight (the Subcommittee) held its first hearings concerning CUSA to explore the nature and extent of these processing flaws and the motives behind INS' accelerated naturalization initiative.
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The portrait of naturalization processing that emerged from the September hearings did not allay congressional concerns. Although Executive Associate Commissioner T. Alexander Aleinikoff described the efforts INS had made to improve the off-site testing program, his testimony confirmed that off-site testing had lacked standards and not been monitored by INS. In addition, INS employees from Los Angeles, Chicago, and Dallas testified to the extraordinary rush imposed on naturalization adjudications during CUSA. That rush, according to these witnesses, meant that INS had naturalized people without ensuring that they were eligible. Some of the shortcuts to which these witnesses testified were that INS had not properly trained the new adjudicators hired for CUSA, had not conducted thorough applicant criminal history checks, had not provided applicants' permanent files to adjudicators for review before making decisions on naturalization applications, or, when those files had been available, had discouraged the thorough review of the file to determine whether the applicant had lawfully obtained the prerequisite permanent residency status.
The Subcommittee and other congressional subcommittees continued to investigate these allegations about CUSA and to seek information from INS, from the White House, and from the Office of the Vice President. Although Commissioner Meissner asserted that political motives had not influenced CUSA, documents provided to Congress suggested otherwise. In particular, e-mail messages to the Vice President and others from Douglas Farbrother, an NPR employee who was assigned to work on naturalization ''reinvention'' efforts in March 1996, connected CUSA's goals with the goal of naturalizing one million new citizens in time for the November 1996 election.
In the meantime, in response to congressional requests the Justice Management Division (JMD) of the Department of Justice engaged an outside accounting firm, KPMG Peat Marwick, to oversee a systematic review of CUSA naturalizations that INS would conduct using INS employees. The KPMG-supervised review first concentrated on determining whether each person naturalized during CUSA had a fingerprint check conducted by the FBI. Subsequent reviews would determine how many persons had naturalized during CUSA despite a disqualifying criminal history. The KPMG-supervised review continued over the course of the next two years, but even its preliminary results were troubling. In March 1997, JMD reported to Congress that of the 1,049,867 persons INS had then identified as having naturalized between August 31, 1995, and September 30, 1996,(see footnote 1) the fingerprint cards of 124,111 had been returned by the FBI as ''unclassifiable,'' meaning that the fingerprints submitted had not been suitable for comparison. For an additional 61,366 persons, the FBI had no record of having conducted any fingerprint check. This data, therefore, indicated that for 18 percent of those persons naturalized during CUSA, INS had not conducted a complete criminal history background check.
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This information was troubling to Congress not only because of what it reflected about criminal history checking procedures and thus the integrity of CUSA adjudications, but also because it suggested that INS had done little to improve its fingerprint processing procedures since 1994, when both the OIG and the General Accounting Office (GAO) had issued reports critical of those procedures and had recommended specific improvements that INS had agreed to undertake.
In late April 1997, then-Inspector General Michael Bromwich announced the investigation that is the subject of this report. It was to become the largest investigation of its kind ever undertaken by the OIG.
The OIG assembled the CUSA investigative team in July 1997. It included 19 agents, 3 analysts, 4 attorneys, and clerical staff working in each of the Key Cities and in Washington, D.C. The team analyzed documents and data from various sources including INS, congressional subcommittees, and the KPMG-supervised review. Those materials included policy memoranda, tapes of INS e-mail messages, applicant files, and the database created for the KPMG-supervised review team that identified the more than one million citizens naturalized during CUSA. Among the applicant files the team reviewed were those that the KPMG-supervised review team had identified as files of applicants who were naturalized despite a disqualifying criminal history. Ultimately, the team analyzed over 80,000 pages of documents.
In addition to this collection and analysis of documents, we conducted 1,829 interviews. We interviewed INS clerical employees, adjudicators, supervisors, training staff, computer analysts, and contractor employees. We interviewed the District Directors and other managers in the Key Cities. We interviewed personnel at the Vermont, Nebraska, Texas, and California Service Centers. We interviewed INS Headquarters staff in the Offices of Programs, Field Operations, Management, General Counsel, and Congressional Relations. We interviewed the managers at INS Headquarters who had responsibility for CUSA, including project manager David Rosenberg, Associate Commissioner Louis (Don) Crocetti, Executive Associate Commissioner William Slattery, Executive Associate Commissioner T. Alexander Aleinikoff, Deputy Commissioner Chris Sale, and Commissioner Doris Meissner.
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Our interviews were not limited to INS employees.(see footnote 2) We interviewed managers and staff at the Federal Bureau of Investigation concerning criminal history checking procedures. We interviewed Department of Justice managers, including Assistant Attorney General for Administration Stephen Colgate, former Associate Attorney General (now Solicitor General) Seth Waxman, former Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick, and Attorney General Janet Reno.
To examine any collateral influences on CUSA, we interviewed NPR staff members Douglas Farbrother, Robert Stone, Laurie Lyons, and the NPR Chief and Senior Advisor to the Vice President, Elaine Kamarck.
We sought interviews with other officials at the White House and Office of the Vice President. Among those who agreed to be interviewed were former Chief of Staff Leon Panetta and former Deputy Assistant to the President Kevin O'Keefe. Presidential advisors Harold Ickes and Rahm Emanuel, among others, declined our requests for interviews. Vice President Gore declined our request for an interview, but submitted written answers to our questions.
In the end, the OIG found that the CUSA initiative was developed as Commissioner Meissner and others asserted to Congress, that is, as a backlog reduction initiative designed to decrease naturalization processing times. We did not find that CUSA was developed, implemented, or otherwise directed to further inappropriate political ends. We did find, however, that the integrity of naturalization adjudications, already vulnerable before CUSA, suffered badly as a result of INS' efforts to process naturalization applications more quickly. We summarize our findings below.
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II. SUMMARY OF OIG FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS
Our investigation was extremely broad and addressed the many defects in CUSA that had been identified in the congressional hearings. We examined how CUSA was designed and implemented, and to what extent collateral influences played a role in the formulation and execution of the program. To isolate the impact of CUSA on naturalization processing integrity, we also considered the state of naturalization processing in the years preceding the program.
Naturalization processing before CUSA already displayed significant weaknesses that compromised the quality of adjudications. The central standard governing the naturalization adjudication inquirywhether the applicant was a person of ''good moral character''was subject to varying interpretations in the Field. Administrative files or ''A-files,'' the mechanism by which INS maintained an applicant's immigrant history, were often unavailable to adjudicators and thus not subject to review. As had been documented in both the OIG and GAO reports of 1994, INS' criminal history checking procedures were poorly administered. All of these factors were known to Commissioner Meissner and her staff, and yet INS decided to launch CUSA and thus accelerate a processing system that already was in need of considerable repair.
When Commissioner Meissner and her staff decided in the summer of 1995 to launch CUSA, they clearly sought to reduce the massive naturalization backlogs and reach ''currency'' in processing.(see footnote 3) They were not acting out of partisan political motives. They represented to the public and to Congress that INS would reduce the naturalization backlog within one year, an ambitious goal under the best of circumstances. However, they failed to address known system weaknesses before implementing a program that they knew would tax that system as it never had been taxed before. Given the known weaknesses in the system and the lack of commitment to repair the deficiencies, the promise of backlog reduction within one year also meant a certain recklessness about the quality of the resulting adjudications.
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When it became clear, by early 1996, that CUSA was behind scheduleadjudicators had not been timely hired and offices were not yet open and productiveinstead of adjusting the goal of the program INS adjusted its approach to getting the work done: additional pressure was added to swiftly increase production. On March 1, 1996, Headquarters issued a memorandum to the Field that specifically instructed that all applications for naturalization received by the end of that month had to be completedeither denied or approved and the applicant sworn inby September 30, 1996.
The delays in the implementation of CUSA caused concern outside INS. Representatives of CBOs were concerned that naturalization applicants would not receive the service they had been promised, and some complained to INS and to political officials.
Commissioner Meissner attended a meeting at the White House on February 9, 1996, with Harold Ickes, Elaine Kamarck, and others on the subject of the progress of the CUSA program. At that meeting, Kamarck offered the assistance of the NPR to INS in reaching its backlog reduction objective. Later that month and in early March 1996, NPR staff members Robert Stone, Douglas Farbrother, and Laurie Lyons met with INS officials and traveled to the Key Cities. NPR offered its assistance in streamlining hiring procedures, finding other federal government sources for available personnel to work on the project, and securing suitable office space. NPR's work did not have a discernible effect on those procedures at that time, however, because most of the facilities procurement and hiring efforts were already underway.
The evidence shows that the greatest influence NPR had on CUSA was an indirect one. NPR staff member Douglas Farbrother, concerned after his Key City tours that CUSA was not moving quickly enough, met with Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick and senior INS officials on March 24, 1996, to discuss CUSA. Farbrother's participation at the meeting was cut short by the Deputy Attorney General, who reacted with anger at Farbrother's approach to Department of Justice affairs and asked Farbrother to leave the meeting. However, Farbrother's concerns about CUSA's progress did cause the Deputy Attorney General to inquire of INS officials about their efforts to meet their CUSA objectives.
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As a result of the meeting with the Deputy Attorney General (DAG), INS redoubled its efforts and forcefully reiterated to the Field its commitment to achieve naturalization ''currency'' by the end of the fiscal year, then only six months away. INS Headquarters announced an ''Expanded Naturalization Initiative'' that authorized increased hiring and other resource expenditures provided that the District Directors of the Key Cities committed themselves to meeting the September 30 goal. INS Headquarters encouraged efforts to ''streamline'' the naturalization process, including methods of reducing the length of interviews. The length of time during which offices had been, at least by policy, expected to wait before adjudicating an application without the applicant's permanent file was reduced from six months to 30 days. Although we found no explicit instruction from INS Headquarters to ignore standards that had previously existed, neither did we find any instructions concerning how to ensure quality during this period of heightened production. Once INS had rededicated itself to the goal of CUSA, the principle of increased production was pursued at the expense of accuracy in the determination of applicant eligibility, and a process previously regarded as lacking safeguards became even more vulnerable.
The evidence shows no other direct or indirect impact of the involvement of NPR on the CUSA initiative. By May 1996, NPR officials were no longer involved in the program. That said, the evidence does suggest that the motives for the involvement of NPR were mixed. Elaine Kamarck, Robert Stone, Laurie Lyons, and the Vice President asserted that good governmentin this case naturalization backlog reductionwas the reason for NPR's involvement in CUSA. Farbrother, as was illustrated by his e-mail messages provided to Congress, believed that the CUSA program had a deadline that was directly connected to the upcoming election. He told the OIG that eligible applicants had to be naturalized in time to register to vote in November 1996, when he presumed that such voters would support the Clinton/Gore ticket. He also told the OIG that he had learned from Elaine Kamarck that this was one motive for NPR's involvement. Kamarck, Stone, and Lyons do not corroborate Farbrother in this regard, but it is clear that the end result of CUSA's successthe naturalization of one million people by September 30, 1996was appreciated by community-based organization (CBO) representatives and by some administration officials who agreed to be interviewed as a goal that could have electoral benefits.
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Thus, there were some who hoped for a political benefit from INS' naturalization effort. We did not find evidence that officials of INS or the Department adopted this as a goal of CUSA or as a reason to press the goals of the initiative, and did find instances in which such a characterization by CBO representatives was expressly rejected. Nonetheless, many INS employees questioned the legitimacy of CUSA because they suspected it grew out of partisan purposes.
In sum, NPR's influence was one stimulus among several that recommitted INS to its production deadlines, and efforts to meet those deadlines undermined the quality of naturalization adjudications during fiscal year 1996. As to the many other allegations concerning INS' failure to safeguard naturalization integrity, our investigation confirmed the most serious: INS advanced its production goal despite the known risks that accelerated production would pose to its proper evaluation of applications for citizenship. Our specific findings regarding these processing errors, and our recommendations to improve the naturalization process, are described below.
III. FINDINGS CONCERNING NATURALIZATION PROCESSING DEFICIENCIES DURING CUSA
Our report first provides an overview of the CUSA program and addresses the specific allegations concerning its design and implementation. We then address the naturalization processing weaknesses according to three specific subject matter areas: interviews and adjudications (including issues regarding adjudicator training), file practice and policies, and criminal history checking procedures.
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1. CUSA was developed to reduce the backlog in naturalization applications and was not designed to maximize the number of persons who would be eligible to vote in the November 1996 election.
Soon after she became Commissioner of INS in October 1993, Commissioner Meissner began to plan a major naturalization initiative for fiscal year 1995, a primary component of which would be to encourage eligible permanent residents to apply for citizenship. The promotion of naturalization for eligible applicants was something the Commissioner had often publicly supported.
During 1993 and 1994, however, INS had not kept pace with the increasing demand for naturalization. The pending caseload had quadrupled in three years, from 135,652 in 1992 to 481,580 in mid-1995. By March 1995, having learned from District Directors that they were overwhelmed by naturalization backlogs, Commissioner Meissner understood that encouraging applicants to apply for naturalization was incompatible with the increasing workload in the Field. Accordingly, her promotion of naturalization was transformed into a concentration on backlog reduction. That same month, Commissioner Meissner declared that of INS' work on applications for various benefits, addressing the naturalization backlog would be of the highest priority.
On August 31, 1995, Commissioner Meissner announced the CUSA initiative and its goal of reducing naturalization application processing time to six months by the following summer. Reaching that goal would mean that INS would have to process more than one million cases in fiscal year 1996. She also announced that the initiative would focus on five large districts that were then facing the largest backlogsLos Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Miami, and Chicago.
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While it has been alleged that INS chose the five Key City Districts because of the anticipated voting behavior of the potential citizens in these geographical areas, we found no evidence to support this claim. INS officials asserted that it was the size of the backlog in the largest Key City Districts, and not any characteristics of the applicants, that influenced their choices. Witness interviews and the statistical evidence support their assertions.
Members of Congress also alleged that INS had actively solicited more than half of the total applicants naturalized during CUSA as a means to swell the voting rolls in anticipation of the 1996 election. The evidence shows that Headquarters in fact scaled back its emphasis on naturalization promotion during CUSA in comparison to what it had encouraged during the previous year, although this change in priorities away from naturalization promotion had not been clearly communicated to the Field. Accordingly, we found evidence that some promotional efforts lingered and those efforts could be characterized as ''soliciting'' applicants for naturalization during CUSA. However, we found no evidence to support the allegation that INS continued to solicit naturalization applications because of a desire to increase the number of potential voters in the 1996 election.
2. Having set the CUSA goal, INS made the timely completion of naturalization casesor productionthe guiding principle and pursued this principle at the expense of accuracy in the determination of eligibility for citizenship.
In publicizing CUSA, INS described the naturalization initiative as being about ''the three P's: people, process, and partnerships. The ''people'' referred to the number of new temporary employees INS intended to hire; the ''process'' was included in the CUSA slogan as a reminder that INS intended to make the process more efficient; and ''partnerships'' referred to the new ways in which INS would involve CBOs in the process. This three-part strategy was what INS used to reach the CUSA goal.
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In the implementation of each component of the CUSA strategy, however, INS single-mindedly concentrated on how each could serve to increase the rate at which INS processed naturalization applications. We found that INS paid little attention to the impact this increased rate of processing would have on the quality of adjudications. One example from each category will help illustrate this point.
First, the ''people'' of the CUSA plan'the hundreds of new adjudicators with no previous INS experience hired to interview applicants and determine their eligibility for citizenshipwere superficially trained and unprepared for anything but the most routine adjudication of an ''approvable'' application, yet their assignments were not limited to such cases. In many instances, INS assigned the new adjudicators to work in environments without adequate supervision by experienced personnel. We found the most egregious instance of this inappropriate deployment of new hires in the Garden City, New York, CUSA office, where approximately 100 new, temporary adjudicators were assigned to work under the guidance of only six experienced employees.
As to ''process'' improvements implemented during CUSA, INS officials similarly focused on the importance of swiftly ''moving'' cases and not on the consequences of such acceleration. INS employed new methods before they had been validated and before involved personnel were appropriately trained. INS' implementation in February 1996 of a ''Direct Mail'' system for naturalization applications was one such example.
Direct Mail was a method by which applicants sent applications to the service centers rather than the district offices for initial processing. It had already been used for other INS benefit applications, and had been under consideration for naturalization applications for several years. The theory of Direct Mail was that it made processing more efficient by assigning the initial tasks to regional service centers that were accustomed to handling a large volume of paperwork, thus relieving district offices of clerical burdens.
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INS failed to adequately train its service center and contractor staff for the transition to Direct Mail. One consequence of this lack of training was illustrated by the Vermont Service Center's failure to properly process applicant fingerprint cards during the summer of 1996. This shortcoming further compromised New York District's ability to have a completed criminal history check for applicants who applied through Direct Mail, as described in our chapter on criminal history checking procedures.
The transition to Direct Mail during CUSA was also flawed because INS changed the fundamental design of Direct Mail at the eleventh hour. The historical concept of Direct Mail gave the service centers responsibility only for the initial receipt and processing of applications and did not include responsibility for ordering and maintaining A-files. At the urging of the site coordinator for the Los Angeles District, two months before Direct Mail began the design was changed to shift responsibility from the districts to the service centers for the finding, storing, and maintaining applicant files until the time that the naturalization interview was scheduled at district offices. The change was theoretically beneficial for Los Angelesbecause the California Service Center was close to the District Office and already housed many of the necessary filesbut not for other Key Districts. The design change meant a dramatic movement of files from districts to the service centers and back again, although the consequences of this file movement were not considered by those who advocated the transition to Direct Mail. As a result, files were often unavailable when adjudicators needed them for the naturalization interview.
Direct Mail's success also depended to a large extent on the reliability of INS' computer systemssystems on which the service centers and the districts had to rely, for example, for accurate data about naturalization cases, for file transfers, and for the scheduling of interviews and ceremonies. INS had recognized before CUSA that NACS, the automated system used for naturalization processing, was overloaded with data and was unreliable, and yet CUSA was not delayed until NACS could be overhauled. During Direct Mail, INS made repeated adjustments to NACS' faulty scheduling system because without the scheduling of interviews CUSA would grind to a halt. However, INS did not improve NACS' file-ordering functions or other failures that were less related to production (without the permanent file, adjudicators could proceed with a temporary file, as described below). NACS was further impaired by the huge demands CUSA processing placed on it, and essentially collapsed under the strain.
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Finally, concerning the ''partnerships'' prong of the CUSA strategy, INS Headquarters encouraged the Field to work closely with CBOs by conducting interviews at sites in the community where CBO representatives would pre-screen applications and make applicants feel more at ease with the process. Although INS Headquarters recognized the need to establish criteria for CBOs working with INS and the need to issue guidance to the Field in managing its relationship with the CBOs, INS Headquarters failed to do so. As a result, districts developed their own community outreach procedures on an ad hoc basis, and some were more vigilant than others about processing integrity concerns.
We did not find, however, as was alleged during the summer of 1996, that INS formed partnerships with particular CBOs to increase the number of persons who applied for citizenship or to integrate partisan voter registration efforts. To the contrary, we found INS' approach to partnerships was disorganized and unplanned, thus permitting occasional abuses of the system, particularly in the Chicago and Los Angeles Districts.
3. INS Headquarters' adherence to the CUSA goal produced a production pressure in the Field that had an adverse impact on the quality of naturalization adjudications.
By the time of the March 1996 ''Expanded Naturalization Initiative,'' INS was behind schedule. Headquarters stepped up its emphasis on the importance of meeting production goals. The goal of backlog reduction was translated into numerical goals, goals often perceived as quotas in the Field. To achieve the numerical goals, the Field had to increase and maintain a high rate of interviewing in the summer of 1996 and had to increase either the size or the frequency of naturalization ceremonies. Steps taken to enhance production included extending the number of work hours in a day and the number of workdays in the week. Adjudicators throughout the Key Cities perceived that they were working under considerable pressure to quickly complete, and not necessarily thoroughly review, applications for naturalization.
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We did not find that the pressure to work harder, to work longer hours, or to work more days, was by itself the cause of employee complaints about the production pace or its deleterious effects. We found that what was debilitating to adjudicatorsand thus to the quality of their workwas this emphasis on working long hours combined with having to work without adequate adjudicative standards and guidance, without the requisite tools necessary to perform a thorough adjudication, and with supervisors who often emphasized the importance of increasing the number of cases completed. In such an environment, many adjudicators were led to believe that it was quantity, not quality, that mattered.
B. Findings concerning naturalization interviews and adjudications
Many of the allegations made by Members of Congress directly implicated the integrity of the naturalization interview, including concerns that adjudicators were not properly trained to perform their duties, that they lacked sufficient time to conduct the interview properly, that they were pressured or directed to limit their inquiries, and that the standards by which applicants were judged became more lenient during CUSA. We found that these allegations were supported by the evidence. We found that many of these problems pre-existed CUSA, and although there was no evidence that INS deliberately repealed pre-existing safeguards or purposefully sought to lower the bar for citizenship, INS' poor planning of CUSA strategies and the rush to produce further diluted the quality of naturalization administration, and did so in predictable ways.
Page 48 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We note at the outset that it is impossible to precisely quantify the number of CUSA adjudications that were affected by these or other problems detailed in our report. We cannot establish how many applicants who were approved for naturalization would have been found ineligible had appropriate procedures been followed. The KPMG-supervised review identified some of these cases, but even in that review the only cases that could be considered as having been wrongly adjudicated were those for which there was evidence available after the fact that the adjudicator had made the wrong decision (for example, the existence of a disqualifying criminal history or the absence of the requisite number of years as a permanent resident). No amount of after-the-fact study can determine what might have been revealed to a better-trained adjudicator with adequate supervision and the appropriate tools to conduct the review and determination. If such an interview is never conducted, the potentially disqualifying information is never revealed.
We further note that the number of applicants naturalized during CUSA who were in fact ineligible for citizenship was not the most important question informing our inquiry. Indeed, it may have been that the huge applicant pool was full of persons who were qualified for citizenship and did not pose an actual threat despite INS' vulnerable procedures. The more important inquiry was what safeguards existed so that the benefit of U.S. citizenship is conferred equitably, consistently, according to a properly administered set of laws, and with enough integrity to minimize the risk of conferring it on ineligible applicants. As a result of that inquiry we found that necessary protective measures that did exist were improperly administered, while others were never established.
Before we detail our findings concerning naturalization adjudications during CUSA, we provide a brief explanation of the naturalization interview process.
Page 49 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC All applicants for naturalization must be interviewed under oath before they are approved for citizenship. The interviewing officer, a District Adjudications Officer (DAO), makes the determination of eligibility.
The interview typically consisted of two prongs, a testing prong and an evaluation of the applicant's other qualifications for citizenship. Before and during CUSA,(see footnote 4) the applicant could satisfy the reading and writing portion of the English proficiency and Civics knowledge requirements either by passing a test administered at the interview or by presenting a certificate from an authorized outside organization attesting to his or her proficiency. Otherwise, DAOs tested the applicant's ability to speak, read, and write English, and tested his or her knowledge of the history and government of the United States. If the applicant presented a valid certificate from an outside testing entity, then the DAO at interview only verified the applicant's oral language skills. If the applicant was unable to satisfy the English or Civics requirements, the case would be continued and the applicant would be rescheduled for one additional opportunity to demonstrate his or her proficiency or knowledge.
DAOs reviewed the applicant's written responses to questions on the naturalization application (the Form N400) in order to determine whether he or she met the other eligibility criteria for citizenship. The N400 included questions designed to elicit information that would inform the DAO's determination of whether the applicant was a person of ''good moral character'' (such as whether the applicant had ever been arrested for a criminal offense), a central requirement of naturalization eligibility, and whether he or she was ''attached to the principles of the Constitution.'' If the applicant's responses triggered concern that he or she did not satisfy the prerequisites for citizenship, the adjudicator could either deny the application or continue the case for additional review or for the presentation of additional documentation.
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If the application was approved, the applicant was told (or later notified by mail) of the naturalization ceremony date. If the applicant applied in a jurisdiction where the federal court maintained the responsibility for administering the naturalization oath, the ceremony would usually be scheduled approximately two months later. Otherwise, applicants could be sworn in by INS officials. Between the time of the approval and the ceremony, the applicant had to remain eligible for naturalization. Information bearing on eligibility received by INS between the date of the interview and the date of the ceremony could lead to a reconsideration of the case.
2. CUSA training was not implemented in a manner consistent with its design limitations, and CUSA adjudicators were not prepared to properly perform their functions.
Because of the short-term goal for CUSA and the brief period of employment anticipated for temporary adjudicators, INS devised a special training that was much shorter than the customary training for adjudicators that lasted 12 to 16 weeks. Its basic premise was that the training could be reduced to approximately one week of classroom instruction and one week of on-the-job training by extracting from the traditional officer training curriculum those portions relevant to adjudication of the naturalization application.
This abbreviated training was not intended to prepare new adjudicators to assume a full-fledged adjudicative role. Instead, the training was based on two assumptions: (1) that cases would be screened in advance so that the new adjudicators would only be presented with simple, straightforward cases and (2) that adjudicators would function in a ''primary-secondary'' environment that would allow them to immediately pass on to experienced DAOs cases that had not been recognized as complex during the screening.
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Headquarters, however, did not direct the Field to implement a pre-screening or a primary/secondary environment or even advise the Field that the training had been premised on these assumptions. As a result, none of the Key City Districts screened the cases before they were received by the new adjudicators and only one office, the El Monte office in the Los Angeles District, implemented a primary/secondary environment.
In every district, many of the CUSA adjudicators and supervisors interviewed by the OIG criticized the training for temporary adjudicators. They told the OIG that the training did not provide adjudicators with enough information about the law or the overall immigration process to evaluate applicants properly, and did not train them to understand the contents of an A-file or to understand a rap sheet.
The weaknesses of the training were exacerbated in some districts by the failure to provide adequate supervision in the Field. Headquarters left the decision concerning how many supervisors to assign to any given location to the Field, and some districts, notably the San Francisco and the Miami Districts, adopted local procedures in an attempt to support the new hires with access to experienced personnel. In others, like in the New York District as noted above, local officials staffed the largest naturalization site in the countrythe Garden City officewith more than 100 temporary officers and only 6 permanent employees, 5 of whom worked as supervisors.
3. INS failed to provide adjudicative guidance to the Field despite having recognized the need to do so before CUSA. The failure to provide guidance tended to preclude adjudicators from finding additional grounds on which to disqualify applicants and, thus, contributed to making CUSA a naturalization program weighted in favor of approvals.
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a. Failure to provide guidance concerning the evaluation of ''good moral character'' The Immigration and Nationality Act requires that an applicant be of ''good moral character'' in order to be approved for citizenship. Federal regulations provide a list of elements that preclude a finding of ''good moral character,'' many of which pertain to an applicant's criminal record. The questions on the N400 focus on eliciting information about these precluding characteristics. However, the regulations also specifically state that the absence of a precluding factor does not necessarily mean that the applicant is, in fact, of ''good moral character.'' Although the law provided DAOs with guidance concerning the boundaries beyond which an officer could not find that an applicant was of ''good moral character,'' within those boundaries the evaluation of the applicant's character was left to the discretion of the officer.
INS recognized before CUSA that the ''good moral character'' standard was applied inconsistently in the Field and yet did not clarify it before implementing CUSA. In the absence of standards, INS had left the determination of whether, when, and to what extent to explore issues not completely fleshed out in the answers to the N400 to the subjective judgments of individual adjudicators. The broader the exploration, the more likely the adjudicator would discover potentially disqualifying issues if they existed. This determination had always represented a kind of balancing test between the perceived likelihood of obtaining relevant information against the investment of time involved.
During CUSA, time was at a premium. Many supervisors discouraged adjudicators from making any inquiries beyond the questions specified in the N400 when determining whether the applicant was a person of ''good moral character.'' Such inquiries were neither specifically sanctioned nor specifically prohibited in the laws governing naturalization. Moreover, they took time. The problem with narrowing the inquiry to the boundaries of the N400, however, was that it made the interview less likely to uncover potentially disqualifying information if there was any to be found. Thus, this discouragement contributed to the adjudicators' sense that approvals were favored over the thorough exploration of an applicant's eligibility.
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b. Failure to provide guidance concerning the testing of English and Civics Well before CUSA began, INS was aware that its language and government testing components of the naturalization interview were poorly and disparately administered. INS had not developed an objective standard or effective test for determining whether an applicant spoke English at the requisite minimum level. INS recognized the need to improve in these areas and had planned to develop both a standard and a test for spoken English, and a revised regulation to improve the administration of outside testing.
However, these new standards and improvements were not targeted for implementation in time to affect CUSA cases. In the meantime, DAOs continued to apply the same ambiguous standards to the increasing number of cases. By the end of CUSA, on September 10, 1996, EAC Aleinikoff testified before the Subcommittee that ''lack of standardization among INS offices [had], for some time, led to inconsistent standards'' in the testing of English and Civics. INS had taken no meaningful steps to insulate CUSA adjudications from the adverse affects of the weaknesses it had identified before the program began.
Absent an objective standard for determining the minimum level of spoken English required of an applicant, DAOs relied on the general guidance that governed their determination before CUSAwhether the applicant spoke ordinary English, or English at an ''elementary'' or third-grade level. This guideline was not further defined. New adjudicators during CUSA attempted to formulate some understanding of minimum proficiency at a time when they were under pressure to avoid unnecessary continuances and to complete cases. When no real standard existed, however, management pressure to reduce the number of continuances reinforced interpretations in favor of approval. We found that there was a widespread agreement among the adjudicators we interviewed that INS did not properly enforce the English-language requirement of naturalization.
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We also found that the manner in which the Civics test was administered at the naturalization interview during CUSA varied from district to district and even among adjudicators in the same district.
Finally in regard to English and Civics testing, we found that fraud by outside testing entities had not been adequately addressed during CUSA. This failure represented a continuation of a problem that began with the inception of the outside testing program in 1991. Despite periodic reports from the Field that it was encountering evidence of fraud by testing organizations, INS had not instituted a national monitoring system. Additionally, although the Field had advised Headquarters that it needed stronger guidelines and standards in order to conduct local oversight, Headquarters had not responded. Over time, the Field developed the view that Headquarters was not interested in oversight of the testing entities and therefore the Field did not devote its resources to that purpose. Despite the perception of fraud in outside testing, INS plans for 1996 called for the expansion of the program.
INS officials undertook preliminary steps in fiscal year 1996 to address fraud, but their timing was more closely linked to increasing pressures from the media and Congress rather than an urgency to ensure the integrity of the program before its planned expansion. In any event, these efforts were too little and too late to have any beneficial impact on the integrity of the testing program during CUSA. Many adjudicators reported to the OIG that they regularly encountered applicants who presented passing certificates but who could not speak even simple English, from which they inferred fraud in the outside testing program.
c. Failure to provide guidance concerning the adjudication of applications of those suspected of obtaining permanent residency through fraud INS officials we interviewed often characterized their approach to CUSA as ''business as usual'' only on a much larger scale. Thus, any failure to provide its adjudicative corps guidance in the determination of naturalization eligibility did not pose a ''new'' risk, just a more prevalent one because so many more applications would be adjudicated without such guidance. We identified one way, however, in which INS officials knew that naturalization applications received during CUSA might pose a higher risk of ineligibility than those received during previous years: more than one million persons became eligible for naturalization on December 1, 1995, who had obtained their permanent residency through an INS program widely regarded as having been rife with fraud.
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The Legalization program of the late 1980s had included provisions under which ''Special Agricultural Workers'' (SAWs) could obtain residency (first temporary, then permanent) in the United States by demonstrating that they had worked in certain agricultural jobs during specified time periods. The applicants proved their qualifications by providing documentation to INS attesting to their work history. There was wide consensus within INS that the use of fraudulent documents had been prevalent in the SAW program. Although estimates varied (at one Headquarters meeting, there was an estimate that 70 percent of all SAW cases had involved fraud), no one denied its existence. For that reason, before CUSA began the Chair of the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform, Barbara Jordan, had recommended that INS pay special attention to applications for citizenship by SAW applicants. In addition, the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Immigration, Alan Simpson, had received assurance from INS that it would respond appropriately to evidence of previous immigration fraud by all applicants for naturalization.
Despite these warnings and promises, however, evidence of fraud was not adequately explored and, in some instances, was completely disregarded. New adjudicators were not trained to recognize or explore potential issues of fraud by SAW applicants and no guidance was sent to the Field to ensure that experienced examiners were alert to the importance of this issue. Even worse, many adjudicators believed that they were prohibited from reviewing documents in an applicant's file that pertained to the SAW application or believed that if evidence of SAW fraud somehow emerged they could not consider it in the determination of citizenship.(see footnote 5)
4. INS Headquarters encouraged the Field to adopt ''Alternative Examination Methods'' as a means of increasing production but failed to consider their impact on the quality of the naturalization adjudication.
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Throughout CUSA, INS Headquarters encouraged the Field to ''streamline'' the naturalization interview. As a result of the ''Expanded Naturalization Initiative'' of March 1996, the Office of Programs (Examinations) issued its ''Naturalization Process Changes'' memorandum on May 1, 1996, that further encouraged such streamlining. The Naturalization Process Changes memorandum recommended that the Field consider innovative examination strategies, noting that ''interviewing pace'' needed to be ''recalibrated to take advantage of the time-saving strategies.'' The El Monte interview, anticipated to be pared down to five minutes, was lauded as a CUSA model, even though at the time the memorandum was distributed the site had only been open for business for less than one month and the impact of its approach on the quality of naturalization adjudications had not been reviewed. Even without validation, although the testing of Civics and written English proficiency had been eliminated from the El Monte interview,(see footnote 6) the notion that a thorough review of the applicant's immigration history, evaluation of his or her spoken English, consideration of all of the answers provided in the N400, and determination of ''good moral character'' could be reduced to a 5-minute exchange between the applicant and a superficially trained, inexperienced DAO showed INS Headquarters' disregard for the importance of the naturalization interview.
''Off-site'' processing, where DAOs would go to a location in the community to interview applicants whose applications had been ''pre-screened'' by a CBO, was also encouraged as a time-saving strategy. The Naturalization Process Changes memorandum held out the Chicago District's off-site processing as the model to emulate, and yet Central Regional officials had reviewed Chicago's program the previous year and sharply criticized it as reducing the naturalization interview to the point of meaninglessness, and as a program without safeguards to ensure that representatives of the CBOs did not place inappropriate pressure on INS staff. Nonetheless, the Chicago off-site processing program was successful at completing many thousands of cases and at pleasing the participating CBOs, and thus it earned high marks at INS Headquarters as an effective CUSA strategy with none of its impact on the quality of those adjudications.
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C. A-file policy and practice
We found that INS did not properly administer its file practices during CUSA.
The A-file is the repository of all immigration-related documentation regarding the applicant. The permanent file contains the applicant's immigration history, and only by reviewing it could an adjudicator ensure that the applicant had obtained his or her residency status lawfully and as represented on the N400. Although INS' automated systems reflected information such as when, where, and how the applicant had obtained residency status, only the applicant's file could reveal the actual information submitted in order to obtain the previous benefit. Review of such information was crucial if INS was to be vigilant for fraud in obtaining any previous immigration benefit. Nevertheless, even before CUSA began, INS was relying to a significant degree on temporary files, which typically contained only the naturalization application and a printout from the INS Central Index System showing the applicant's immigration status.
Pursuant to a policy established in 1980, adjudicators could use a temporary file if there had been diligent efforts for six months to obtain the permanent file. Unfortunately, no standards defining the meaning of diligence were promulgated and the seriousness of the effort to locate the file varied from district to district. In Los Angeles, the nation's largest district, for example, there was essentially no requirement to search for the A-file before using a temporary file. Moreover, none of the Key Districts before CUSA required that the efforts to locate the file be made before the interview, the time when the file was most relevant.(see footnote 7)
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During CUSA it became even less likely than before that adjudicators would have the permanent file in time for the interview. First, INS failed to adequately and timely shore up its records staff, despite the obvious burdens that would be placed on them by massive data-entry projects and new interview sites. We offer one illustration concerning the work of the Naturalization Data Entry Center (NDEC) as an example of the consequences of inadequate records-related planning during CUSA.
At the very beginning of CUSA, the Los Angeles District mounted a major effort at the building housing the California Service Center to data-enter naturalization applications that had been submitted but never entered into the system. Under INS' automated procedures, immediately after data-entry, the computer requests the applicant's permanent file from the district office records room that has the file. The NDEC project, completed during several weeks in August and September 1995, resulted in a sudden request to the Los Angeles District records room for 170,000 A-files, a number that equaled more than one normal year's worth of file requests. This request was made to a records staff that had not increased in size and that continued to have responsibilities for other INS programs. As a predictable result, the records staff was immediately backlogged and was even less able than it had previously been to produce permanent files for applicant interviews.
The NDEC project also data-entered approximately 50,000 applications from the Miami District that had not been entered into INS' system. Project planners, however, had failed to consider that INS' computer system automatically requests that files be sent to the location of the ''requestor,'' or the person entering the application data. This meant that A-files relating to Miami applications that would ultimately be adjudicated in the Miami District were ''ordered'' by the automated system to be sent to the Los Angeles District. As a consequence of insufficient coordination between the NDEC staff, CUSA planners, and district records rooms, the applications were being shipped back to Miami, while the corresponding permanent files for these cases were moving in the opposite direction to Los Angeles.
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In addition to the problems engendered by this huge, one-time data-entry effort, INS' file practices exhibited broader systemic problems. New sites were located in different buildings separate from each district's main records room and therefore a file had to travel farther, and through more intermediaries, to arrive at the interview site. This contributed to the decreased likelihood of A-file usage during CUSA. For example, an A-file requested from outside the district by the CUSA satellite office in San Jose would first arrive at the San Francisco District Office, then be sent to the records room of the San Jose Sub-office, and finally to the CUSA site itself. The result was predictablea greater dependency on temporary files in San Jose.
The implementation of Direct Mail for the naturalization application also increased reliance on temporary files, as we discussed above. The increased file migration required by new CUSA sites and the transition to Direct Mail had a predictably adverse impact on A-file availability, particularly during a time of dramatically heightened production.
In addition to the adverse but inadvertent impact that resulted from planning weaknesses, we found processing changes that reduced the emphasis on the importance of using the A-file. First, the site that was regarded as the premier example of ''naturalization streamlining,'' the El Monte office in the Los Angeles District, had a design that permitted only a cursory review of whatever file was available as the interview was taking place. Second, on May 1, 1996, the Benefits Division (Office of Examinations) modified the longstanding requirement that a 6-month diligent search for the A-file was a prerequisite for reliance on a temporary file by reducing search time to just 30 days. Ironically, the potentially negative impact of the policy change was mitigated by the fact that in most of the Key City Districts the instruction was either ignored, unknown, or deemed irrelevant because temporary file use was already so common. In the one district, Miami, that did change its practices in response to the new policy despite managers' disagreement with it, the result was that more cases were adjudicated with temporary files.
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The vulnerability of relying on temporary files is often not readily apparent. The information in the file may not be facially disqualifying but may raise issues that lead to evidence that the applicant is not eligible. In some instances, however, the information in the file may be quite explicit. INS' response to the possibility of fraud by SAW applicants illustrates both aspects. Although INS assured Congress that it would investigate whenever evidence of SAW (or other) fraud was discovered during interview and deny citizenship whenever that evidence was substantiated, such investigation was generally dependent upon the presence of an A-file. Without it, suspicions of fraud were unlikely to arise and even less likely to be fully explored.
D. Criminal history checking procedures
When the initial statistics from the KPMG-supervised review of CUSA cases became available in early 1997, Commissioner Meissner acknowledged that INS' primary policy regarding fingerprint checks, the ''presumptive policy,'' had been flawed. The policy, established in 1982, permitted INS offices to presume that an applicant had no criminal record if no rap sheet was returned to INS after a designated amount of time had passed (the ''presumptive period'') since the fingerprint card had been sent to the FBI for analysis. At the same time that INS officials conceded the flaws in the presumptive policy, they continued to maintain that they had made every effort to safeguard the systemindeed, to improve it.
We examined the INS fingerprint checking process in detail. We found that although the presumptive policy was inherently flawed, the myriad problems with INS' criminal history checking procedures could not be attributed only to having adopted an ill-conceived policy many years before CUSA. INS had been repeatedly warned about systemic weaknesses, including but not limited to the presumptive policy, and failed to respond to them before launching CUSA. The volume of cases, the new processing strategies like Direct Mail, and the accelerated rate of production during CUSA all exacerbated these problems. The one innovation INS implemented in the name of improving fingerprint processingthe opening of a centralized Fingerprint Clearance Coordination Center in June 1996was poorly planned, poorly timed, insufficiently staffed, and inadequately explained to the Field. Instead of improving INS' fingerprint processing during CUSA, it served to weaken procedures that were already deficient.
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We also reviewed INS' ''bio-check'' procedures. The bio-check is a comparison of applicant biographic data to data available at the FBI and CIA to determine whether the applicant is the subject of any intelligence, counter-intelligence, organized crime, or terrorism investigations. In addition to investigative data, this check could reveal an applicant's criminal history from a foreign country or outstanding domestic or international arrest warrants. We found that INS bio-check procedures suffered from the same kinds of deficiencies that marred INS' processing of naturalization applicants' fingerprint cards and resulting criminal histories. As sometimes happened in INS' processing of fingerprint cards, staff ignorance of appropriate bio-check procedures also resulted in the destruction of relevant material returned from the FBI.
In searching for explanations for how INS could so poorly administer, and for so long, the few methods in place for checking naturalization applicants' backgrounds, we identified several factors. First, INS regarded the pool of naturalization applicants as a group of persons at very low risk for a disqualifying criminal history. Second, INS approached criminal history checks with an attitude that the cost of obtaining a definitive criminal history check for every applicant outweighed their value, given the presumed low risk of a criminal history. Finally, thorough criminal history checking procedures, like other procedural safeguards such as applicant file review, were overshadowed by the priority of completing more than a million cases in one year, and thus these checks suffered from the mismanagement that affected other areas of naturalization processing.
We also examined INS' response to congressional inquiries about criminal history checking procedures. We found that INS answers to congressional inquiries concerning criminal history checking procedures during CUSA were replete with mistakes that could have been avoided had INS officials paid sufficient attention to the information then available from the Field.
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Our report addresses INS criminal history checking procedures in considerable detail. For a full understanding of the risks taken by INS in regard to applicant criminal histories, we refer the reader to those sections of the report. What we offer here is only a synopsis of the broader findings we made as a result of our investigation.
2. INS' failure to administer fingerprint checking policy and procedures pre-dated CUSA
INS had no definitive policy statement or articulation of the rules regarding fingerprint card processing before or during CUSA. Accordingly, there was no definitive source to turn to for a description of the presumptive period or the proper procedures to be followed if the FBI rejected a fingerprint card.
According to Headquarters officials' testimony before Congress, the presumptive period was 60 days. Although all districts understood that they could adjudicate cases in the absence of a response from the FBI, they did not uniformly know that the waiting period was this long. The policy in Miami, for example, was to wait 45 days. The understanding of the length of the presumptive period varied within New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles Districts, and some supervisors in each district believed that the presumptive period was 45 days. This difference was not insignificant. In 1996, approximately 77,000 cards took less than 60 days but more than 45 days for the FBI to process (excluding backlogs and delays in submission).
In the years before CUSA, INS Headquarters did not recognize or emphasize the importance of resubmitting rejected fingerprint cards. Although INS was aware that many thousands of fingerprint cards were returned to submitting offices because they were not suitable for analysis, neither INS Operations Instructions (OIs) nor other official sources described what the Field should do upon receiving a fingerprint card rejected by the FBI because of ''masthead errors,'' or errors in filling out the required biographical data at the top of the fingerprint card. If such cards were not resubmitted, the applicant's criminal history was never checked by the FBI. In regard to fingerprint cards rejected because the fingerprints themselves were not suitable for comparisondeemed ''unclassifiable'' by the FBIsince 1994 INS Headquarters had instructed the Field that the decision to obtain new fingerprints from the applicant was discretionary.
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Given the lack of guidance, different districts adopted different approaches. We found that two Key City Districts, New York and San Francisco, had made efforts before CUSA to resubmit cards rejected from the FBI, while Los Angeles, Miami, and Chicago had not. Even in those districts that did attempt to resubmit rejected cards, however, we found that INS had no systematic way of delaying the naturalization interview until the second card had been analyzed. These districts did not recalculate the presumptive period to begin from the date of the second submission of fingerprints, and thus applicants could be naturalized before a check had been completed by the FBI.
INS officials asserted to Congress that reliance on the presumptive period before CUSA had not been problematic because the large backlogs expanded the time between the receipt of the application and the date of interview to many months, and, in some places, more than one year. They implied that the presumptive period, whether understood as a period of 45 or 60 days, therefore would be respected in every case. The fallacy in this reasoning, however, was that it incorrectly assumed that the Field sent fingerprint cards for analysis immediately upon receipt of the application. In the Los Angeles and the Chicago Districts, for example, fingerprint cards were not detached from the application and sent to the FBI until these districts took steps to schedule the applicant's interviewusually just two months before the interview date. It also assumed that when rap sheets or rejected cards were returned by the FBI, they were promptly processed, another assumption that was not borne out by practices in the Field.
INS had also failed to emphasize, before CUSA, the importance of having any available criminal history report available for the adjudicator at the naturalization interview, when it could be used as a tool for questioning the applicant. Incoming criminal history reports had to be timely interfiled in applicant files, and those files used at interview, if the reports were to influence the adjudication of the application. As early as 1994, we found that in the Chicago District rap sheets were stored in a box and not interfiled, and if an applicant had a relevant criminal record the adjudicator had to search the box to find it. Also, in the Los Angeles District it was customary to review incoming rap sheets after approval of the application but before ceremony, relying on a last-minute ''pull-off'' system if the record revealed a criminal history that should have disqualified the applicant. As the volume of applications increased and the processing time decreased, this pull-off system gave way under the strain.
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3. INS failed to respond to specific outside recommendations in 1994 to improve its fingerprint checking procedures.
As described in a February 1994 inspection report by the OIG, we found that INS was not resubmitting rejected fingerprint cards and not timely interfiling rap sheets. We reported that FBI checks were a necessary procedural safeguard in the naturalization process and recommended that INS resubmit rejects and ensure that criminal history reports returned by the FBI be available to adjudicators at interview.
Although in 1994 INS concurred with the OIG only in part that fingerprint checks were necessary for naturalization applicants, it agreed that its procedures were in need of repair. Accordingly, INS promised to take a series of ameliorative steps. We found as a result of this investigation that INS took no substantive steps to repair the deficiencies we previously highlighted other than to form a working group'the Fingerprint Enhancement Working Groupwhose recommendations were not implemented before CUSA. As Associate Commissioner Crocetti told the OIG during this investigation, INS' response to the OIG's 1994 inspection report was ''lip service.''
In March 1994, after the OIG issued its report, for a brief period INS suspended all fingerprint checks for naturalization applicants as a cost-cutting measure. The suspension was quickly criticized by Congress and reversed. Congressional concern, however, led to a follow-up review by the GAO of INS' fingerprint checking procedures in relation to naturalization applications. GAO issued its report in December 1994.
Page 65 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The GAO report reiterated the importance of proper fingerprint processing procedures, but it went further than the OIG report by calling for the elimination of the presumptive policy.
INS agreed with the GAO's recommendation to clarify its fingerprint processing procedures. However, INS resisted as too costly the elimination of the presumptive policy. An INS internal recommendation to use the FBI's automated billing datadata that reflected whether an applicant's fingerprint card had been analyzed and, if so, whether a record had been foundwas shelved until it could be fully incorporated in a new automated system for naturalization that was then only in its earliest planning stages.
INS regularly asserted that it was complying with most of the GAO recommendations.(see footnote 8) However, the evidence shows that it made no substantive changes in fingerprint processing procedures before launching CUSA.
4. CUSA processing strategies showed INS' lack of concern for the proper processing of applicant fingerprint checks.
As we noted above, the new case-processing strategies adopted by INS for CUSA emphasized accelerated naturalization production. Two CUSA strategies, the NDEC project and the transition to Direct Mail for naturalization applications, were implemented without thorough evaluation of their impact on the proper processing of applicant fingerprint checks.
INS used the NDEC to data-enter during a 6-week period 220,000 naturalization applications that had been backlogged for more than a year. Of the applications data-entered at NDEC, approximately 168,000 had not had their fingerprint cards previously stripped and sent to the FBI. Once those applications were data-entered, Los Angeles, for the first time, undertook a review of the fingerprint cards to ensure that they were suitable for comparison before sending them on to the FBI. For cards that were deemed unsuitable, Los Angeles employees contacted applicants and requested new fingerprint cards.
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Although this review procedure was unprecedented and laudable given the problems INS had experienced with rejected cards, it failed to take account of when the applicant whose card was deemed unsuitable was scheduled for a naturalization interview. Many applicants received interview dates soon after the NDEC staff had data-entered their applications because Los Angeles INS had also opened a new interviewing office. In light of this accelerated interview scheduling, there was no guarantee that the applicant's fingerprint card had even been sent to the FBI for analysis.
When INS made the transition to Direct Mail, it failed to train its service center or contractor staff about fingerprint card processing, as noted above. The deficiencies in the Direct Mail plan and its execution are too many and too detailed to describe here, and are fully explored in our report. We note, however, that one service center director, upon realizing the degree of error in fingerprint card processing associated with the transition to Direct Mail, sent an e-mail message to Headquarters in July 1996 in which he advised, ''we need to start over and design a process with integrity.''
5. The flawed implementation of the Fingerprint Clearance Coordination Center, intended as a process improvement, further debilitated fingerprint processing procedures at the height of CUSA.
INS centralized its fingerprint card and rap sheet processing in one location beginning in June 1996 by establishing the Fingerprint Clearance Coordination Center (FCCC) in Lincoln, Nebraska. Contractor employees staffed the FCCC. The basic concept was that the FCCC would receive all fingerprint and bio-check responses from the FBI and distribute them to a particular contact in each district office. It would also immediately notify the district offices that a response had been received so that the district could delay interviews or ceremonies until the rap sheets arrived or the rejected cards were reprocessed. By centralizing this activity in one location, INS intended to more promptly alert adjudicators to applicants' criminal histories and to any fingerprint cards rejected by the FBI. In addition, INS hoped to increase accountability by designating specific employees in the Field to handle the fingerprint responses distributed by the FCCC.
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As a result of understaffing, inadequate communication by Headquarters of the procedures and purpose of the FCCC, as well as the attempt to implement this process in the midst of the most hectic time of the busiest naturalization year ever, the FCCC actually increased confusion in the Field about fingerprint procedures.
First, INS Headquarters approved only half the number of personnel requested by the contracting managers and the INS staff officer in charge of implementing the FCCC. Headquarters had based its staffing estimates on an inaccurate assessment of the percentage of rejected cards and rap sheets in 1995 and failed to account for the increase in total cards that the CUSA initiative would create. Despite requests by contractors for at least double the personnel in order to handle the workload, a staffing increase was not approved until after CUSA. As a result, the FCCC was backlogged almost from the outset and notifications to field offices that a rap sheet or rejected card had been received were delayed, not accelerated. Timely processing, according to the contracting manager, was ''near to impossible.''
Even if the FCCC could have kept up with its workload, additional problems undermined its ability to succeed. The FCCC did not have the correct addresses for the ''fingerprint specialists'' in each district designated to handle the FCCC submissions. Those ''fingerprint specialists'' frequently had little or no experience with the fingerprint process and had little understanding of what their role entailed. The advantages of having a central location resubmit rejected fingerprint cards were undercut by the failure to communicate to the Field that cases for which new cards had been requested should be placed on ''hold'' and not adjudicated until 60 days after the new card was resubmitted.
Page 68 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In November 1996, when INS abolished the presumptive policy for fingerprint checks, FBI responses relating to naturalization applications were once again sent directly to the Field.(see footnote 9)
6. Bio-checks were not properly administered during CUSA.
Headquarters officials learned of bio-check processing problems in late 1995, after Records Division staff inadvertently discovered that certain bio-check responses were being destroyed. Shortly thereafter, INS implemented new procedures for processing bio-check responses, and eventually created the FCCC, as described above, to process both bio-check and fingerprint responses from the FBI.
However, INS was slow to restore integrity to its bio-check processing. When it was working to improve bio-check procedures in the spring of 1996, INS delayed the processing of more than 500,000 bio-check requests. Some of the delay was a function of the high volume of requests that were being generated at NDEC early in the CUSA program. Bio-check requests from NDEC applications were generated automatically by the computer system, and the massive input of information from more than 200,000 naturalization applications in a matter of weeks overloaded the data tapes and made them too cumbersome for the FBI to use without breaking down the data. Some of the delay was caused by INS' efforts to identify the reasons districts were submitting duplicate automated requests. Finally, some of the delay was purposeful, as INS requested that the FBI halt processing of bio-checks while it continued to work to solve the duplication problem. The net result was that the processing of bio-check requests generated electronically from October 1995 through April 1996, affecting more than 500,000 applicants, was not resumed until July 1996. As a result, many CUSA applicants did not have bio-checks completed before they naturalized.
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7. INS' unreliable reports to Congress concerning the widespread problems in the processing of applicant criminal history checks during CUSA.
In August 1996, prompted by media reports concerning the arrival in field offices of rap sheets pertaining to applicants who had already naturalized, INS Headquarters asked the Field to report on the extent of the problems they were having with late-arriving rap sheets. By August 19, 1996, Headquarters had already heard from the five Key City Districts that more than 100 cases were under review for possible denaturalization because of an applicant's failure to reveal criminal history of which INS had learned upon later receipt of the applicant's rap sheet or because post-naturalization review of a rap sheet uncovered a potentially disqualifying criminal history report (10 cases in Miami, 40 in New York, 61 in Los Angeles).(see footnote 10) In addition, INS Headquarters learned through the reports from the Field that rap sheets in more than 750 other cases still needed review.
The next month, the Subcommittee held its first hearings concerning CUSA and focused in large part on allegations of improper criminal history checking procedures. Among the INS employees who appeared as witnesses, two in particularone from the Chicago District and the other from the Los Angeles Districttestified about the naturalization of applicants whose disqualifying criminal history reports had not been reviewed. The INS response to these allegations was offered by Associate Commissioner Crocetti.
Despite the information INS Headquarters had gathered in August, Crocetti told the Subcommittee on September 24, 1996, that INS was aware of only 60 confirmed cases that would require denaturalization because of a disqualifying criminal history that had been reviewed after the applicant had naturalized. The testimony was misleading because by then INS Headquarters had learned from the Field that at least 850 cases were then under review. Nor was the apparent understatement explained by Crocetti's qualification that only 60 cases had been ''confirmed,'' because at that time INS had not ''confirmed'' that any case would warrant denaturalization proceedings (Crocetti himself later told Congress that the number he had offered had been an estimate). While Crocetti's testimony, like other testimony by INS officials discussed in our report, was couched in concrete numbers and confident assurances, it was in fact based on little review of the information then available. Subsequent events further undermined the reliability of INS' early reporting about the consequences of CUSA's poor fingerprint processing procedures.
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Immediately after the September hearings, a review team from INS Headquarters went to Chicago to learn more about the allegations that had been made by Chicago employees who testified before the Subcommittee. The team learned of more than 1,300 rap sheets pertaining to CUSA applicants that had not been reviewed before the applicants were naturalized. Of those, local officials had determined that approximately 300 would require further review to determine if denaturalization proceedings were warranted.
Work in other districts also revealed large numbers of unreviewed CUSA rap sheets. More than 1,000 had been identified by the Los Angeles District, 69 of which revealed criminal convictions that should have rendered the applicants ineligible for naturalization.(see footnote 11) This information was sent to INS Headquarters by e-mail on October 16, 1996. In addition, the Miami District identified more than 900 rap sheets that had either been received after naturalization or had been received in time but not reviewed.
In the meantime, INS Headquarters undertook a survey of the Field concerning late-arriving criminal history reports. The survey was limited to records processed by the FCCC (that is, received in the Field after July 1, 1996), and asked the Field to specify whether the late-arriving record reflected a criminal history that should have disqualified the applicant. Through a combination of bad reporting by the Field and bad compilation at INS Headquarters, the results of this survey listed only 415 late-arriving records nationwide, of which only 69 warranted further review for possible denaturalization proceedings.
The limitation of the survey to the period since the FCCC opened did not explain the discrepancy. In fact, in most districts the limitation to records processed by the FCCC had not been noticed. Some officeslike Los Angelesincorrectly reported as ''late-arriving'' only those records that were both ''late-arriving'' and ''disqualifying,'' or 69. Otherslike Miamiaccurately reported the number of late-arriving rap sheets since July 1 (116), but the report was not accurately recorded at Headquarters.
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Despite ample information that INS should not assure Congress about the integrity of its criminal history checking procedures, Commissioner Meissner wrote to then Subcommittee Chairman William Zeliff on October 15, 1996, and advised him that INS field offices had reported ''the receipt of 415 late hits'' out of 30,422 total rap sheets received since the FCCC became operational. She promised that INS would provide the Subcommittee with the results of its review of the 415 cases, but advised that ''most of these cases'' would not require denaturalization.
The Commissioner's letter was accurate in that 415 was the total number of late-arriving rap sheets that Headquarters staff had compiled based on reports from the Field. Her letter to Congress also specifically pointed out that this number was not the total number of unreviewed CUSA rap sheets, but rather was only the number for those ''hits'' that arrived post-naturalization since implementation of the FCCC. However, the Field had made numerous mistakes in compiling the survey responses, many of which should have been obvious to INS Headquarters officials who reviewed the incoming reports. Furthermore, given what Headquarters then knew about failures to review applicant rap sheets over the course of the entire CUSA program, Commissioner Meissner's letter omitted a fact that would have been responsive to congressional inquiries: that thousands of applicant rap sheets had sat unexamined in INS offices throughout the Key City Districts during CUSA, and INS had no method for determining whether they had arrived late or had simply been ignored.
IV. SPECIFIC FINDINGS CONCERNING INS' FAILURE TO COMPLY WITH ITS REPROGRAMMING AGREEMENT WITH CONGRESS
Page 72 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Funds from INS' Examinations Fee Account, the account into which application fees are deposited, were used to help pay for CUSA. To access those funds, INS prepared ''reprogramming'' requests that were reviewed by the Attorney General and the Office of Management and Budget before being forwarded to House and Senate appropriations committees for concurrence. Although reprogramming requests technically require congressional notification and not approval, Commissioner Meissner and her staff regarded approved reprogramming requests as the equivalent of a statutory mandate concerning how such funds were to be spent.
INS submitted two reprogramming requests to Congress that were directly related to CUSA. Congress concurred in the first in June 1995, and the second in January 1996. Both requests sought funds to reduce INS backlogs in pending naturalization applications and in pending applications for adjustment of statusthe method by which an applicant becomes a resident of the United States. The adjustment of status backlog had grown substantially after the passage in 1994 of a new adjustment of status provision, Section 245(i), of the Immigration and Nationality Act.
Section 245(i) expanded eligibility for adjustment of status to include aliens not in legal status at the time of application. The change meant that individuals seeking permanent residency status who previously had to leave the United States to apply for an immigrant visa at the U.S. embassy in their home country now could pay a penalty fee and apply directly to INS without leaving the United States. The law was passed as a temporary measure, and specified that applications submitted pursuant to this provision had to be adjudicated no later than October 1, 1997.
Congress made plain in response to both reprogramming requests that it expected INS to reduce its adjustment of status backlog. In response to the first reprogramming request, the House Appropriations Committee told INS that it had not devoted sufficient attention, in its request, to the processing of adjustment of status cases and directed INS to redirect funds it had planned to use on the promotion of naturalization to adjustment of status processing instead. With respect to the second reprogramming request, in January 1996 the House Appropriations Committee notified INS that it concurred, with the understanding that the funds would be used to eliminate the backlogs in both naturalization and in adjustments of status by the summer of 1996. Currency in adjustment of status processing was defined as four months' processing time from receipt of application to adjustment of status.
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We found that INS Headquarters made few efforts to comply with its obligation to become current in adjustment of status processing during fiscal year 1996. We found that staff in the Key City Districts had little, if any, understanding of the reprogramming commitments INS made to the Congress. They uniformly understood that currency in naturalizations was a higher priority of INS Headquarters than work on adjustments of status. As a result, reprogramming funds made available to the Key City Districts were allocated primarily to naturalization processing, and adjustment of status processing suffered as a result of this disproportionate emphasis on naturalization.
By the end of fiscal year 1996, INS had achieved currency in naturalization applications, but failed to meet its 4-month adjustment processing goal by a huge margin. In fact, during the year the estimated time between filing and actual adjustment of status had increased to well over a year in the Western Region and to almost eight months in the Eastern Region. Overall, processing times for adjustment cases in the five CUSA Key City Districts were 28 percent higher than in INS as a whole. Pending caseloads in every Key City District were significantly larger than they had been at the end of fiscal year 1995. Although INS completed 421,000 adjustment of status cases nationwide in FY 1996almost twice the number it completed the year beforefewer than half of these applications were completed in the Key City Districts.
Headquarters officials told the OIG that it had not been their intention to allow adjustments of status processing to suffer because of the increased emphasis on naturalization. At the same time, they acknowledged that INS had done little to comply with the commitments made to Congress when INS obtained the reprogramming funds. In interviews with the OIG, most INS Headquarters managers said they were aware that INS had made a commitment to Congress to become current in processing both naturalization and adjustment applications, but none claimed that INS had ever planned a way of meeting the adjustment goals. None claimed that this commitment was communicated to or enforced in the Field. Deputy Commissioner Chris Sale told the OIG that, while INS made no deliberate decision to abandon the adjustments goals, the public focus on the CUSA project and the logistical attention necessary to get the five Key City Districts up and running gave the citizenship agenda preeminence. Headquarters relied on the Field to maintain an acceptable ''threshold'' of adjustments processing, but never specified what level would be acceptable or unacceptable. Although Headquarters occasionally reminded the Field not to neglect adjustments, District managers told the OIG that they perceived these messages as rhetorical reminders that carried little weight.
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Unlike the naturalization effort, INS had no priorities, no plan, and no ''project coordinator'' for adjustments of status. INS did not open new adjustment-only offices, nor were adjustment interviews conducted in the new CUSA offices. Headquarters received frequent staffing and workload reports from the Field, and admittedly was aware of how the new employees hired with reprogramming funds were being used. Therefore, we found that INS failed to honor the agreements underpinning congressional approval of its reprogramming requests in 1995 and 1996 as a result of pursuing the production goals of the CUSA program.
V. SPECIFIC FINDINGS CONCERNING ALLEGATIONS OF RETALIATION AGAINST INS EMPLOYEES WHO TESTIFIED AT HEARINGS CONCERNING CUSA OR OTHERWISE PROVIDED CONGRESS WITH INFORMATION CRITICAL OF THE PROGRAM
Among the allegations we investigated were those concerning retaliation by INS management against INS employees who testified before congressional committees or otherwise provided information that was critical of the CUSA program. Six employees claimed that they had suffered adverse personnel actions in retaliation for their cooperation with congressional inquiries: three from the Los Angeles District, two from Chicago, and one from Dallas. The OIG conducted complete investigations in four of the six cases; the other two were primarily investigated by the Office of Special Counsel (OSC), which also has jurisdiction over such complaints. Of the six cases, one employee's allegations were sustained.
Because of Privacy Act concerns, our chapter concerning the investigation of these allegations of retaliation has been redacted. A complete copy of that section of the report is being provided to Congress under separate cover. To summarize our findings here, we note that INS did not generally retaliate against employees who cooperated with congressional inquiries. In the one instance where we found evidence supporting the claim of retaliation, there were other motives apart from the employee's role as a CUSA whistleblower that prompted the actions by INS. Although the existence of other motives does not exonerate INS for prohibited personnel practices, it does tend to indicate that agency officials did not, in general, take retaliatory action against the witnesses who brought to light many of CUSA's weaknesses.
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In the wake of CUSA, INS has made some significant improvements and has asserted that it is less tolerant of error in the naturalization process. INS has made obvious improvements in its procedures for ensuring that applicants' fingerprints are checked by the FBI and that the results of those checks are available to adjudicators. It has also markedly improved its procedures for ordering and transferring applicant files so that they, too, are available at interview. Finally, it has implemented standardized checklists and other processing forms that allow it to monitor whether cases are adjudicated in a manner consistent with these new procedures. INS' ''Naturalization Quality Procedures,'' first published in November 1996 and since revised several times, enhance the integrity of naturalization processing.
However, INS has not made progress toward developing and implementing adjudicative standards, including the standards for English testing and the evaluation of an applicant's ''good moral character.'' There has been little progress toward ensuring that adjudicators, once they have the requisite tools (like the results of criminal history checks or the applicant's file), know how to use them. In short, INS has standardized its processing procedures, but has not improved the substantive aspect of the evaluation of an applicant's eligibility for naturalization. Our recommendations thus focus, overall, on steps to be taken to improve the quality of the naturalization adjudication itself.
Of greatest concern is that INS had not taken steps to identify and promulgate standards that INS itself had recognized as crucial but lacking even before CUSA. The absence of these standards influenced CUSA adjudications and continues to influence INS' current naturalization work. Although Commissioner Meissner announced as early as March 1997 that such standards would be published in an Adjudicator's Manual that would be available throughout the Field, INS has not drafted any portion of that Manual concerning the adjudication of naturalization applications. DAOs have no better guidance today than they did during CUSA concerning the appropriate evaluation of ''good moral character'' in the adjudication of a naturalization application. Furthermore, INS has still not developed a standard for English testing.
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We recommend that INS develop these needed standards immediately. If those standards will be included in the anticipated ''Adjudicator's Manual,'' then we recommend that INS prioritize the completion, publication, and dissemination of the Manual.
Concerning the evaluation of ''good moral character,'' INS must provide guidance concerning:
when it is appropriate to ask an applicant questions other than those listed on the N400;
when it is appropriate to ask an applicant to provide additional documentation (such as copies of income tax returns or proof of having paid child support) to support his or her demonstration of good moral character;
when an applicant who is not statutorily precluded from establishing good moral character may nevertheless be found to lack good moral character and thus not be eligible for citizenship;
how to evaluate the effect of probation or parole on the good moral character determination; and
when the adjudicator has determined that the applicant is not eligible to naturalize, how to create a record to legally support the adjudicator's finding that the applicant lacks good moral character so that the original finding may be upheld in the face of subsequent legal challenge.
Page 77 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In regard to the testing of English and Civics, INS is currently searching for a contractor to develop its testing standards and a contractor to administer its ''reengineered'' testing program.(see footnote 12) INS plans to create its own testing sites from which test results will be electronically transmitted to INS offices. That ''reengineered'' program is dependent on many variables, including the development of appropriate technology and the identification of a qualified contractor. The ambitious plan may be many months, if not years, from full execution, and in the meantime INS continues to adjudicate applications without uniform standards concerning these basic requirements of naturalization. Accordingly, we recommend that, with or without the services of an outside consultant, INS immediately develop a standard by which to evaluate an applicant's ''ability to read, write and speak words in ordinary usage in the English language'' as required by current law.
Other guidance that was absent during CUSA that undermined the quality of naturalization adjudications concerned how to evaluate an applicant's previous immigration history and in what circumstances that history might be relevant to the naturalization adjudication. Although INS has asserted that complete file revieweven if the file contains ''confidential'' information submitted pursuant to provisions of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1996is appropriate in conjunction with a naturalization adjudication, it is not clear that this emphasis has reached the rank-and-file. We found that misunderstandings about confidential IRCA information lingers to this day. Also, although INS, through NQP, has emphasized the importance of having the applicant's permanent file at the naturalization interview, it still has not offered concrete guidance concerning how to use the information in that file to inform the naturalization adjudication. Accordingly, we recommend that INS provide guidance concerning how to detect previous fraud by applicants for naturalization, particularly when the file contains information considered ''confidential'' under IRCA, and how to confirm or dispel during the naturalization interview such suspicions of fraud.
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To improve its efforts at detecting fraud in the naturalization process, we recommend that INS improve the coordination between its investigative and adjudicative efforts so that information concerning fraudulent activity detected by INS investigators is timely available to and appropriately acted on by those who may be asked to adjudicate related benefits applications. We also recommend that INS more aggressively use and administer its computerized ''flagging'' procedures to alert adjudicators to the presence of cases in which fraud is suspected.
INS has made the greatest strides in the area of criminal history checking procedures, the area that was, as Commissioner Meissner called it in her interview with the OIG, CUSA's ''fatal flaw.'' Definitive responses to fingerprint checks are now required for every naturalization applicant. However, INS had not completely eradicated the belief that thorough fingerprint processing in every case is worth the cost. Recently, citing the low risk and burden of other options, INS proposed a policy that permits the adjudication of a naturalization application without further criminal history checks of an applicant whose fingerprints have twice been rejected by the FBI as unclassifiable. We recommend that INS obtain classifiable prints from every naturalization applicant (excluding those exempted by age) unless it certifies that the applicant cannotbecause of a physical conditionbe fingerprinted in a manner that yields classifiable prints.(see footnote 13)
We also note that INS continues to work with a ''presumptive policy'' in regard to applicant bio-checks. We recommend that INS confer with appropriating authorities and officials from other agencies to evaluate the risks associated with such an approach and the viability of alternative strategies.
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Finally, among our most troubling findings were those concerning the reliability of the information INS provided in response to congressional inquiries. We recommend that INS ensure the accuracy of the information it provides to Congress, whether in the form of written responses or testimony. We also recommend that INS be vigilant to follow through on the agreements it enters into with Congress, whether the agreement is to pay particular concern to some aspect of its adjudication programas was the case with its failed agreement to take appropriate action to respond to evidence of fraud during CUSAor an understanding concerning appropriations. INS must continue to enhance the integrity not only of its naturalization processing but also of its relationship with Congress.
X. CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
As detailed throughout this report, naturalization processing before CUSA already suffered from systemic weaknesses. INS lacked standards for the consistent evaluation of an applicant's ''good moral character'' and other qualifications for citizenship. INS had become reliant on the use of temporary files, thus preventing adjudicators from learning as much as possible about an applicant's background, including information concerning possible grounds for disqualification. Applicant criminal history checks were poorly administered.
With the advent of CUSA, INS imposed an ambitious production goal on this vulnerable system, and failed to consider the impact of attempting to reach this goal on matters other than production. Under the pressure of production goals and in the absence of adjudicative standards, the evaluation of naturalization eligibility became more perfunctory. Adjudicators were trained and instructed to concentrate primarily on the minimal statutory criteria. In addition, their inquiries were limited by the frequent unavailability of the crucial tools of naturalization processing: applicant criminal history checks and permanent files. The procedures on which INS relied to make these tools available to adjudicators, clerical and automated processes, experienced even greater strain as production expectations increased. As a result of all these factors, naturalization processing integrity was compromised during CUSA.
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Although the large numbers of pending naturalization applications and the long waiting periods experienced by applicants in 1994 and 1995 clearly called for a concerted backlog reduction effort, INS' willingness to step-up naturalization production before repairing known system weaknesses and its lack of guidance to the Field concerning how to increase production without decreasing the quality of adjudications served to make INS employees, the public, and Members of Congress suspicious of the motives for INS' aggressive production goals. The disproportionate focus on production, and the solicitous but unstructured approach INS adopted for its ''partnerships'' with community-based organizations, combined with intervention by officials from the National Performance Review, made INS Headquarters vulnerable to allegations that its efforts were not genuine attempts to reduce the backlog but rather were a politically motivated attempt to swell the voter rolls in time for the November 1996 election.
As detailed earlier in our report, we found that CUSA was neither created nor executed for reasons relating to increasing the number of persons who would be eligible to vote in November 1996. However, the absence of standards, the acceleration of production, and the many resulting mistakes did raise the question in the public minda public that was largely unaware of INS' widespread pre-existing problemsof why a government agency would so risk the quality of its work in the name of production goals.
We found that INS was willing to take these risks primarily because the agency had long tolerated a degree of error in its processes. As we described earlier in this report, INS managed the fingerprint check according to an analysis that balanced flaws in the system against the resources required to redress them, and thereby accepted a certain level of error. In view of the use of this approach in administering one of the most significant checks in the naturalization systemthe check against the possibility of bestowing citizenship on someone with a disqualifying criminal recordit was no surprise that a similarly tolerant perspective informed INS' remaining safeguards, particularly when the rate of processing was increased.
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Thus, implicit in the idea of backlog reduction was a general acceptance of the status quo in naturalization processing. We found that it was not an ignorance of the problems so much as an acceptance of them. As Commissioner Meissner told the OIG when discussing why INS moved forward with its plans for CUSA knowing of the problems that then existed in making applicants' permanent files available to naturalization adjudicators, ''the assumption was this: . . . we have been doing it this way for years and years and years, and things need to improve. But they are not going toyou know, we are not going to create an entirely new system in a flash, and so we will do the best we can with what we have.''
Furthermore, before the implementation of CUSA those vulnerabilities had not been the subject of widespread public outcry, and thus there was no outside stimulus for INS to mend its ways. What was of immediate concern to the public and to Congress were the unconscionable delays in processing naturalization applications, and it was on those delays that INS single-mindedly focused its attention.
In the wake of CUSA, INS has asserted that it is less tolerant of error in the naturalization process. As Commissioner Meissner told the Subcommittee on Immigration of the Senate Judiciary Committee in May 1997, INS undertook ''comprehensive measures'' to specifically ''address the integrity of the naturalization process.'' These steps were in addition to having abolished the presumptive policy for fingerprint checks, as described in our chapter on criminal history checking procedures. Accordingly, INS has changed many of its naturalization practices and procedures since the end of the CUSA program and has made some significant improvements. Before offering our recommendations, we briefly outline the efforts INS has made in the years since CUSA to bolster the integrity of its naturalization adjudications.
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We note at the outset that our investigation was designed to answer allegations concerning the CUSA program itself and did not include an investigation or detailed assessment of the changes that INS has made since the end of fiscal year 1996. We do not purport to evaluate whether the articulated changes in policy and procedures, described below, have in fact been effectively implemented in the Field. Such an evaluation was outside the scope of our review. However, we have reviewed INS' written policy changes, including memoranda implementing new procedures and the reports submitted by outside firms who worked with INS on quality assurance audits and on naturalization reengineering, and we evaluate the extent to which the announced changes address the problems we have identified in this report.
We found that INS has made obvious improvements in its procedures for ensuring that applicants' fingerprints are checked by the FBI and that the results of those checks are available to adjudicators. It has also markedly improved its procedures for ordering and transferring applicant files so that they, too, are available at interview. Finally, it has implemented standardized checklists and other processing forms that allow it to monitor whether cases are adjudicated in a manner consistent with these new procedures.
However, of greatest concern is the fact that INS has not made progress toward developing and implementing adjudicative standards, including the standards for English testing and the evaluation of good moral character. INS recognized before CUSA that such standards were missing and that their absence diminished the quality of naturalization processing during CUSA. Despite efforts to ''reengineer'' naturalization, those same standards are still lacking. INS has made little progress toward ensuring that adjudicators, once they have the requisite toolslike the results of criminal history checks or the applicant's fileknow how to use them. In short, INS has standardized its processing procedures but has not improved the substantive aspect of the evaluation of an applicant's eligibility for naturalization. Our recommendations thus focus, overall, on steps to be taken to improve the quality of the naturalization adjudication itself.
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In addition to many troublesome errors in the naturalization process, we also found that INS' representations to Congress both during and in the wake of CUSA were not completely accurate. Although we found no intention to deliberately mislead Congress, INS officials reassured Congress and then failed to follow through concerning the efforts it would make, in one instance, to safeguard against fraud in the naturalization process, and, in another, to reduce the backlog in adjustment of status processing. The testimony of some INS officials in the wake of CUSA, and other information INS provided Congress when CUSA was under review, was similarly unreliable. Therefore, our last recommendations address improving the quality of the information INS provides Congress.
B. INS' efforts to improve naturalization processing after CUSA
In her prepared statement for the March 5, 1997, joint hearing before the Subcommittee on National Security, International Affairs, and Criminal Justice of the House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight and the Subcommittee on Immigration and Claims of the House Judiciary Committee, Commissioner Meissner offered an overview of the improvements INS had made to the naturalization process:
First, we have eliminated the possibility of naturalization cases being completed without verification of an FBI fingerprint check. That is to say, the FBI is now responding to INS in 100 percent of the cases by providing either a ''yes'' or ''no'' verification of whether there is a criminal history record for an applicant. Second, we have instituted a quality assurance program to ensure that all procedures are being followed. The program involves random monthly checks of a sample of cases from every office in INS. Third, we have contracted with the management consulting firm of KPMG Peat Marwick to review the implementation of these procedures and to conduct and oversee an audit of all cases of persons who may have been wrongfully naturalized last year. In such cases we will initiate proceedings to revoke citizenship. Finally, we are [g]etting a contract for a complete redesign of the citizenship process during the next 18 months to two years.
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Two months later, by the time of Commissioner Meissner's testimony on May 1, 1997, before the Subcommittee on Immigration of the Senate Judiciary Committee, INS had augmented its plans. The contract for the redesign of the citizenship process went to Coopers & Lybrand (later PricewaterhouseCoopers or PwC), an independent accounting and management consulting firm, and they were charged with a ''comprehensive reengineering of the naturalization program.'' Commissioner Meissner also noted that INS, ''using a team of expert adjudicators and supervisors,'' was updating the INS ''Examiner's Handbook,'' the guide ''for field personnel in processing naturalization applications.''
The improvements announced by Commissioner Meissner in 1997 have remained those pursued by INS. The new naturalization procedures implemented by INS were entitled ''Naturalization Quality Procedures'' (NQP), and their first edition was issued on November 29, 1996. This edition was superceded by subsequent clarifying memoranda and other editions. As of this writing, the fourth edition of these procedures, NQP4, governs the adjudication of naturalization applications filed after October 1, 1998.(see footnote 14) PwC issued its final report, ''INS Naturalization Reengineering Evaluation,'' on June 30, 1999. Finally, the updated ''Examiner's Handbook'' referred to by Commissioner Meissner is entitled the ''Adjudicator's Field Manual.'' INS had completed the manual's table of contents in 1999 and it envisions 83 different chapters concerning INS adjudications. According to the table of contents, chapters 70 through 75 will address nationality and naturalization. As of this writing, only chapters 2 and 17 of the substantive chapters have been completed.(see footnote 15) INS has not published any of the chapters pertaining to naturalization.
We briefly describe below each of these three efforts to improve the naturalization process.
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1. Naturalization Quality Procedures
When they were first disseminated in November 1996, INS' Naturalization Quality Procedures offered ''seven key enhancements'' to ''enhance and monitor the quality'' of the naturalization process:
1) consistent, complete processing achieved through work sheets for each file; 2) fingerprint check integrity; 3) enhanced supervisory review; 4) instructions regarding temporary file use; 5) the implementation of a standardized quality assurance program; 6) guidance concerning revocation proceedings; and 7) requirements for increased monitoring of outside entity English and Civics test sites.
Since it was first issued, NQP's focus on applicant criminal history checking procedures, on file use, and on documenting the actions taken in any case has not changed, although the specific subject areas have been modified. NQP4 is subdivided into the following topics: file transfer procedures, fingerprint check integrity, G325 biographic information checks (bio-checks), the adjudication process, supervisory review, ''reverification,'' and ''quality assurance review.'' INS ended its outside testing program on August 1, 1998, and thus NQP no longer addresses the monitoring of those outside entities.
NQP4 offers specific procedural instructions concerning, among other things, the steps INS employees must take to request and transfer applicant files (directions are set out in a separate nine-page appendix), and the circumstances under which a temporary file may be used.(see footnote 16) It details the procedures to be followed for scheduling or ''descheduling'' a naturalization interview for an applicant for whom INS has received a relating ''ident'' from the FBI, and steps to take when an applicant's fingerprint card has been returned as unclassifiable or is rejected because of masthead errors. It dictates the steps to take after the naturalization interview in order to document that the applicant has met the English-language proficiency, knowledge of history and government, ''good moral character,'' and ''attachment to the Constitution'' requirements of naturalization.
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NQP4 also includes several procedures concerning the review of the original adjudicator's work. It specifies circumstances under which an adjudicator must obtain supervisory review of a decision to grant an application (when an applicant has a ''potentially disqualifying criminal history,'' when the adjudication is done on the basis of a temporary file, and when an applicant is found to be exempt from the testing requirements because of a disability). It also describes the ''reverification process,'' a procedure by which the original ''Clerical, Adjudication, and, if applicable, the Continuation Processing Worksheets'' are reviewed for completion by a ''reverifier'' (an SDAO, DAOs with certain grade levels and training, or a quality assurance (QA) analyst). Such reviews must be conducted for every case eligible for oath ceremony before the oath is administered. Finally, it describes the ''quality assurance review'' process by which naturalization cases in different stages of adjudication are periodically and randomly selected for review. The QA officer (a person hired for this purpose, although unfilled QA positions may be filled by officers who do not otherwise work on naturalization cases) reviews the files to determine whether they show evidence of having complied with NQP4. The QA reports are to be analyzed by the district and regional offices, and by INS Office of Internal Audit.
The most recent Service-wide NQP audit conducted by KPMG Peat Marwick revealed that 4 of 15 INS offices were not in compliance with the requirements of NQP4.(see footnote 17) Indeed, each of KPMG's four previous NQP audits also showed varying degrees of compliance in the Field. However, with each audit report INS has amended its procedures to respond to the identified problems, and KPMG repeatedly found that following the new procedures ''increased internal control and significantly reduced the risk of incorrectly naturalizing an applicant.''
Page 87 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Based on a plain reading of the requirements of NQP, the OIG agrees that the implementation of these procedures does improve INS' ability to have the requisite tools for a proper adjudication available to the adjudicator at the time of the interview. By spelling out that certain file-ordering steps must be taken before an interview can take place, for example, INS has increased the likelihood that the permanent file will be available to the adjudicator at the time of the interview. By requiring supervisory review in cases with certain criminal histories or where unusual exemptions are requested, INS has increased its own oversight of adjudication quality. By requiring that the efforts to obtain the requisite tools be documented in processing worksheets, INS has also increased accountability: NQP creates an audit trail should any subsequent reviewer question the original action. All of these steps are clearly improvements.
However, NQP is a dense series of technical rules and NQP compliance is labor-intensive. Although the NQP4 memorandum is addressed to ''all employees who process naturalization applications,'' it is difficult to imagine that line adjudicators and clerical staff can become easily conversant with its contents. (The text of the procedures is 35 pages long, with an additional 37 pages of explanatory attachments.) INS has developed training courses to help the Field understand how to use NQP, and such training makes the new procedures more accessible. Nevertheless, according to comments made to us by INS employees during interviews about CUSA (and often volunteered by them, because we did not specifically inquire about NQP), NQP has not been whole-heartedly embraced in the Field because it is a labor- and checklist-intensive process that emphasizes the importance of form. Such resistance may not bode well for NQP's ultimate ability to succeed at overhauling the naturalization program.
More importantly, however, even if widely accepted and appropriately implemented in the Field, NQP4 alone is not enough. NQP4 does not purport to address the substance of the naturalization adjudication. It is not a guide concerning how to adjudicate cases; it is a guide concerning how to get the documents adjudicators need in order to adjudicate a case properly. As noted in the June 1999 PwC report,
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Implementation of NQP is a major step toward standardizing how naturalization cases are documented from receipt through closing and has strengthened the process integrity.
While the NQP has standardized how the process is documented, it has not standardized the actual interview content or decision-making process.
To address this problem, according to the PwC report, INS will rely principally on the Adjudicator's Field Manual, the guide for Field personnel referred to in Commissioner Meissner's testimony of May 1997.
2. Naturalization reengineering evaluation
PwC's original mandate was to ''examine all aspects of the naturalization process, from initial contact by an applicant, through case adjudications and the swearing-in ceremony, to the retirement of the case record.'' PwC worked with INS as a ''joint 'redesign team' to implementor realizethe redesigned [naturalization] process.'' PwC's June 30, 1999, final report, by its own definition, was an ''assessment document'' that provides ''information about accomplishments to date, steps remaining to reach the ultimate redesigned state, and an evaluation of the progress achieved.'' In other words, the PwC report does not claim that the process has been redesigned. It instead describes the goals for the ideally redesigned naturalization process and tracks INS' progress toward achieving those goals.
PwC's summary of INS' progress toward achieving the goals of a redesigned process describes seven ''major redesign components,'' each of which corresponds to some aspect of the naturalization application process. These components are: information to applicants, the telephone center (a ''redesign feature'' to improve customer access to information), testing, fingerprinting, service centers, interview and oath, and technology. In all but two areas, testing and technology, the PwC report noted that INS was ''on track'' to realizing the redesigned process.
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The OIG, given the nature of the allegations we were assigned to investigate, did not concentrate on the customer-service oriented subject matter addressed by the PwC redesign plan. We note that the improvements in this area, by better preparing prospective naturalization applicants, will also improve the adjudication process. For example, in December 1998 INS published ''A Guide to Naturalization,'' a written source for information on naturalization for prospective applicants and other interested persons. According to the PwC report, the guide will be translated into ''key languages spoken by major customer groups.''
As to the remaining components, the PwC report is a useful summary of changes that have taken place in naturalization testing, fingerprinting, practices relating to interviews and oath ceremonies, and technology. Like NQP, the PwC analysis does not include a discussion of appropriate adjudicative standards or any other means of ensuring accurate and consistent decision-making. It does, however, point out the urgent need for the development of such standards if a truly ''reengineered'' naturalization process is to become a reality.
We offer below a brief summary of the PwC redesign recommendations that deal directly with the aspects of naturalization processing on which our report concentrates. The summary does not address all of the topics covered by the PwC report. The summary is of those aspects of the PwC report that inform our own recommendations that follow.
a. PwC's commentary on interviews In regard to the topic of naturalization interviews and oath, PwC declared that INS was ''on track'' toward a redesigned process. As discussed above, PwC lauded INS' NQP as a means of having ''greatly reduced the risk of incorrectly naturalizing an applicant.'' However, PwC noted that NQP cannot and does not address the problem of the inconsistent approaches to interviewing adjudications, and does not provide clarification of ''areas that are too broad or inconsistently applied.'' These would have to be addressed by the anticipated Adjudicator's Field Manual, although PwC noted that a manual alone would not be enough. PwC called for adequate training, incentives to encourage compliance, and penalties for non-compliance.
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b. PwC commentary on the testing of English and Civics While PwC was working with INS, the outside testing program for English and Civics was abolished. According to the PwC report:
Limited INS oversight of testing providers and allegations of fraud by testing providers cast doubt on the integrity of the outside testing program. INS could not reasonably validate that applicants holding passing certificates had actually demonstrated the required English proficiency and U.S. history and government knowledge.
Accordingly, INS ended the outside testing program on August 1, 1998, and stopped accepting certificates from applicants as of July 31, 1999.
For the sake of both efficiency and integrity, the PwC report recommends a testing redesign that requires applicants who are not exempt from the testing requirements to pass the citizenship tests before filing an application for naturalization. Once standardized and objective tests are developed, the redesign envisions that a ''professional testing organization'' will administer tests to applicants at testing centers overseen by INS. To prevent fraud, the test results will be transmitted electronically from the testing centers to INS. Although not specifically stated in the PwC report, this testing redesign recommendation appears to apply to the testing of spoken and written English, and to the testing of an applicant's knowledge of U.S. history and government. PwC noted that ''a fair and consistent process will perhaps be the greatest customer benefit of the new testing program.''
Current law requires that an applicant's verbal skills be evaluated ''from the applicant's answers to questions normally asked in the course of the examination'' or naturalization interview. The PwC testing redesign envisions that the testing of verbal English skills will be a pre-requisite to and thus separate from the naturalization interview. Accordingly, in addition to the selection of an appropriate professional testing organization to administer the test and the technological improvements required for the electronic transmission of test results, the recommended redesign requires a regulatory change to permit INS to test an applicant's verbal skills before the interview.
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PwC also noted that the redesign of applicant testing was ''delayed.'' Apart from the abolition of the outside testing program, INS has made little other progress toward implementing a new testing program or improving the traditional testing that has always been a part of naturalization interviews. The PwC report noted that the testing process remained ''basically unchanged for both the applicant and INS,'' and that the current process was ''flawed.'' PwC found, as did the Center for Applied Linguistics as early as 1995, and as did the OIG as detailed in our current report, that ''testing methods varied from one office to another and even among adjudicators in a single office,'' and that ''passing standards varied.'' PwC pointed out that INS still had to answer the fundamental questions, ''what to test? How to test? Where to test? Who will test?''
c. PwC commentary on INS technology The PwC report includes a component on the technology used by INS. It describes, as we have, the multiple computer systems on which current naturalization processing depends. We summarize here aspects of PwC's findings and recommendations concerning INS technology because they have a direct bearing on INS' ability to properly administer its A-file policies and procedures, one of the substantive topics of our report.
Despite the development of revised systems since the end of CUSA-like the Reengineered Naturalization Automated Casework System (RNACS)the interfaces among INS' various systems, according to the PwC report, continued to be complicated and often failed. The PwC redesign thus recommended that INS develop centralized information management and centralized records management. To achieve these goals, INS planned to ''develop and deploy'' the new CLAIMS 4, a centralized database that consolidates the previous version of CLAIMS (CLAIMS 3) and RNACS. INS also planned that completed applications would be scanned into CLAIMS 4 at the service centers, so that the information would later be available to adjudicators in an automated format. This procedure would move INS away from the use of its current paper application. INS also planned to develop and deploy the National File Tracking System (NFTS), a national system that will recognize multiple files in various districts and will eliminate the need for local tracking systems, including RAFACS.
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In March 1999, INS had introduced a ''baseline version'' of CLAIMS 4 which, according to the PwC report, ''provided basic functionality'' for naturalization. By June 1999, it had been implemented in all service centers, three regional offices, and 23 field offices. However, PwC noted that personnel at the sites using the new system have complained that CLAIMS 4 is ''sluggish,'' that the interview time is lengthened as adjudicators adjust to working with the system instead of with the hard copy of the N400, and that ''system efficiency is hampered by CLAIMS 4 dependency on multiple systems with complicated interfaces.'' The NFTS, on the other hand, has not yet been developed. According to the PwC report, INS is not ''on track'' with the ''technology'' component of its redesigned naturalization process.
3. The Adjudicator's Field Manual
The last of the three major efforts by INS to improve its naturalization processing is the Adjudicator's Field Manual.
Apart from the technical, procedural improvements like fingerprint processing and file transfers, the remainder of the issues in naturalization adjudications that have been the subject of our report are anticipated by INS to be addressed in the Adjudicator's Manual. An effort to create a revised manual was announced by Commissioner Meissner in May 1997. According to the PwC report in June 1999, INS was then working on developing the naturalization portions of the manual. As of this writing, INS has not published any section of the manual concerning naturalization processing.
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1. Interviews and adjudications
a. The evaluation of ''good moral character'' In regard to the ''good moral character'' evaluation, we found that adjudicators had different understandings concerning when they were to explore issues not directly raised by the questions on the N400, or when they should request corroborating documentation. Because the adjudicative corps during CUSA was made up mostly of new officers with only brief training, they did not have years of experience to draw on in the absence of formal guidance. As production expectations increased, their questions were usually resolved in favor of the choice that was the least time-consuming: if the inquiry was not necessary to the adjudication, it was discouraged. As a result, adjudications were weighted in favor of approval, because adjudicators were not encouraged to take the time required to explore and perhaps uncover grounds of disqualification. Thus, the absence of standards made naturalization adjudications more vulnerable to compromises brought about by the application of production pressures.
Concerning the standard for evaluating ''good moral character,'' the PwC report notes only that although NQP standardizes ''how the process is documented,'' it does not provide consistency to the interview or the actual decision-making process.(see footnote 18) In ''recognition of this problem,'' according to PwC, INS is working on the naturalization portions of the Adjudicator's Field Manual. As noted above, because INS has yet to publish the naturalization portions of its Adjudicator's Manual, there has been no further guidance available to the Field for the appropriate evaluation of an applicant's good moral character.
The Guide, like federal statutory law, does not define ''good moral character.'' It lists examples of the types of things that ''might show a lack of good moral character,'' but clearly is not exhaustive.
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The lack of progress in this area is of great concern. Since before CUSA, INS has recognized that adjudicators were in need of guidance in this area, and yet none has been disseminated. It is the heart of the naturalization inquiry, the aspect of the examination process without which the standardization of file procedures and checklists has little substantive value.
At the same time, the OIG recognizes that the ''good moral character'' standard is one that has been the subject of many varying legal interpretations. However, to continue to ignore the need for a standard simply because that standard is difficult to set invites the type of problem that characterized CUSA: the reduction of the evaluation of eligibility for citizenship to the bare statutory minimums.
INS may choose instead to work toward changing federal law to require that, to be eligible for citizenship, an applicant need only demonstrate that he or she is not statutorily disqualified, and thus bring federal law into conformity with what has been, in many busy INS offices, the de facto practice. However, unless and until the legal requirements for citizenship are legally modified to reflect these practices, INS must provide guidance to the Field concerning how to adjudicate cases in a manner that is consistent with applicable law.
Accordingly, we make the following recommendations:
1) INS should prioritize its work on the naturalization portions of the Adjudicator's Field Manual if it is to be the controlling source for adjudicative standards as described in the PwC report. INS should disseminate the manual to all adjudicators, and provide training in conjunction with its publication that will permit adjudicators to become familiar with its contents.
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2) In the drafting of the ''good moral character'' subsection of the Adjudicator's Field Manual and in adjudicator training, INS must provide guidance on how to ''evaluate claims of good moral character on a case-by-case basis'' as required by current law. This guidance should include guidance on the following topics within the broader category of the evaluation of ''good moral character,'' all of which we found to be a source of confusion for adjudicators during CUSA:
a) guidance concerning when, if ever, it is appropriate to ask an applicant questions other than those listed on the N400;
b) guidance concerning when, if ever, it is appropriate to ask an applicant to provide additional documentation (such as copies of income tax returns or proof of having paid child support) to support his or her demonstration of good moral character;
c) guidance concerning when, if ever, an applicant who is not statutorily precluded from establishing good moral character may nevertheless be found to lack good moral character and thus not be eligible for citizenship;
d) guidance concerning the relevance to the good moral character inquiry of certain common but non-precluding crimes like driving under the influence of alcohol or, in some states, spousal battery;(see footnote 19)
e) guidance concerning how to evaluate the effect of probation or parole on the good moral character determination; and
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f) guidance concerning the record that must be created in order to legally support the adjudicator's finding that the applicant lacks good moral character so that the original finding may be upheld in the face of subsequent legal challenge.
b. Testing As Commissioner Meissner told the OIG, INS had a long history of ''arbitrary and untrained testing procedures.'' Before CUSA, INS had recognized the Field's need for guidance concerning the standards to be used in evaluating an applicant's English proficiency and knowledge of U.S. history and government. Because INS failed to provide such guidance, inconsistent testing practices continued throughout CUSA.
Despite INS' own repeated identification, since late 1995, of the development of testing standards as a priority, still none exists. INS' creation of the outside testing programwhich had, in part, been intended as a strategy for standardizationresulted in failure as INS did not adequately monitor the outside testing entities or timely respond to evidence of fraud in test administration. The abolition of the outside testing program in August 1998 makes moot our concerns of inadequate monitoring in that program, but the problem of inconsistent, unfair, and untrained testing practices remains unresolved.(see footnote 20)
We also note that instructions for Form N400 currently in use, like the one used during CUSA, continues to misstate the legal requirements for eligibility for a waiver of the English-language requirements and should be corrected.
Page 97 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC According to the PwC report, INS has convened a policy working group that is ''drafting a procurement package for a test development contract and is working with INS testing experts and the Department of Education.'' According to William Yates, now the Acting Deputy Executive Associate Commissioner for the Immigration Services Division, as of June 2000 the working group has made no additional progress since the publication of the PwC report.
As a result of our investigation and in view of the steps INS has taken since CUSA, we make the following recommendations in regard to naturalization testing:
3) With or without the services of an outside consultant, INS should immediately develop a standard by which to evaluate an applicant's ''ability to read, write and speak words in ordinary usage in the English language'' as required by current law. Appropriate standards are overdue and will be required regardless of whether INS otherwise adopts the testing recommendations in the PwC report. Therefore, the development of the standard for English-language testing should not be postponed pending the development of other testing strategies that may not be implemented for many months to come.
4) As long as current law continues to require that an applicant's verbal skills be evaluated ''from the applicant's answers to questions normally asked in the course of the examination,'' INS should provide guidance concerning which questions normally asked at interview are appropriate indicators of the requisite level of language proficiency, and how those questions should be posed.
5) INS should ensure that the ''Service authorized Federal Textbooks on Citizenship,'' excerpts from which are required by current law to be used for the testing of applicants' reading and writing skills and for their knowledge of U.S. history and government, are up-to-date, accurately reflect by example the nature of the tests administered, and are available to adjudicators.
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6) INS should provide guidance and training concerning the nature and number of questions to be used for the testing of an applicant's knowledge of U.S. history and government, including the range of questions from which an officer may choose and how the officer should tailor the test to the individual applicant as required by current law. According to the edition of ''A Guide to Naturalization'' available as of this writing, INS continues to publish the list of 100 questions, although modified in small ways, that was used during the Legalization (Amnesty) program of the 1980s and during CUSA. If this is the list from which adjudicators continue to draw their questions, INS must provide guidance concerning the discretion an officer has to choose questions from the list, including the number of questions offered the applicants and whether there is any required passing percentage.
c. The evaluation of whether the applicant lawfully obtained permanent residency status Having been lawfully admitted to the United States is a prerequisite to naturalization. Providing false testimony to obtain an immigration benefit during the statutory period necessarily prevents an applicant from establishing good moral character. The evaluation of both requires the adjudicator to review the applicant's immigration and residency history.
We found that during CUSA in four of five Key City Districts INS interpreted the confidentiality provisions of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) too broadly and thus prevented adjudicators from exploring suspicions that applicants who became residents under the provisions of IRCA may have obtained residency through fraud. Although opinions issued by the General Counsel made clear that an adjudicator could review an applicant's entire file in conjunction with the naturalization adjudicationeven that portion of the file segregated from the rest of the information by a red sheet, indicating that the file contained information subject to the confidentiality provisions of IRCAlocal interpretations contradicted that advice and adjudicators were often instructed that they could not conduct such a review.
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We also found that INS conducted a large scale investigation into a particular scheme involving fraudulent adjustment of status applications under the Special Agricultural Worker (SAW) provisions of IRCA, and yet failed to timely provide adjudicators information about the fraud, and thus failed to prevent many applicants suspected of SAW fraud from naturalizing.
Accordingly, we make the following recommendations:
7) INS should reiterate to all adjudicators that it is appropriate to conduct a review of the entire applicant file in conjunction with the naturalization adjudication.
8) INS should provide guidance concerning how to detect previous fraud by applicants for naturalization, and how to confirm or dispel during the naturalization interview such suspicions of fraud.
9) INS should provide guidance concerning any other information available in an applicant's file that may have a bearing on the adjudicator's evaluation of the applicant's eligibility for citizenship.
10) INS should improve the coordination between its investigative and adjudicative efforts so that information concerning fraudulent activity detected by INS investigators is timely available to and appropriately acted on by those who may be asked to adjudicate related benefits applications.
Page 100 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC d. Streamlining adjudication processes We found that INS' efforts to streamline the adjudication process during CUSA resulted in compromises to system safeguards designed to prevent the ineligible from naturalizing. They also gave adjudicators and, subsequently, Members of Congress, the impression that INS was willing to modify procedures in order to appease community groups or those with political interests in disregard for eligibility standards. In the event that INS considers future streamlining strategies or continues to conduct ''off-site processing,'' we make the following recommendations:
11) In conducting ''off-site'' or ''outreach'' processing, INS should provide guidance to the Field for the fair and consistent administration of such programs, including procedures for determining which outside organizations are entitled to participate and how to ensure that additional pressures to approve applications are not brought to bear on participating adjudicators.
12) In implementing any ''streamlining'' procedure, INS must first validate the procedure to ensure that no sacrifice is made to naturalization processing integrity in the name of the streamlining innovation.
2. A-file policy and practice
We found that by fiscal year 1996, INS' records infrastructure and file policies were in disrepair. In the largest Key City District, Los Angeles, INS had become inured to the idea that permanent files would not be reviewed in conjunction with the applicant's naturalization interview. Other districts also often used temporary files to conduct naturalization adjudications. As production increased under CUSA, reliance on temporary files increased. As a result, adjudicators made eligibility determinations based on incomplete information. Also, the creation of hundreds of thousands of temporary files increased INS' records burden. INS had lost control over its own records, and consequently, in at least two instances investigated by the OIG, was unable to produce information requested by national auditors (for the KPMG-supervised Criminal History Case Review) or by Congress (for the Committee on House Oversight investigating the election contested by Robert Dornan) because it was unable to locate the relevant files.
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Since the end of CUSA, INS has made an effort to shore up its file policy and practices. NQP4 plainly states that ''the review of an applicant's A-file is critical to confirming that the applicant is eligible for naturalization.'' As discussed above, NPQ4 sets out detailed file transfer procedures that must be followed, including procedures to use when previous procedures have failed to result in the successful transfer of a file. It also requires that ''error reports'' generated by the computer systems be resolved and not ignored. All of these procedures make successful file transfers and thus file availability more likely. In those instances when the permanent file is not located and available at the interview and a temporary file must be used, NQP4 requires supervisory review of an adjudicator's decision to grant the application. Thus, when temporary files are used, the risk that such use will result in an improper decision is reduced by supervisory review.
However, these improved file-transferring procedures are highly dependent on INS' automated systems, systems thatas our investigation revealedhistorically have not been designed or maintained in a manner that allows them to live up to the extensive expectations placed on them. INS' efforts with CLAIMS 4 and NFTS are responsive to the problems we identify in this report. As noted at the outset, we have not evaluated whether the implementation of these innovations has been successful to date. However, we offer certain cautionary recommendations as INS continues its efforts with automation.
The task of consolidating into one automated system all of the information on which a naturalization adjudicator dependsthe information from the applicant's file, the information from the N400, any enforcement action that may have been taken against the applicantis enormous. Ideal file-transferring and the availability of an applicant's immigration history is dependent on these automated systems. They, in turn, are highly dependent on adequate financial resources to be spent on design, technological infrastructure, and user education. Successful implementation depends on knowledgeable and capable management of the system and its users. Assuming all of these necessary resources will be available to INS, the goal still cannot realistically be achieved for many years to come.
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Our concern lies more with the immediate future. In both its records management and its administration of criminal history checks, INS historically failed to shore up its contemporary practices because it was waiting for the reengineered processes of the future to take over and make its paper-based processes obsolete. In the meantime, the paper-based processes were poorly administered. If this history is repeated, hundreds of thousands of naturalization adjudications are at risk as INS continues its work in the years until that automated future arrives. Accordingly, we make the following recommendations:
13) INS should validate its file-transferring procedures under NQP4 to determine the extent to which they have been successful at getting the applicant's permanent file to the adjudicator in time for the naturalization interview; if temporary file use exceeds some small percentage of naturalization adjudications, reexamine the transferring procedures to determine what additional efforts can be made to make permanent files available.
14) INS should continue to prioritize the importance of file transfers and of file availability to the adjudicator, and, as noted in our section on adjudicative guidance, above, should train and remind INS staff on the relevance of the permanent file to the naturalization adjudication.
15) INS should continue to search for applicant permanent files even after a temporary file has been used for the naturalization, and should review the permanent files to ensure that the decision made without the permanent file was proper; the results of such reviews (or ''post-audits'') should be used to determine whether the temporary file procedures promulgated under NQP are sufficient to keep the risk of error occasioned by temporary file use to a minimum.
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We also found that INS' loss of control over its records, and thus its loss of control over information pertaining to naturalization applicants, was not attributable solely to its poor file practices. INS' failure to properly update and maintain its data systems was another significant contributing factor. Because INS did not timely ''close out'' cases and update databases, we found that INS could not rely on querying those databases to confirm an applicant's naturalization status. The combined problem of poor file practices and inaccurate database information allowed the Los Angeles District to provide incorrect answers to Congress when Congress sought information on the naturalization status of certain voters. The failure to ''close out'' files and to update the database also appears to have caused a fundamental flaw in the data INS provided to the KPMG-supervised review, thus rendering incomplete (by 71,000 cases) the universe of cases on which these important and costly studies were based.
Accordingly, we also make the following recommendations:
16) INS should ensure that the Field timely closes out naturalization cases and updates the relevant naturalization database(s).
17) As INS depends more on automated systems in naturalization processing, the accuracy of the information in those systems is paramount. Accordingly, INS should periodically test or audit the information in the naturalization database to determine its accuracy; when inaccuracies are revealed they should be quickly corrected.
The administration of INS' A-files and automated data and the implementation of the recommendations listed above depend for their success on the quality of INS' clerical staff. We found that many of the processing problems we identified in our reportproblems of file-ordering, document interfiling, case close-outswere attributable in part to shortages of clerical staff, deficiencies in the instructions given to clerical staff (including contractor employees), and insufficient emphasis on the importance of the clerical aspects of naturalization processing. Accordingly,
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18) INS should monitor its clerical staffing and training to ensure that its application processing is supported by a sufficient number of clerical employees who are properly trained to carry out their important processing functions.
3. Criminal history checking procedures
Of all of the processing flaws that came to light in the wake of CUSA, those in INS' criminal history checking procedures were the ones of greatest concern to Members of Congress. In addition to the policy that permitted adjudicators to presume the absence of a criminal record simply because there was no rap sheet in the file used at adjudication (the presumptive policy), INS failed to ensure that fingerprint cards rejected by the FBI were replaced with suitable cards, and failed to ensure that those rap sheets that did result from criminal history checks were available for review by adjudicators at interview. Because of these flaws, INS naturalized persons with disqualifying criminal histories(see footnote 21) and failed to conduct a complete criminal history check for 18 percent of the total population naturalized. In addition, INS' ''bio-check'' procedures, by which INS would learn information about an applicant who was the subject of an investigation by the FBI or other government agencies, were negligently administered.
It has been in this area of greatest weakness that INS has clearly made the greatest improvements. The presumptive policy was abolished in November 1996. INS also abandoned its Designated Fingerprinting Services program and now exercises control over how fingerprints are taken. Current automated systems are designed to keep a case on ''hold''prevent it from being scheduled for interviewunless the FBI affirmatively reports that the applicant has no criminal history. The hold must be manually removed and must only be lifted after the rap sheet has been interfiled and is thus available to the adjudicator. Automated systems thus will not schedule a case if there has been no response from the FBI, as would be the case if, for example, a fingerprint card has been rejected for masthead errors. Finally, NQP4 requires that records from the disposition of criminal cases be in the file before an adjudication is completedthat is, before the applicant is approved for naturalization, thus prohibiting a practice like the vulnerable one that existed in the Los Angeles District during CUSA of reviewing rap sheets after applicants had been approved.(see footnote 22) All of these changes represent significant improvements and will increase INS' ability to prevent applicants with disqualifying criminal histories from being naturalized.
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INS has also improved its procedures in regard to ''bio-checks.'' NQP4 provides instructions that if the service center advises the local office that a ''third agency has information'' about an applicant, ''third party responses'' must be obtained.(see footnote 23)
However, vulnerabilities remain in INS' criminal history checking procedures. In regard to fingerprint checks, INS still has not completely embraced the notion that completed criminal history checks are absolutely necessary in every case, as explained below.
Recently, INS has proposed a revision to NQP4 that would permit a naturalization adjudication to proceed when an applicant has had two fingerprint card submissions to the FBI returned to INS as ''unclassifiable.'' Under current NPQ4 guidelines, such applicants are required to obtain police clearances from all jurisdictions in which they resided during the previous five years.(see footnote 24) According to the proposed revision to NQP4, INS has now determined that
The Service's current control over the fingerprinting process, the significantly diminished unclassifiable reject rate, and the FBI criminal history checks performed for classifiable and unclassifiable fingerprints alleviates the need for local police clearances.
This proposed policy does not apply to those persons who are unable to submit classifiable fingerprintsthose applicants receive a fingerprint waiver and must obtain a police clearance. It applies instead to applicants who are not unable to submit classifiable prints, but who have had two submissions rejected as unclassifiable by the FBI. Such a proposed policy reveals that INS remains willing to gamblegiven the relatively small number of cases to which such a policy will applythat in some instances it is simply not necessary to insist on a full fingerprint check or, in its stead, a thorough police clearance.(see footnote 25)
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There is little reason to support this change in policy. Either an applicant is unable to submit classifiable prints because of some physical condition, and thus should obtain a fingerprint waiver, or classifiable prints should be obtained. This is especially true now that INS, and not outside entities, has control over the process of taking and submitting the fingerprint cards and thus bears the responsibility for the quality of the fingerprint impressions taken. Except for processing expediency, there is no substantive reason for foregoing a full fingerprint check provided that the applicant's fingerprints can be ''taken.'' The fact that INS considered foregoing the criminal history checkand not substitute it with a police clearancein those cases where two tries have been unsuccessful suggests that former attitudes of weighing the costs against the remote risk of detecting a disqualifying criminal historyattitudes that prevailed during CUSA and in earlier yearsremain. To the extent that such attitudes continue to inform criminal history checking policies, they threaten the integrity of the naturalization process.(see footnote 26)
In regard to ''bio-checks,'' there is no explanation in NQP4, or otherwise available to adjudicators, of what these checks are or how to obtain the third-party responses. There is no instruction concerning how to interpret or what to do with derogatory information received, or how to proceed when alerted that there is a ''possible hit'' concerning the naturalization applicant.
We also note that in regard to bio-checks, INS continues to use a ''presumptive policy.'' Because the number of ''hits'' resulting from bio-checks is comparatively small, they are more easily and accurately processed by INS, and are processed through a central location in Washington, D.C.
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Accordingly, the presumptive policy in regard to bio-checks does not pose as great a risk as it did in regard to fingerprint check responses. However, we note that there is and has been automated data available from the FBI to alert INS when an applicant has ''cleared'' the bio-check process, and such data might be used to advise the Field of the status of each applicant's bio-check. We also note that although the risk is small, the consequences of inadvertently naturalizing an applicant who has a significant ''bio-check'' hit could be very serious: INS could confer citizenship on someone that another federal agency regards as a threat to the United States.
Accordingly, we offer the following recommendations in regard to INS' criminal history checking procedures:
19) Except for those applicants exempt because of their age, INS should require a full fingerprint check in every case unless the applicant is unable because of physical condition to submit classifiable prints.
20) INS should provide guidance to local offices concerning the nature of the bio-check, how to obtain any ''third party'' responses, procedures when notified of a ''possible hit,'' and how to evaluate any information received.
21) INS should review with appropriate officials from other agencies and with Members of Congress whether the ''presumptive policy'' in regard to bio-checks should be abolished in favor of a policy of definitive responses.
Page 108 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC4. INS processing of adjustment of status applications
Our report only briefly touched on INS' administration of a benefit arguably even more valuable than citizenshipthe right to live in the United States permanently. This benefitsymbolized by issuance of the ''green card''requires of INS adjudicators many of the same judgments using like information and documents as for a naturalization adjudication. All the foregoing recommendations to strengthen naturalization decision-making should also be evaluated and, if appropriate, implemented with respect to adjustments of status.
5. Reliability in representations made to Congress
We found that INS failed to follow-through on two important agreements it entered into with Congress during CUSA. First, despite having represented to Congress that it would take steps not to naturalize those persons who obtained their permanent residency through fraudan obligation already imposed by the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA)INS failed to provide its adjudicators with guidance on how to detect such fraud and, once detected, how to respond. By failing to ensure that adjudicators had access to applicant permanent files during CUSA, INS failed to provide adjudicators with the essential tool they would need to detect such fraud. Finally, in four of five Key Cities INS instructed adjudicators not to review the immigration history of applicants who obtained their residency under the Legalization program, thus precluding the review of those previous applicationsapplications for residency under the SAW programabout which Congress had been most concerned.
Second, INS failed to comply with the January 1996 reprogramming agreement it entered into with Congress that it would use the reprogrammed funds to achieve currency in both naturalization and adjustment of status processing during fiscal year 1996. It is unknown whether the agreement was in fact too ambitious in that both programs were badly backlogged, but it is clear that while INS Headquarters poured resources into and focused extraordinary attention on naturalization, it made almost no effort to similarly improve its adjustment of status work. As a result, it failed to make sufficient efforts to comply with this important aspect of its January 1996 reprogramming agreement.
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We also found that, beginning with the September 1996 hearings into CUSA, INS repeatedly gave Congress inaccurate assurances about the extent of the processing errors made during CUSA. We did not find any deliberate intention by any INS official to mislead Congress, but we did find that the inaccuracies were often the product of insufficient care in gathering the requested information and the desire to project the agency's work in a most favorable light.
For example, in testifying about the errors in criminal history checking procedures, Associate Commissioner Crocetti assured Congress that the confirmed number of late-arriving, disqualifying criminal history reports was very small nationwide, even though INS Headquarters was then aware that the number of reports arriving latereports that had not yet been reviewed as disqualifying or notwas much higher and that a serious analysis of the data had barely begun. Later, when Commissioner Meissner advised the Congress that the Field had confirmed only 415 latearriving, disqualifying criminal history reports between July and October 1996, the number was based on an inaccurate survey of the Field that grossly understated the extent of the problem. Although the desire to defend and protect the work of INS is not criticized here, in the aftermath of CUSA it prevented INS from providing Congress with accurate information about the nature and extent of the many errors that had been made.
Accordingly, we make the following recommendations:
22) When INS assures Congress that it will undertake a particular course of action, INS should assign an appropriate senior official with responsibility for ensuring follow-through on the agreement or notification to Congress of the inability to do so.
Page 110 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC23) ''Priorities'' or other internal agency goals should be drafted with congressional commitments in mind so that the Field is sufficiently informed of, and thus more likely to meet, congressional expectations.
24) INS must more carefully review for accuracy the data it provides to Congress, whether that data is offered in writing or in testimony by INS officials.
25) INS should state clearly any limitations or qualifications that may apply to and affect the accuracy of the information furnished.
Office of the Inspector General
Mark C. Moore
Patricia A. Sumner
Alan W. Tieger
Mr. SMITH. Thank you, Mr. Ashbaugh. I am going to recognize myself for questions, but on the way there let me thank you again for the most comprehensive report ever undertaken by the Justice Department's Office of Inspector General. The reportand I am sure anyone who read it will agreeis both informative and helpful; and we thank you for your constructive suggestions at the end of the report as well.
During my questioning today, I would like to cover several questions. The first deals with high ranking officials and their connections to the Citizenship USA initiative, and let me begin with three people: Vice President Gore; President Clinton's Deputy Chief of Staff, Harold Ickes; and President Clinton's Director of Special Projects, Rahm Emanuel. NPR was an agency of the office of the Vice President and the Vice President, Mr. Gore, made the decision for NPR to target Citizenship USA for invention; is that correct?
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Mr. ASHBAUGH. I am sorry, there was some background noise. It was just the question part.
Mr. SMITH. The NPR office was an office of the Vice President and Vice President Gore made the decision to target Citizenship USA for reinvention; is that correct?
Mr. ASHBAUGH. Yes.
Mr. SMITH. You said in your report, ''We found several pieces of evidence showing that the White House was aware of and interested in the connection between naturalization, voting, and the 1996 election.'' The evidence includes statements that INS employees in New York said Laurie Lyons made, specifically referencing the November 1996 election. One INS manager recalls Lyons saying, ''We need to get this done in time for the election,'' and other managers recalled similar statements.
Second is Douglas Farbrother's March 28, 1998 e-mail to the Vice President noting that the INS was not going to be able to produce a million new citizens before election day.
Third, Farbrother also told the OIG that eligible applicants had to be naturalized in time to register to vote in November 1996, when he presumed that such voters would support the Clinton-Gore ticket.
Page 112 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Finally, Elaine Kamarck's April 4, 1996 memo to the Vice President stating that ''only by working 7 days a week and longer hours can we hope to make a significant enough dent in the backlog that it will show up when it matters.''
These statements are accurate to the best of your knowledge; is that correct?
Mr. ASHBAUGH. I think you have quoted accurately from the report, although I am not quite sure how to deal with this line of questioning.
Mr. SMITH. I am trying to confirm the accuracy and make sure that I didn't misquote the report.
Mr. ASHBAUGH. I do not think that you misquoted the report.
Mr. SMITH. And I also want to bring out that Laurie Lyons and Doug Farbrother were in the NPR office and assigned to Citizenship USA, and Elaine Kamarck was NPR chief and senior policy adviser to the Vice President.
Moving on to Harold Ickes and Rahm Emanuel, there is evidence showing the connection between naturalization and the 1996 election. Again this is from your report. There is a September 28, 1995 letter from White House staff member Kevin O'Keefe to Ickes stating that ''the pace of naturalizations will limit the number of new voters.'' O'Keefe said that it was Ickes himself who had asked for that information.
Page 113 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Another piece of evidence is that at a January 30, 1996 meeting a representative of a southern California community-based organization pointedly told the INS Commissioner Doris Meissner unless INS moved faster to naturalize new citizens, some applicants would not receive citizenship in time to vote in the November election. Commissioner Meissner responded, to her credit and correctly, that the INS was there to deliver services, not votes. However, a witness said the Commissioner's reaction was in marked contrast to Rahm Emanuel's reaction to the same argument the next day. He seemed very interested that the backlog of naturalization applicants represented potential votes for the Clinton-Gore campaign.
To me the previous evidence could reasonably lead to the conclusion that the Vice President, the President's deputy chief of staff, and the President's director of special projects intended to use Citizenship USA for partisan political purposes. The OIG said in its conclusion that it was not able to determine whether White House officials sought to use the Citizenship USA program to increase Democratic turn-out in the November 1996 election, although the OIG also said there may have been mixed motives concerning the involvement of NPR in Citizenship USA. Given the evidence, why are there still questions? Mr. Ashbaugh, didn't both Harold Ickes and Rahm Emanuel refuse the OIG's request for an interview?
Mr. ASHBAUGH. That is correct.
Mr. SMITH. And the OIG sought an interview with Vice President Gore, but he declined your request and you had to submit written questions; is that correct?
Mr. ASHBAUGH. That also is correct.
Page 114 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. SMITH. What is the advantage of a personal interview over written questions?
Mr. ASHBAUGH. Well, we had hoped to be able to follow up, to ask follow-up questions during an interview. In fact when we reviewedand that is the general preference of any investigator at any time. In fact when we reviewed the Vice President's responses to our questions, there weren't as many follow-up questions as we thought.
Mr. SMITH. I am going to yield myself an additional couple of minutes, as I yielded to others.
By refusing to be interviewed, Vice President Gore was able to avoid being placed under oath and asked detailed follow-up questions and also avoid a direct evaluation of his credibility; is that correct?
Mr. ASHBAUGH. Not entirely. The question of the administration of an oath was a problem that we had with a number of witnesses. We could not compel the attendance or the participation or the cooperation of former government employees or people from the White House. That exceeds
Mr. SMITH. Is that because you didn't have the subpoena power, or did you have subpoena power?
Mr. ASHBAUGH. We do not have subpoena power to compel testimony.
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Mr. SMITH. Let me point out that the subcommittee does have subpoena power, and it is a question for us to decide whether to use it or not.
Mr. ASHBAUGH. I just wanted to make one clarification and that is that there were a number of people from the White House and perhaps elsewhere that did not consent to be put under oath during their interviews. So that was not unique to this particular instance.
Mr. SMITH. So there were a lot of individuals who were interviewed who refused to be put under oath?
Mr. ASHBAUGH. There were a few.
Mr. SMITH. Do you remember the names of any of those individuals offhand?
Mr. ASHBAUGH. I can give you a list.
Mr. SMITH. Okay.
[The information referred to follows:]
QUESTION: Chairman Smith requested the names of people we interviewed while investigating possible White House involvement in the CUSA program who refused to take an oath during their OIG interviews.
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ANSWER: Carol Rasco and Stephen Warnath
Note: Prior to the interview of Congressman Xavier Becerra, an OIG attorney spoke on the telephone with Congressman Becerra's attorney, Mark Elias, about the conditions for the interview. The OIG attorney remembers that in the conversation Mr. Elias, on behalf of the Congressman, declined the OIG's request that the interview be under oath and that the interview be tape-recorded. Mr. Elias' recollection, however, is that he declined the OIG's request that the interview be tape-recorded, but that no request was made for the interview to be under oath. Given the differing recollections about whether oath-taking was discussed during this pre-interview conversationand the fact that we have no documentation to reflect the outcome of that conversationwe believe the more appropriate approach is to not treat Congressman Becerra's interview as one where taking an oath was refused by the witness.
Mr. ASHBAUGH. Let me say this as background. We did standard interviews of the INS employees. When we got to the district directors and deputy district directors, we sought to put them under oath and in some cases to tape record the interviews. So we probably put close to 100 or 200 people under oath during the course of the investigation, but not every witness. Of those whofrom the White House who did not consent to being put under oathwell, actually one of the people that we sought to interview under oath was Congressman Becerra. He declined to go under oath. Carol Rasco of the White House and Stephen Warnath of the White House. I believe those are the witnesses.
Mr. SMITH. I would like to get the complete list from you this week, but thank you for stating those names.
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The OIG submitted 49 questions to Vice President Gore. The Vice President, through his attorney, grouped questions together and provided only 16 replies to the 49 questions. In the 16 replies, Vice President Gore claimed 11 times that he, ''does not recall'' or ''does not remember'' certain meetings or documents. He also claimed 10 times that he ''does not believe'' that he was aware of certain meetings or documents. In fact, every one of his 16 replies contains one or more of these phrases. Is that generally correct to the best of your knowledge?
Mr. ASHBAUGH. I have not done the count, but I accept the characterization.
Mr. SMITH. I did the count, and every one of those 16 replies contained one of those phrases.
Didn't you request that the Vice President attest to the truth of his answers, but no attestation was made?
Mr. ASHBAUGH. That is correct.
Mr. SMITH. My conclusion is that given the lack of cooperation by these officials, the American people have every right to be suspicious of their motives and actions. In my opinion, the suspicion that there was an attempt to use a government agency for partisan political purposes is justified. That concludes my questions; and I will yield to the ranking member, Ms. Jackson Lee, for her questions.
Page 118 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. JACKSON LEE. Thank you very much. Thank you, Mr. Ashbaugh, for your presence here and the very extensive report. I started off on a very positive note this morning because I certainly thought any time we have an opportunity to improve a system we all should. As I listened to my friend, colleague, and chairman, it proceeded to engage in partisan politics, and certainly we have lifted this to the level of presidential politics so let me go right to the heart of the matter.
Mr. Ashbaugh, as a personal question, are you a citizen of the United States of America?
Mr. ASHBAUGH. Yes.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. I believe I am as well. I have not checked any documentation recently, but is it something that you value?
Mr. ASHBAUGH. Very much.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Likewise I value it as well.
As I understand your conclusion at the very beginning was that the CUSA program was clearly to reduce the dialogue of theor the backlog as opposed to the question of political gimmickry or voter registration for November 1996? Have I departed from your interpretation?
Mr. ASHBAUGH. No, that is the correct conclusion. I would go a step further. I believe that the state of the backlog situation in the naturalization program was so extreme that any Commissioner of either party in any year, electoral or not, would have had to address the backlog situation.
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Ms. JACKSON LEE. I thank you for that, and let me clarify again and you did make the point that several of those that you sought to do a direct interview with asked or either responded in writing as opposed to a direct interview which included the Vice President of the United States who now happens to be a Presidential nominee.
Can you tell me, did you conclude that Vice President Gore's National Performance Review program did not pressure Citizenship USA to lower its naturalization standards to the point that INS naturalized convicted criminals on a regular basis? Was that entity, meaning the Vice President's National Performance Review program intimately involved in encouraging, affirming, allowing, the naturalizing of convicted criminals?
Mr. ASHBAUGH. No. I am sorry, the reason that I am hesitating, there were a couple of negatives in that question.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. I can repeat the question, or if you wish to explain your answer.
Mr. ASHBAUGH. Did we find that the role of NPR, the Vice President's office led or encouraged the naturalization of people with criminal records, the answer is no we did not. We did, though, show that the general haste that INS brought to that program had an effect in terms of both criminal history, good moral character and competency to be a citizen. All of those features.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. That is a fair assessment because why we are here in an oversight hearing is to look at the overall picture, whether or not the actions fall under a Democratic administration or a Republican administration, we are, in a bipartisan fashion, trying to fix the INS. That is why we were hoping to get the restructuring bill. Let me see if we are tracking your recommendations. Let's focus on this adjudication process. You found the greatest difficulty with the adjudication process, the number of staff, the training, is that where you found the greatest weaknesses; and will you expand on that for us, please?
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Mr. ASHBAUGH. It is hard to pick out which is the greatest flaw in this program. I guess I would go back in and say it is a little more elemental. I think the fundamental problem and the recurring theme that you see in many places in this program is the failure to prepare the people and plan the processes before implementing the project. I would characterize it as tardy preparation followed by hasty implementation.
The design and implementation of the national data entry center, the training program for adjudicators, the off-site adjudications initiative, off-site places for doing interviews, the fingerprint clearance center, we found a host of features to this program that simply were started before they were designed. They were started before the people were ready to fulfill their responsibilities to implement them. And I think that is a larger problem and a more thematic answer than simply to focus on the training issue. That was simply one.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Is that the 10-minute bell?
Mr. SMITH. The gentlewoman is recognized for an additional 2 minutes, and then we will need to go vote.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Thank you.
That focuses on the oversight and the operational aspects of the INS. Even though you have expanded it, the auxiliary organizations and where the intake was taking place, you are suggesting that there were overall problems that had to be confronted on this issue?
Page 121 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. ASHBAUGH. Yes.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Was there concerted maliciousness that you found in your review among INS officials to clearly urge this process toward the 1996 elections? Was there intent to gear this program of either fast tracking or solving this backlog problem with the direct pointing toward the 1996 elections?
Mr. ASHBAUGH. No, there was not. And as the chairman quoted, there was a concern on INS' part to keep this out of politics.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Did you document further the comments of my colleague, Mr. Berman, who was very open and forthright about his interest in this area and Ms. Lofgren, did you document that there was an enormous backlog dealing with individuals legitimately and legally in great honesty waiting in line to be naturalized?
Mr. ASHBAUGH. Yes, we did.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Can you recall the numbers?
Mr. ASHBAUGH. No, but listening to Congressman Berman, the numbers that he was reciting sounded very familiar to me. The backlog was indefined in terms of years, not in terms of months. And the additional pressures that it generated, the huge growth in the backlog, the legalization program and the special agricultural workers program, are both described in the report.
Page 122 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. JACKSON LEE. Let me ask you the largeness of the problems. If you had to look at the large picture you went in to investigate, what was ballpark percentage of the numbers of faulty, failing, naturalization processes? If you had to look at a pie, how much error did we have?
Mr. ASHBAUGH. We discuss that in the report and we conclude that it is not possible to count or to quantify the number of errors, but I have to tell you that we believe absolutely that people were naturalized who were not eligible as a result of the compression and the deficiencies in the CUSA program.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Let me conclude. I see the light is on. Let me focus again, big, big pie. We know there were errors, big, big errors. A small portion thereof, something to consider or 90 percent of those naturalized were criminals let out into the United States of America?
Mr. ASHBAUGH. That is a fair question and an impossible one for me to answer. I do not want to be an alarmist. I do not want to unfairly stigmatize all of the people who did get citizenship. But there was an extraordinary level of risk thatand that I think we have documented in the report that existed so that mistakes could be made, so that uninformed approvals could be granted, and that is all I can say. There was an extraordinary level of risk, but we really can't say and it would be wrong for me to try to guess.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Let me say thank you very much. What you are suggesting is that we have concerns that need to be fixed. My understanding is that there are about a million naturalized and under 20 percent might have fallen in that category. I do not want to stigmatize individuals either. I think it is important to say that we did not send out into the United States huge numbers of convicted criminals into the unsuspecting public. We have something to fix, and we should fix it. I thank you very much. That should be the crux of what we are doing today.
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Mr. SMITH. We will return to that risk you were talking about, Mr. Ashbaugh, after a 15-minute recess to go vote.
Mr. SMITH. The subcommittee will reconvene. Mr. Ashbaugh, your report references a number of occasions where NPR acknowledged the ''ridiculously loose fingerprint system'' used by the INS, but you also concluded that ''NPR officials focus on accelerating the pace of naturalizationswhile giving all too little thought to the quality of adjudications, even though they recognized obvious weaknessesimposed additional stress on a process that, even without their intervention, was substantially flawed.'' Isn't it fair to say that even if NPR did not affirmatively desire to naturalize criminals, on the other hand they didn't care if it happened or they were reckless of the rules that would have prevented it from happening?
Mr. ASHBAUGH. I am not sure that I am going to be able to answer your question. You may want to follow-up.
But I think the fundamental criticism that we have with respect to the loose fingerprint observation
Mr. SMITH. I think you are going off on a different track. Let me follow up with this. We do not know whether or not the officials intended to naturalize individuals who were criminals. Obviously they didn't say that one is an individual who has a criminal background, let's naturalize him anyway. At the same time you can't say for sure that they were not aware or couldn't reasonably conclude that the process could have that result?
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Mr. ASHBAUGH. They clearly providedrecognized that there was a problem with the fingerprint process. But the scope, I do not know.
Mr. SMITH. Clearly the consequences of the problem to a reasonable person, is that there will be persons who are naturalized and have criminal backgrounds; isn't that the case?
Mr. ASHBAUGH. I think that is correct, thank you.
Mr. SMITH. Thank you. During Citizenship USA, the INS approved about 1.1 million naturalization cases. In other words, these people were approved for citizenship. KPMG conducted a review and found that more than 180,000 individuals, about 18 percent, did not have their criminal histories checked by the FBI. I know that the ranking member, Mr. Conyers, mentioned that KPG found that only 1 percent had disqualifying criminal records; but that 1 percent was only a sample of those who had their fingerprints checked, those 850,000, it did not include the 180,000 whom I just referenced?
Mr. ASHBAUGH. You lost me. I thought the reference was to the smaller number of people that KPMG had eventually identified as presumptively ineligible.
Mr. SMITH. That was not necessarily the whole universe of individuals who might have been disqualified.
Mr. ASHBAUGH. That is correct.
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Mr. SMITH. And that was still over 11,000 people who should not have received citizenship because of their criminal background. One percent can be a lot of thousands is my point.
Mr. ASHBAUGH. Yes, it can.
Mr. SMITH. Let me go back to that 18 percent. Of the ones who did have background checks, the Justice Department decided about 6,300 had criminal histories that justified their being referred to the INS for possible denaturalization. To the best of your knowledge is that correct?
Mr. ASHBAUGH. Yes. Referring to the administrative denaturalization?
Mr. SMITH. Yes. Again, that is not the whole figure of individuals who would have been disqualified, that is just some of the hard-core, but that is still a substantial number.
Mr. ASHBAUGH. Excuse me, that is a very high bar to have to meet in order to satisfy the legal standard for denaturalization, and it is an artificially small number in our judgment because we believe that had the adjudication process been done more completely and competently and with better information, that there would have been, as I said in my earlier testimony, additional people who would have been denied approval. But having received the approval, it is harder to revoke the naturalization, and so you are dealing with different thresholds.
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Mr. SMITH. Exactly. That is my point. That was an artificially low number, as high as that number might be. I think you might have answered my next question. But the 6,300, we have seen that many of these individuals who should have been deported and not made citizens have since then committed additional crimes and continue to be a risk to the lives and well-being of U.S. residents. I am asking you to speculate on that, but it is common sense that a lot of these individuals would go on to commit additional crimes.
Mr. ASHBAUGH. As you say, it is speculation.
Mr. SMITH. But also common sense.
Mr. ASHBAUGH. I suppose so, yes.
Mr. SMITH. I will take suppose so for a yes.
Part of the problem was due to the presumptive policy. Under this policy, the INS assumed an applicant did not have a criminal history if they were not notified by the FBI within a certain number of days. How did this presumptive policy contribute to the naturalization of deportable criminals?
Mr. ASHBAUGH. I think that has been laid out completely in the KPMG studies as well as in our own discussion. But
Mr. SMITH. Just give me a brief answer.
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Mr. ASHBAUGH. The brief answer is that INS assumed if a certain period of time had passed, then that could be treated as a negative response to the question, did the applicant have a criminal history? On the basis of that presumed negative response they would then proceed to process the application.
Mr. SMITH. Had the INS been warned in 1994 by the GAO and the OIG of the likely consequences of having such a policy?
Mr. ASHBAUGH. Yes, they had.
Mr. SMITH. And the Attorney General eventually ordered an end to the process in November 1996; is that correct?
Mr. ASHBAUGH. I am sorry, I do not think that is correct. I believe that was an INS proposal to end
Mr. SMITH. I thought the Attorney General on the recommendation of the INS did order an end to the policy in November 1996?
Mr. ASHBAUGH. I am sorry. There was a period of time when INS proposed to do away with fingerprints. I thought you were asking about that. That was very brief and was quickly reinstated. You are correct, the Attorney General, in 1997, did abolish the presumption policy.
Page 128 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. SMITH. Let me go on to a couple of other questions and then recognize the other members of the subcommittee. The last sentence in your conclusion about the criminal background checks says it all: ''the evidence shows that INS' representations concerning Citizenship USA processing, like the fingerprint checking procedures themselves, were wholly unreliable.''
Mr. Ashbaugh, you have also said that the Citizenship USA program was ''poorly managed,'' that the INS was ''negligent'' and ''reckless'' and guilty of ''malfeasance.'' Are those quotes accurate? Did you use those words?
Mr. ASHBAUGH. Did I say malfeasance?
I am sure that you have got the quotes, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. SMITH. Thank you. They sound familiar; do they not?
Mr. ASHBAUGH. Yes, they do.
Mr. SMITH. Just for the record, according to Webster's Dictionary, ''malfeasance'' means a ''wrongdoing, especially an illegal act performed by one in public office.''
Mr. Ashbaugh, looking at the INS' management of Citizenship USA, would I be wrong in describing it as deficient in ability? It shouldn't take that long to get an answer to that.
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Mr. ASHBAUGH. You know that is a very tough question, though. We see so many problems in INS. We see bad judgments, we see poor communications. We see institutional and systemic problems.
Mr. SMITH. My question was
Mr. ASHBAUGH. But when you look at the people who are in the positions over there, they are trying awful hard. Many of them are very good souls.
Mr. SMITH. My question is regarding Citizenship USA, was the INS management deficient in their ability?
Mr. ASHBAUGH. In the collective sense yes, they were.
Mr. SMITH. Thank you. By the way, deficient in ability is the definition of incompetent, which is what we are seeing too much of. From what you have seen and read, have you encountered any other agency that is more deficient in management than the INS? You have looked at other agencies yourself. Has any other agency been as poorly run or managed as the INS; and if so, what agency would that be?
Mr. ASHBAUGH. My vantage point is confined officially to the Department of Justice. If you had asked me that question 5 years ago, I probably would have said the Federal Emergency Management Agency was as defective as any.
Page 130 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. SMITH. And what would you say today?
Mr. ASHBAUGH. I would say today that FEMA, FEMA, has actually shown that there is hope for other agencies, that you can turn around and improve an agency.
I would say that the Bureau of Indian Affairs is right up there with INS.
Mr. SMITH. Either that or right down there with INS.
My last question is this: Am I correct in thinking, as I look at the totality of the report, that you are disappointed with the INS' performance and frustrated that they didn't take obvious steps to protect the integrity of the citizenship process?
Mr. ASHBAUGH. I am very much so. There is a quote in the report that resonates throughout my thinking about INS; and it was an observation by a gentleman who said, ''If we waited until we were ready, we would never start,'' because so often as we looked through the citizenship program, we saw instances in which they started before they were ready. The difficulty and the frustrationI call it business practices, just rudimentary ways in which you teach your employees what it is they are expected to do, and then you make sure that they have got the basic capabilities to accomplish it. That is, to me, the frustration in INS. It just never brings things to completion. So the answer is yes, I am frustrated. I have been the Deputy Inspector General for a decade in the Department of Justice, and our office spends more time looking at INS than any other agency. And an IG's office should be able to fix an agency, and we have not been able to do it. It is extremely frustrating.
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Mr. SMITH. I appreciate your testimony. The gentleman from California, Mr. Berman, is recognized for questions.
Mr. BERMAN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
You described the situation that existed about this time let's say around 1995 in the context of backlogs that kept people from being naturalized for 3 years after they were eligible to be naturalized as ''unconscionable.'' Is my recollection correct?
Mr. ASHBAUGH. Yes.
Mr. BERMAN. Did Congress provide the resourcesparticularly at a time of a huge effort to try and reduce the backlogsadequate to allow the processing of these naturalization applications? Let's say in fiscal year 1995 or fiscal year 1996?
Mr. ASHBAUGH. As you all know, INS has had unprecedented growth in its budget. A lot of that money has gone to border patrol and border enforcement. INS has historically underresourced its low-grade clerical support administrative personnel, and I am referring to a JMD report in 1992 or 1993.
Mr. BERMAN. Let me make sure that I understand. Mr. Smith likes to repeat your words in the form of a question.
Page 132 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Congress underfunded support functions of the INS?
Mr. ASHBAUGH. No, I didn't say that. I said INS has historically underfunded it. In other words there is how much money Congress gives to INS. That has continued to increase. The second question is where does it go.
Mr. BERMAN. Congress has given money to INS for massive increases in border patrol, in some cases interior enforcement, and for a variety of specific allocations. We have a historic immigration process which produces, after a period of time, applications for naturalization. We had a massive bump in that application process. Did Congress appropriate funds adequate for that specific purpose?
Mr. ASHBAUGH. I do not know the answer to that, Congressman. The point I wanted to draw, though, was if you look at, for example, the Los Angeles service center and the problems that it had with A files, criminal history of the applicant, much of that could be traced to the fact that it didn't have the low-level people who were supposed to chase down files and keep them organized and keep them locatable and to keep new material inserted into them and keep them up to date and just those kinds of problems.
Mr. BERMAN. The Los Angeles service center which is an abomination.
Mr. ASHBAUGH. If I can finish my answer to the question, and I do not want to interrupt your question, but in addition to that, you have the need for adjudicators. That is a whole different level. First off, you have to get the paper, you have to get the data to the right people and part of the reason that A files and rap sheets and all of the rest of that stuff doesn't make it to the right focal point at the right time in this process is because of this support staff problem. The adjudicator, the number of adjudicators, and I can't tell you whether that was understaffed prior to CUSA, but certainly they couldn't build up momentum which came as a result of reprogramming that Congress approved. There was additional funding that came in October, I think in October and January, October 1995 and January 1996, that Congress did provide for the purpose of beefing up naturalization.
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Mr. SMITH. Would the gentleman yield.
Mr. BERMAN. Yes.
Mr. SMITH. I want to go back to your original question because you were implying that Congress had not provided INS with sufficient funds to speed up the naturalization process. To the best of my knowledge, Congress provided every single dime that the INS requested for naturalization, and even gave more in some instances than it requested, so it was not Congress' fault. It may have been the INS' failure to request sufficient funds.
Mr. BERMAN. That is a fair point. I do not know if it is an accurate point, but it is a fair point.
Mr. SMITH. The gentleman's time has expired. The gentlewoman from California, Ms. Lofgren, is recognized for her questions.
Ms. LOFGREN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Just a couple of things. In reading through the report, clearly you have described a process that sort of matches the rest of the performance of the agency, but I think that your conclusion which is that the evidence certainly does not support the contention that CUSA was created for narrow partisan gain nor does it support a claim that the White House and the NPR hijacked the program to bend it toward such an electoral gain is an important conclusion.
Page 134 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Having said that, I would like to move on to progress on how we might improve this agency because as I said in my opening statement, I still have people who are waiting 3 and 4 years. I went down to Pope John the XXIII Center in downtown San Jose and there are hundreds of elderly people who are still waiting. These are not criminals, they are little old people who are waiting; and they do not understand. Frankly, I am at a loss to explain to them why it should be this way. When you look at these elderly people, some of them have had their fingerprints taken over and over again because they are timed out after a certain period of time and so you have got people in wheelchairs and with canes standing out in the rain, they havewaiting for the office to open and if they are not there by a certain time they are turned away, at 10 a.m. and they have to come back the next day to have their fingerprints taken over and over again. So the question that I have is not that we shouldn't do criminal checks, I do not object to that, but the fingerprints never change.
What I do not understand is why, if you have a computer system, we are now doing electronic fingerprints which can be transmitted directly to the FBI, why aren't those fingerprints saved so that little old people on crutches do not have to go back over and over again to have the same set of prints taken.
I recently received sort of an interim report on the computer system on the INS, and I was stunned to learn that it is DOS. I mean, it is DOS. And the plan to spend millions of dollars to upgrade it at the end of that expense it is still going to be DOS, not even Windows 1995. I am wondering what thoughts do you have about being able to retain electronically the fingerprints? What can we do using technology to bring this agency, not in the 21st century but into the last decade of the 20th century would be a big improvement?
Page 135 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. ASHBAUGH. You are asking me a question that is outside of the confines of the report.
Ms. LOFGREN. Yes, but you have looked at
Mr. ASHBAUGH. Yes, but I should be cautious about simply opining. I do not know the reason for the expiration rule on fingerprints.
Ms. LOFGREN. I do. If a new crime was committed, you want to be able to catch that. I do not object to that. What I do object to is having the same set of fingerprints taken over and over again when, if you get a good set once, they do not change.
Mr. ASHBAUGH. It might be a concern if the person who is in front of them at the desk is the person who the fingerprints belong to and therefore
Ms. LOFGREN. I do not believe that is the case. That has never been told to us by the INS because you would have that for the first set. If that were the problem, that would be equally a concern with the first set.
Mr. ASHBAUGH. Then let me bow out because I think you know more about it than I do.
Ms. LOFGREN. I am particularly interested in the computer systems. I have asked several Silicon Valley companies as well as the science committee staff members to look at the plan and a recent report just did this as a favor. It says in the report as of last July, the Inspector General determined that INS still does not adequately manage its automation programs. It is similar to the IG's finding in the interim report about the computer system, so I assume that you would bemaybe wrongly that
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Mr. ASHBAUGH. No, that is quite right. That was a very critical report of their management of automation, but it did not touch on the question that you are asking about this fingerprint situation.
I will try to inquire and find out more about that, but I won't be able to respond here.
[The information referred to follows:]
QUESTION: Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren asked why INS apparently discards applicant fingerprints after six months, thereby requiring applicants to obtain new fingerprints in order to have their applications processed. In addition, she asked about INS's computer systems as they relate to the naturalization process.
ANSWER: While most Applicant Support Centers (ASCs) take fingerprints electronically (including the one in the Congresswoman's district in San Jose, CA), INS does not store the information for long periods of time. Once the electronic fingerprints are transmitted to the FBI (usually within a few days of when they are taken), INS maintains the electronic fingerprints only until a response is received from the FBI, which, according to the INS, is usually within 90 days. Thus, when an applicant's fingerprints expire after 15 months, the applicant is sent a letter indicating that he/she must return to the ASC to be fingerprinted again. Although the technology is available to store the fingerprints electronically for longer periods of time, the INS, as a matter of policy, has yet to decide that it is in the best interest of the Service and its constituents to store and reuse electronic fingerprints.
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DISCUSSION: INS has 129 ASCs across the country. Most are equipped with one of two types of electronic fingerprinting machines that are called ''live scan'' machines. Both machines are designed to meet the criteria required by the FBI's electronic fingerprint reading system known as the ''Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System'' or ''IAFIS.''
The first machine used by the INS at its ASCs is made by a company called IDENTIX. The machine looks like a fancy copy machine. An applicant's fingers are pressed on a glass plate and the machine records the fingerprint image electronically. That image is then printed onto a fingerprint card. The fingerprint cards are sent by the ASCs to the Service Centers, where they are scanned in order to capture the electronic image that is printed on the fingerprint card. Those electronic images are then sent to the FBI.
The second machine used by the INS is made by a company called Digital Biometric Inc. or ''DBI.'' These machines, which also look like fancy copy machines, capture the fingerprint image electronically but are capable of sending the electronic image directly to the Service Center, which is responsible for sending the electronic fingerprints to the FBI.
INS is in the process of replacing the IDENTIX machines with the DBI machines and is scheduled to have completed these replacements in all of the ASCs within the next few months. The ASC in San Jose was scheduled to have the DBI machines installed on September 25, 2000.
Neither the ASCs nor the Service Centers retain the electronic images of the fingerprints, nor do the Service Centers store the fingerprint cards that are printed from the IDENTIX machines. The Service Centers store the electronic fingerprints only until a response is received from the FBI which, according to the INS, is usually within 90 days. INS receives the FBI responses through a computer system known as FBI Tracking, which notifies the INS of whether the applicant does not have a record (a ''non-ident''), whether the applicant has a record (an ''ident''), or whether the fingerprints could not be used for a full fingerprint comparison (''unclassifiable''). If the applicant has a criminal history, the Service Center receives the ''rap sheet'' electronically in the format of a text file, which is then printed at the Service Center and inserted into the applicant's file. INS does not yet have the capability of making the electronic ''rap sheet'' a part of the applicant's electronic case file in its CLAIMS computer system, the system used by the INS to process naturalization and other applications.
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Because INS does not store the electronic fingerprints for long periods of time, an applicant whose fingerprints were taken more than 15 months prior to the applicant's interview for a benefit must have his or her fingerprints taken again by the ASC.
Ms. LOFGREN. That is fair enough. I just would note to be blind, and this isn't really directed to you but to the timing of this discussion and some of the questions directed by the Chair would be foolish. We are in the middle of a Presidential election. I think it is quite obvious that there has been an effort to drag this mess into the Presidential election. It has nothing to do with that as your conclusion has pointed out.
I do hope and I frankly think we would be better off if we had a hearing on computer systems in the INS and actually try to get some improvement in the Agency. It is a mess. It was a mess when Republicans were President. It has been a mess while this President has been President. The Agency is a mess. We need to have modern business systems put into play and we never had that hearing and I am frustrated that we have not.
Mr. SMITH. Thank you, Ms. Lofgren. I want to pass along an unsolicited compliment to the gentlewoman from California. For as long as I have been chairman of this committee, she has been unstinting in her efforts to try to reform the INS using high technology. This befits a Congresswoman who represents the district that she does; we appreciate your doing so, and I happen to agree with you on those efforts.
We welcome the gentleman from Virginia, appreciate his attendance at this hearing, and recognize Mr. Goodlatte for his questions.
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Mr. GOODLATTE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you for holding this hearing. I apologize for not getting here sooner. I would like to follow-up on the questions asked by the gentlewoman from California.
First, following the Citizenship USA which I understand ended in late 1996, what has become of the backlog for naturalization applications?
Mr. ASHBAUGH. I do not have a current number for that. I should have gotten it in preparation for a question like that. My impression is that the backlog has grown again, that CUSA was able to achieve some decrease in the backlog but because of the care that INS is now taking with respect to the NQP initiative, that the backlog probably has grown.
I also think when we talk about backlog, we should worry not just about naturalization backlog but the adjustment of status backlog. I read in the newspaper the other day that there is a class action suit which has been filed because of delays resulting from the address of that kind of an application.
So I think there is a tendency and we saw it and we described it in the report, INS pulled a great many people away to attack the backlog in naturalizations, but as a result of that the comparable attention to adjustments of status, that is the application for the green card declined.
Mr. SMITH. Mr. Goodlatte, would you yield. I just want to point out that there has been progress made on that backlog in recent months, and I think that backlog has been reduced considerably compared to several years ago. I do not know the numbers
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Ms. LOFGREN. Would the gentleman yield. Backlog of what, adjustment or naturalization?
Mr. GOODLATTE. I am talking about naturalization.
Mr. SMITH. The naturalization is what we were talking about. Thank you.
Mr. ASHBAUGH. I am sorry, it sounds like you have more recent information.
Mr. GOODLATTE. If you can get that and provide that to the committee.
[The information referred to follows:]
QUESTION: Congressman Goodlatte asked for information on the INS's current naturalization backlog.
ANSWER: According to the INS, at the end of July 2000 the Service's naturalization pending level was 947,224 down from 1,355,524 at the beginning of the fiscal year. The INS said that they are projecting an ''end-of-the-year pending backlog'' as low as 750,000.
Page 141 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. GOODLATTE. Secondly, there has been a trend in the immigration service which I think is positive to centralize the record keeping. One of the problems I observe, and the gentlewoman from California may have found this as well, I think we are the only two Members of Congress who practiced immigration law before elected to Congress, the same people responsible for processing the applications were responsible for maintaining the filing system.
They were maintaining each district office around the country; and in the pressure to get a file, respond to it, process it on, the filing system was taking a hit. They were not so careful in putting that file back as they were finding it in and getting it and working it. There has been a movement to centralize the record keeping. One of those facilities is in my district, one is in Missouri which is a national record keeping center, and one in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Have you found that to be a helpful thing because the people in these record keeping centers, they only have one job and that is to make sure that the documents are filed properly, and if the communication system that Ms. Lofgren advocates, modernized computers were in place, you would in many instances never have to move those files from those locations. But now as it is at least when they are moved out, they are sent to the person adjudicating and sent back in an ordinarily fashion and the filing to me has improved. I wonder if you might comment on that.
Mr. ASHBAUGH. I can't comment on it in the context of the report. The whole notion of a centralized system evolved after the period we were studying. I have talked to Mr. Collison who used to be in charge of information technology at INS, and I remember him describing the notion of solving the problem of trying to find these files and trying to keep them up to date by doing it as a centralized facility and eventually to evolve to a relatively paperless kind of system.
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When we looked at the direct mail process, we did see some benefits from trying to centralize receipt of the paper that eventually gets into the file. In the report we found that INS had not solved the problem even when they attempted to centralize management of the files in service centers, of keeping them current and available to the districts when they needed them, and that contributed to the CUSA problem. Given more time to prepare, it is possible that a centralized system might be a solution.
INS, as Congresswoman Lofgren pointed out, has difficulty with their information technology systems and their implementation and so a dependency on a paperless A file mechanism may be down the road a piece, but it is not today's answer.
Mr. GOODLATTE. No, it is not; but centralization to me is the first step toward a paperless system because only when you have complete control over your filing system can you convert it to a computerized system. If they are spread out amongst scores of local offices around the country, it seems to me they can never have a system that you can reliably say that we now can be assured that the paper is on file.
The other question that I have is, I and the chairman and other Members of Congress have supported legislation to split the immigration service between its enforcement responsibilities and its application processing responsibilities, and I am wondering what you think about that as a way to enhance the process that people go through who are lawfully applying for various immigration statuses?
Mr. ASHBAUGH. That is a very broad question for me to try to answer off the cuff. Let me say a couple of things.
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The Citizenship USA program was by and large a set of deficiencies that only existed in the service side of INS. Splitting INS wouldn't have solved the systemic kinds of problems that existed in the service center side. You would still have them.
It is possible, but I would be just speculating but I will point it out anyway, it is possible that had the service side had more resources of the full share, that some of the Citizenship USA problems that we found could have been either diminished or eliminated. That is speculation.
The other thing that I would observe is that both sides of the house depend upon an awful lot of information that is shared, the A files being a prime example of that.
Mr. GOODLATTE. That is another argument for the argument centralization of the record keeping because those centralized offices could serve two separate agencies or an agency clearly divided.
Mr. ASHBAUGH. Most of the proposals do seem to encompass some kind of third element that is going to preserve and ensure the availability of those shared and very highly dependent systems and information so that they would be available to both of the twin organizations that come out of it. But it is critical and that is something that we do observe in the report.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Page 144 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. SMITH. Thank you, Mr. Goodlatte. As we conclude our hearing, without objection I would like to make a part of the record an article from the Wall Street Journal, dated August 23, 2000 by David Schippers, titled ''Abusing the INS,'' and I want to reassure the gentlewoman from California that this is about Citizenship USA and not the impeachment process.
[The information referred to follows:]
Ms. LOFGREN. Would the gentleman yield. The issue is where was the information obtained? Although there were vague references at the outset of Mr. Schippers' book, it looks to me that he actuallyat least the question is, I do not want to reach a conclusion, the question is whether he illegally took information that was held under seal that wethat you and I are prohibited from discussing; and that is a serious question.
Mr. SMITH. Reclaiming my time. I appreciate the point, but that is unrelated to the point of the article. I think the article is a very good one and, to the best of my judgment, an accurate one.
The gentlewoman from Texas is recognized for comments.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Thank you very much.
First of all, I thank the chairman for this hearing. And I want to follow-up with Mr. Ashbaugh, and then I will concluded.
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Mr. SMITH. I have a conflict that began 5 minutes ago.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. And likewise.
Mr. SMITH. If you have additional questions, we will recess and come back at 1.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. I would like to make one statement and I will get my questions. May I just clarify this for the record?
Mr. SMITH. Yes.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Thank you. It is noteworthy, and I think I might have been the culprit to bring Mr. Schippers' article to the chairman's attention. Let me add my ditto to the gentlewoman from California's inquiry. Let me read a quote from the Schippers' article dated August 23, 2000 and simply ask you to say whether this is true or not. ''Al Gore put the heat on to naturalize a million aliens considered likely to vote for the Democrats in 1996 and never mind if they had criminal records.''
Was this your findings in any conversations, inquiry by written questions, or follow-up with the Vice President of his involvement in this particular matter?
Mr. ASHBAUGH. I think the answer to your question is no. If you look at our appendix, you will see that the Vice President's answers do not in any way support that proposition.
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Ms. JACKSON LEE. And your findings do not support that proposition?
Mr. SMITH. If the gentlewoman would yield, you didn't find one thing or the other. So saying that you didn't find that he intentionally did it doesn't mean that it wasn't done?
Mr. ASHBAUGH. If we found support for an allegation as serious as the one contained in that newspaper
Ms. JACKSON LEE. You would have stated it? And it was not stated?
Mr. SMITH. My point is that doesn't mean it did not occur.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Chairman, if you would yield
Mr. SMITH. The Vice President refused to answer questions and refused to say what he said was true. There is no way to know one way or the other except by the evidence that the report presents and the evidence has, as you pointed out, pointed to mixed motives.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. I am going to let Mr. Ashbaugh answer the question. He clearly said if he found such a serious allegation he would have stated it in his report and he did not. So I want, for the record Mr. Schippers's misleading, misdirected article to be so noted as you put it in the record, that the statement that Al Gore put the heat on to naturalize a million aliens was not supported by your report, Mr. Ashbaugh; is that correct?
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Mr. ASHBAUGH. Yes, it is.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Thank you. So this failing article can be put into the record for the circular file.
Mr. SMITH. It is a matter of opinion. I think that this accurate, and I think that is also open for opinion.
Mr. Ashbaugh, when you talked about mixed motives of the Vice President, those mixed motives, could they not have included the desire by him and his staff to register individuals in time for the 1996 election?
Mr. ASHBAUGH. There was discussion of at least three motives. That was one of them. The second was we have a broken program and we are
Mr. SMITH. My question is, one of the motives could have been the desire to
Ms. LOFGREN. Mr. Chairman, I would ask that the witness be allowed to answer the questions you are posing.
Mr. SMITH. I'm sorry. My question is, one of the motives of the Vice President and members of his staff, could have been to expedite the process of naturalization so that individuals would be naturalized and registered to vote in time for the election? That could have been one of the motives, could it not have been?
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Mr. ASHBAUGH. I think the report is presenting the field of choices, and I am reluctant to speculate or to be attributed as attributing a motive. What we have attempted to do in the report is to lay out the evidence so you can make those judgments.
Mr. SMITH. When you referred to mixed motives, that clearly could have been one of the motives involved?
Mr. ASHBAUGH. Yes.
Mr. SMITH. Was the answer yes?
Mr. ASHBAUGH. Yes.
Mr. SMITH. The gentlewoman from Texas.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Chairman, cross-examinations can take all kinds of expanded interpretations. For fear of taxing you to the ultimate limits, Mr. Ashbaugh, you have spent 10 years as Deputy Inspector General of the Department of Justice; and I suspect you are concerned about astuteness, detail and preciseness. If your report or if your research and evidence and investigation found specific documentation to support the fact that the Vice President engaged in an effort to push the INS to naturalize a million aliens as this particular article suggests for the 1996 Democratic or the presidential elections, would you have so stated?
Mr. ASHBAUGH. I am having trouble with your question, but I also feel as if thewhat we have attempted to do in our report, and both of you seem to want to use the report to make a point that has to do with your own political concerns, I do not want the report to be a political football.
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Ms. JACKSON LEE. Neither do I. State what you believe the report does.
Mr. ASHBAUGH. We have tried to lay out all of the evidence that we have that relates to any of the motives that might have pertained. I want to emphasize to you that there were several. It was not simply electoral gain in the context of trying to get a million new voters, there was also an obligation to present voters to reinvent government and to fix broken government, and there was an entire entity, the NPR, which irrespective I think but maybe not of anybody's political motives, was attempting to deal with broken government and trying to devise new ways for it to operate.
The two people that were assigned from NPR to work on CUSA were career civil servants, one from the Department of Defense and one from the Office of Government Ethics. Neither of those two people, even though they did make some political observations, as far as we know had any genealogy that could be traced to politics and election kinds of activities.
So I say again to you I understand you want to try to pin me down on this, but try to understand that this is a full report in front of you that is going to do a far better job of setting forth precisely what we found and what we decided.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Let me thank you, Mr. Ashbaugh, for adhering to your principles as I am adhering to mine which are simply to reaffirm what the report said and what it did not. I believe you have answered it appropriately, that the language of Mr. Schippers's article was not in the report and therefore we should not suggest or allude to the fact that it was implied. With that I yield back the balance of my time.
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Mr. SMITH. Mr. Ashbaugh, I will echo part of what the gentlewoman said which is there is a lot in the report for a lot of people to see.
I appreciate especially your ''yes'' answer to my last question. With that, we stand adjourned and thank you again for your report.
Mr. ASHBAUGH. Thank you.
[Whereupon, at 12:15 p.m., the subcommittee was adjourned.]
(Footnote 1 return)
Approximately two years later, INS again ran computer inquiries to determine the total number of persons naturalized. This time, INS identified 1,109,059 persons who had naturalized during CUSA, 59,192 more than originally identified (the net increase represented 71,413 new cases identified, minus 12,221 cases originally identified as having naturalized but that were eliminated as a result of the second inquiry). The reasons for the error were not further explored by either JMD or the OIG, but we speculate that the information about the additional cases was recorded in the automated systems after INS had provided the data on which the original ''universe'' of CUSA cases had been based.
(Footnote 2 return)
Our work also included interviews of people who did not work for the federal government, including many representatives of community-based organizations (CBOs).
(Footnote 3 return)
''Currency'' in naturalization processing meant that an eligible applicant could be sworn in as a citizen within six months of filing the naturalization application.
(Footnote 4 return)
INS' off-site testing program was abolished in August 1998.
(Footnote 5 return)
As we explain in our chapter on naturalization interviews and adjudications, this misunderstanding stemmed from an erroneous interpretation of the confidentiality rules of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA). Information in applications for adjustment of status under IRCA's amnesty provisions was not to be used to deport the applicant in the event the adjustment of status was denied. The application was segregated in the applicant's file under a red sheet to alert the file user to the presence of confidential material. An overbroad interpretation of IRCA's confidentiality provisions led four of five Key Cities to adopt a policy that the material under the red sheet was not to be reviewed in conjunction with a naturalization application.
(Footnote 6 return)
The two prongs of the naturalization interview were bifurcated at El Monte, with applicants first tested by officers, then, if successful, the applicants advanced to the naturalization interview.
(Footnote 7 return)
As we describe in our chapter on file policy and practices, some districts did require that the applicant file be located before the applicant was naturalized. However, efforts to find the file could occur only after the naturalization interview, during the post-approval period between the interview and the naturalization ceremony. The Key Districts during CUSA allowed adjudicators to conduct naturalization interviews using only temporary files that typically contained only the N400 and a printout concerning the applicant's record in the Central Index System (CIS).
(Footnote 8 return)
As explained in our report, INS did not intend to eliminate its presumptive policy until some unspecified time in the future when its fingerprint process was more highly automated. In fact, even without the improved automated processes, INS abandoned the presumptive policy at the request of the Attorney General in November 1996, in the wake of the congressional hearings concerning CUSA.
(Footnote 9 return)
The FCCC continued to process fingerprint checks for other, non-naturalization applications.
(Footnote 10 return)
The failure to reveal a criminal history could indicate that the applicant provided false testimony at the interview or was otherwise not a person of ''good moral character,'' even if the conviction was not presumptively disqualifying.
(Footnote 11 return)
One year later, the Los Angeles District identified an additional 1,500 rap sheets pertaining to CUSA applicants that had not been reviewed before naturalization.
(Footnote 12 return)
An outside consulting firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP (PwC), evaluated the naturalization process and issued its final report on June 30, 1999. That report is discussed in our ''Conclusions and Recommendations'' chapter. In that report, as in other INS documents, the improved, redesigned naturalization process is referred to as ''reengineered.''
(Footnote 13 return)
INS had advised the OIG of its proposed policy change, and we advised INS of our concerns. INS recently advised the OIG that because of our response, the policy has not been implemented and is under review.
(Footnote 14 return)
NQP4 also applies to those applications that may have been filed before October 1 but for which initial interviews took place on or after November 1, 1998.
(Footnote 15 return)
INS published the NQP4 memorandum of June 5, 1998, as an appendix to the Adjudicator's Field Manual. INS has also published subsections of chapters other than the chapter on naturalization, including two subsections concerning adjustments of status.
(Footnote 16 return)
NQP4 spells out A-file transfer procedures in detail. It describes how to make initial requests for A-files, how to interpret ''mismatch'' reports concerning the CLAIMS/CIS computer interface that is used to order A-files, and how to ''resolve'' those reports. The procedures are labor-intensive. For example, if a service center already ''owns'' or is in possession of an A-file that had been requested through the CLAIMS/CIS interface, the file number will appear in the ''mismatch report.'' (In other words, it cannot be ordered by the inter-office file-ordering computer system because the computer system shows that it is already located at the file control office that is ordering the file.) NQP instructs the service center employee to request the A-file through RAFACS (the intra-office file-ordering system) and note the request on a clerical processing sheet (presumably attached to a temporary file). If the file is not received within 30 days, a second request must be sent to the party shown in RAFACS to be ''holding'' the file and a second note must be entered on the processing sheet. If the file is not received within 30 days of the second request, a third request must be sent. On this occasion, a screen printout of the third RAFACS request must be forwarded to the person shown in RAFACS as the ''responsible party'' then in possession of the file. The Clerical Processing worksheet must be initialed to reflect that the third request has been made.
(Footnote 17 return)
As Commissioner Meissner had testified in May 1997, the Department of Justice engaged KPMG Peat Marwick to ''validate if the new NQP . . . were correctly implemented.'' KPMG reviewed NQP implementation at some INS offices in February and March 1997 and issued a report on that review in April 1997. KPMG reviewed the implementation of NQP3 in other offices in August 1997 and issued a report in September 1997. KPMG followed this review with an audit at 24 INS field sites, including the four service centers, 11 district offices, and 9 CUSA offices. KPMG issued the audit report in December 1997. KPMG conducted another audit, and issued subsequent reports, in the summer of 1998 and the spring of 1999.
(Footnote 18 return)
Because INS has not developed standards in this area, it cannot provide applicants much guidance concerning the evaluation they will undergo. The ''Eligibility Worksheet'' published with INS' ''A Guide to Naturalization'' directs the prospective applicant through a series of statements, and if the applicant indicates ''not true'' in response to any statement, the worksheet directs the applicant to ''stop,'' and notes, ''you are not eligible to apply for naturalization.'' Statement number nine is, ''I am a person of good moral character.''
(Footnote 19 return)
Whether the crime of spousal battery may preclude the applicant from naturalizing depends on how the crime is defined under state law. In California, for example, the crime is defined as ''willful infliction of traumatic injury on a spouse,'' and, because of the ''willfulness'' element, has been found to be a crime of moral turpitude. A person is ineligible for naturalization if he or she has been convicted of a crime of moral turpitude within the statutory period, although an exception is made if the applicant only committed one such crime and it was a misdemeanor for which the applicant's jail sentence was less than six months.
(Footnote 20 return)
We note that NQP4 dictates that an officer ''must not [emphasis in original] conduct the interview in the applicant's native language as a means of completing the interview unless the English requirement is waived.'' This is more restrictive than current law which, under the provisions concerning ''History and Government examination,'' permits the examination to be conducted in the applicant's native language if the applicant ''has satisfied the English literacy requirement . . . but the officer conducting the examination determines that an inaccurate or incomplete record of the examination would result if the examination on technical or complex issues were conducted in English.''
(Footnote 21 return)
INS naturalized 369 persons with disqualifying criminal histories during CUSA according to KPMG's review of the 1,049,867 naturalized cases then identified by INS.
(Footnote 22 return)
The requirement that disposition records be in the file before adjudication does not speak to the importance of the thorough review of those disposition records, or to the possible need to ask the applicant questions concerning information the records reveal. We presume that INS intends by such a requirement that the disposition records will be reviewed by adjudicators who are trained to recognize issues that require further exploration, and who have the discretion to reschedule the applicant for a supplemental interview if necessary. However, without specific guidance in this regard, adjudicators could comply with the letter of this rule without conducting any meaningful review.
(Footnote 23 return)
Applicants with positive ''bio-check'' responses may be scheduled for interview but not for ceremony unless the third agency information, or documentation of its unavailability, is obtained and in the file. An officer must verify that such applicants have established ''good moral character'' despite the information available as a result of the bio-check.
(Footnote 24 return)
The exact nature of a ''police clearance'' is not defined in NQP4 or in INS' Policy Memorandum No. 60 concerning the requirement of a police clearance for applicants who failed to submit legible prints. We infer that it is some confirmation by the appropriate law enforcement agency that the applicant does not have a disqualifying criminal history record.
(Footnote 25 return)
INS' proposed policy change also reflects the lingering misunderstanding at INS about the nature of the ''check'' a rejected, unclassifiable fingerprint card has undergone. As we noted in our chapter on criminal history checking procedures, when the FBI returns an unclassifiable fingerprint card to INS with the notation ''no record based on name-check,'' this does not mean that the applicant has no criminal record. It means instead that the fingerprints on the submitted card were of insufficient quality to allow definitive comparison to the fingerprint cards on file at the FBI. The applicant whose fingerprint card is returned as unclassifiable may have several potential ''hits'' as the result of the name-check process, but no criminal history report will be generated and sent to INS unless the FBI can confirm that the fingerprints on the submitted card match the fingerprints on the card on file.
(Footnote 26 return)
INS submitted this proposed policy change to the OIG for review before implementation. We noted our objections as described here. As a result, INS has not implemented the proposed policy.