Department of Homeland Security (DHS) IT systems have not effectively supported Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) visa tracking operations, and ICE personnel responsible for investigating in-country visa overstays pieced together information from dozens of systems and databases, some of which were not integrated and did not electronically share information, according to a new Inspector General (IG) audit report.
The IG said, “Despite previous efforts to improve information sharing, the DHS Chief Information Officer (CIO) did not provide the oversight and centralized management needed to address these issues. Additionally, ICE did not ensure that its field personnel received the training and guidance needed to properly use the systems currently available to conduct visa overstay tracking.”
“Further,” the IG found, “the department lacked a comprehensive biometric exit system at US ports of departure to capture information on nonimmigrant visitors who exit the United States.”
And, “Without a complete exit system, DHS relied on third-party departure data, such as commercial carrier passenger manifests, to confirm a visitor’s departure from the country. However, these commercial sources occasionally provided false departure or arrival status on visitors,” the IG said in his report.
“Because of these systems and management limitations,” the concluded, “DHS could not account for all visa overstays in data it annually reported to Congress. Manual checking across multiple systems used for visa tracking contributed to backlogs in casework and delays in investigating suspects who potentially posed public safety or homeland security risks.”
GAO made three recommendations to the DHS CIO and two to the ICE CIO to improve information sharing, provide training and guidance, evaluate data reliability and implement a biometric exit solution.
The DHS CIO and ICE CIO concurred with GAO’s recommendations.
Similarly, the Government Accountability Office has issued nearly ten audit report on problems in tracking and accounting for visa overstays. Homeland Security Today reports on this problem can be found here.
President Trump’s March 6 Executive Order, Protecting The Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into The United States, directed the Secretary of Homeland Security to expedite the completion and implementation of a biometric entry-exit tracking system.
This “report confirms once again that the issue of visa overstays is a problem and it has been for years,” said House Committee on the Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA). “The fact is that visa overstays cannot be fully tracked without a biometric exit system.”
“Visa security is a matter of national security, and it is imperative that we know who is coming to our country and when they leave so that we protect American citizens and our interests,” Goodlatte stressed. “To strengthen both national security and the integrity of our immigration system, Congress mandated a biometric entry-exit system over 20 years ago, but administrations of both parties have failed to fully implement it. Fortunately, President Trump and his administration are fully committed to swiftly completing this much needed tracking system. I look forward to working with DHS Secretary John Kelly to ensure he has the tools needed to complete this long overdue system.”