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Friday, October 7, 2022

GAO Report Fuels Debate Over the Admin’s Failure to Address Asylum Fraud

GAO Report Fuels Debate Over the Admin’s Failure to Address Asylum Fraud Homeland Security TodayA new Government Accountability Office (GAO) audit report stated the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of Justice (DOJ) need to conduct regular fraud risk assessments, and that “DHS, among other things, implement tools for detecting fraud patterns, develop asylum-specific guidance for fraud detection roles and responsibilities and implement timeliness goals for pending termination reviews.”

DHS and DOJ concurred with GAO’s recommendations.

GAO reported that the total number of asylum applications, including both principal applicants and their eligible dependents, filed in Fiscal Year 2014 (108,152) is more than double the number filed in FY 2010 (47,118).

As of September 2015, GAO said the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has a backlog of 106,121 principal applicants, of which 64,254 have exceeded required time frames for adjudication.

USCIS told GAO it plans to hire additional staff to address the backlog.

USCIS and DOJ’s Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) “have limited capabilities to detect asylum fraud,” GAO’s audit report said. “First, while both USCIS and EOIR have mechanisms to investigate fraud in individual applications, neither agency has assessed fraud risks across the asylum process, in accordance with leading practices for managing fraud risks. Various cases of fraud illustrate risks that may affect the integrity of the asylum system.”

For example, GAO noted that “an investigation in New York resulted in charges against 30 defendants as of March 2014 for their alleged participation in immigration fraud schemes; 829 applicants associated with the attorneys and preparers charged in the case received asylum from USCIS and 3,709 received asylum from EOIR.”

“Without regular assessments of fraud risks,” GAO stated, “USCIS and EOIR lack reasonable assurance that they have implemented controls to mitigate those risks. Second, USCIS’s capability to identify patterns of fraud across asylum applications is hindered because USCIS relies on a paper-based system for asylum applications and does not electronically capture some key information that could be used to detect fraud, such as the applicant’s written statement.”

GAO auditors said asylum officers and USCIS Fraud Detection and National Security (FDNS) Directorate immigration officers conceded “that they can identify potential fraud by analyzing trends across asylum applications; however, they must rely on labor-intensive methods to do so. Identifying and implementing additional fraud detection tools could enable USCIS to detect fraud more effectively while using resources more efficiently.”

“Third,” GAO said, “FDNS has not established clear fraud detection responsibilities for its immigration officers in asylum offices; FDNS officers we spoke with at all eight asylum offices told GAO they have limited guidance with respect to fraud. FDNS standard operating procedures for fraud detection are intended to apply across USCIS, and therefore do not reflect the unique features of the asylum system. Developing asylum-specific guidance for fraud detection, in accordance with federal internal control standards, would better position FDNS officers to understand their roles and responsibilities in the asylum process.”

“To address identified instances of asylum fraud, USCIS can, in some cases, terminate an individual’s asylum status,” GAO’s audit report continued, adding that, “USCIS terminated the asylum status of 374 people from fiscal years 2010 through 2014 for fraud. In August 2015, USCIS adopted a target of 180 days for conducting initial reviews, in which the asylum office reviews evidence and decides whether to begin termination proceedings, when the asylee has applied for adjustment to lawful permanent resident status; however, this goal applies only to a subset of asylees and pertains to initial reviews. Further, asylees with pending termination reviews may be eligible to receive certain federal benefits. Developing timeliness goals for all pending termination reviews would help USCIS better identify the staffing resources needed to address the terminations workload.”

In response to GAO’s audit findings, House Committee on the Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) said, “This new GAO report adds to mounting evidence that the Obama administration refuses to take the steps necessary to crack down onasylum fraud and protect the integrity of our immigration system. We already know that there is proven or possible fraud in up to 70 percent of asylum applications, yet the administration hasn’t implemented procedures to identify and prevent fraud in the system.”

Goodlatte said, “The effective rubberstamping of asylum applications is one of the root causes of the ongoing border surge and it also carries with it serious national security concerns. Terrorism experts agree that the asylum process is a vulnerability that terrorists have and will continue to exploit to gain entry into the United States.”

In March, the House Judiciary Committee approved the Asylum Reform and Border Protection Act (HR 1153) which would strengthen asylum standards “to prevent the Obama administration’s rubberstamping of fraudulent claims” effectively ending “catch and release,” and preventing “American taxpayer dollars from being used to pay for unlawful immigrants’ lawyers.”

Homeland Security Todayhttp://www.hstoday.us
The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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