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Friday, July 19, 2024

OIG: Improvements to Asylum Seeker & Noncitizen Screening Required by DHS

OIG releases report: DHS Needs to Improve Its Screening and Vetting of Asylum Seekers and Noncitizens Applying for Admission into the United States.

The Office of Inspector General (OIG) recently released a report detailing how and why the the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) needs to make improvements to the way it screens asylum seekers and noncitizens applying for admission into the United States.

The report indicates that DHS’s technology, procedures and coordination are not fully effective for screening and vetting non citizens applying for admission into the U.S., nor asylum seekers with applications pending for an extended period.

Through its audit, the OIG uncovered four significant challenges that must be addressed in order to reduce the risk of dangerous or potentially dangerous individuals entering or remaining in the United States.

  1. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) being unable to access all biometric data for complete screening and vetting, despite deploying new technology to enhance traveler processing
  2. Variations in CBP’s traveler inspection practices at land points of entry (POE)
  3. CBPs not having the required technology to collect biometrics from travelers arriving in vehicles at land POEs
  4. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) not performing interim screenings of asylum applicants during prolonged adjudication periods.

With these challenges in mind, the OIG concludes that DHS must have effective technology and procedures in place, and coordinate closely with partner agencies to maintain secure borders and prevent dangerous persons from entering the country among the 870,000 passengers pedestrians entering the United States daily.

The report states that CBP is at risk of allowing criminals, suspected terrorists, or other nefarious actors into the country, due to working without full access to all federally held data, and effective screening and vetting capabilities.

In addition, the OIG suggests that DHS is at risk of allowing “asylum seekers with derogatory information” to remain in the country for extended periods without permanent legal status, due to a lack of capable technology and adequate resources for continuous interim screenings.

In response to its findings, the OIG has made five recommendations to improve DHS’ screening and vetting of asylum seekers and noncitizens.

  1. Office of Biometric Identity Management (OBIM) to work with the Department of Defense (DoD) to develop and implement a plan to address restricted Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS) data access.
  2. Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Commissioner of CBP to develop a policy to implement a risk management process for situations where primary name queries of every traveler are not operationally feasible.
  3. The Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Commissioner of CBP to continue technology testing until a suitable solution for performing biometric matching at land POE vehicle lanes is found.
  4. USCIS to update screening requirements for delayed adjudications and implement a process to continuously monitor asylum applicants pending adjudication past 180 days.
  5. USCIS to develop and implement a plan to automate security checks for asylum applicants, which includes cost estimates.

In response to OIGs recommendations, DHS concurred on all four counts and provided details of intended actions, which include collaboration between OBIM, the DHS Office of Strategy, Policy, and Plans (PLCY) and DoD to overcome data access restrictions; testing potential biometric capture solutions to find a viable solution, or combination of solutions; and automating certain security check processes for asylum applicants. 

Key Stats:

  • USCIS received almost 242,000 applications for asylum in FY 2022
  • 20,221 applicants received favorable first screenings but generated hits in follow ups 
  • 54 % of completed affirmative asylum applications filed between Oct 2017 – Mar 2023 were not adjudicated within 180 days
  • 29 supervisors consistently directed subordinate officers to query only drivers
  • 154 officers queried only vehicle drivers, 104 (68 %) did so monthly or more often

Read the full report here.


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