The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) continues to struggle to ensure proper Green Card (Permanent Resident Card) issuance, a new Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Inspector General (IG) audit report concluded. The audit was conducted as a follow-up to a March 2016 audit in which the IG disclosed USCIS had sent potentially hundreds of Green Cards to the wrong addresses.
“It appears that thousands of Green Cards have simply gone missing. In the wrong hands, Green Cards may enable terrorists, criminals and undocumented aliens to remain in the United States,” said Inspector General John Roth.
The audit clearly warned that, “Improperly issued Green Cards pose significant risks and burdens for the agency. Errors can result in approved applicants being unable to obtain benefits, maintain employment or prove lawful immigration status. In the wrong hands, Green Cards may enable terrorists, criminals and illegal aliens to remain in the United States and access immigrant benefits. It is vital that USCIS ensure better tools and procedures are in place to mitigate such risks.”
“The majority of the card issuance errors were due to the flawed design and functionality problems in the agency’s Electronic Immigration System (ELIS),” IG reported in its new audit, noting that. “The delays and cost overruns of the ELIS system have been documented in previous IG reports. Although USCIS conducted a number of efforts to recover the inappropriately issued andmissing cards, its efforts to address the errors have been inadequate.”
According to the IG’s new audit, while “USCIS is responsible for secure and accurate issuance of immigration benefits … our March 2016 report identified weaknesses in USCIS’ ability to effectively carry out its national security and system integrity goals. Specifically, we disclosed that USCIS had sent potentially hundreds of Green Cards to the wrong addresses due to an ELIS limitation that prevented USCIS personnel from updating customer addresses. We also reported USCIS was unable to identify the exact number of cards sent to the incorrect addresses. New information regarding the scope and volume of improperly issued Green Cards received after publication of our previous report prompted initiation of this current audit.”
“In fact, the problem was far worse than originally thought,” according to the IG. “Over the last 3 years, USCIS produced at least 19,000 cards that included incorrect information or were issued in duplicate. Additional mistakes included over 2,400 immigrants approved for 2-year conditional residence status being inadvertently issued cards with 10-year expiration dates. The agency also received over 200,000 reports of cards potentially misdelivered, or not being delivered to approved applicants.”
"Based on our analysis of the data provided, we determined approximately 13,000 cards were printed and issued with incorrect personal information, such as the wrong name or date of birth. Additionally, over 6,200 duplicate cards were sent out to individuals who should have each received only one card," the IG’s audit found.
Although USCIS conducted a number of efforts to recover the inappropriately issued cards, “these efforts also were not fully successful and lacked consistency and a sense of urgency,” the IG stated.
Also known as the Permanent Resident Card, the ID serves as evidence that its holder has been officially granted immigration benefits, including permission to reside and seek employment in the United States. In Fiscal Year 2015, USCIS issued nearly 2.1 million Green Cards. Multiple USCIS program offices and directorates participate in Green Card processing and mailing.
The cards contain numerous built-in security features designed to prevent fraud and remains valid for either 2 or 10 years, depending on whether the individual is granted conditional or permanent residence status.
The IG said, "It should be noted that although the number of errors remains a concern, it represents a small percentage of the total number of Green Cards issued by the agency each year. For example, in FY 2015, card errors accounted for .48 percent of roughly 2 million cards that were produced and mailed. Also, the individuals who received incorrect cards in these instances had followed the
proper procedures and security checks and thus were legitimately approved to
become permanent residents."
Nevertheless, the IG concluded, "the number of errors has increased steadily over the past 3 years."
USCIS works with other DHS components, such as Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and other law enforcement agencies to prevent card misuse after issuance.