Cite as "AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 02022259 (posted Feb. 22, 2002)"
AILA STATEMENT OF THE AMERICAN IMMIGRATION LAWYERS ASSOCIATION
The GAO Misses Opportunity and Issues Flawed Report
General Accounting Office recently issued a report, Immigration Benefit
Fraud: Focused Approach Is Needed
to Address Problems. GAO
undertook this investigation at the request of Representatives James
Sensenbrenner (R-WS) and George Gekas (R-PA).
They asked the agency to review information on the nature and extent of
immigration benefit fraud at the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).
is no place in the INS or in any agency for fraud. Immigration benefit fraud threatens the integrity of the
legal immigration system. It cannot
and should not be tolerated. Like the GAO, many, with reason, have found fault
with INS management. Certainly, there is much room for improvement, with the INS
needing to undertake reforms that will make the agency effective, efficient, and
fair. The Administration’s INS
reorganization plan is a step in the right direction, and will address many of
the concerns the GAO raises.
all want an agency that works, and works well. However, any investigation of
fraud must be conducted fairly and use methods that are above question. Based on
these criteria, the GAO has failed. Its
report presents opinions as facts, makes no attempt to corroborate allegations
raised, and portrays the INS’s successful efforts at fraud detection as
examples of a broken system. In fact, the report really is two reports: one
reporting on alleged fraud based on uncorroborated opinions, and the other
focusing on changes in procedures that would be beneficial for any agency.
report repeatedly cites opinion as fact and appears to fault the INS when
the agency successfully detects fraud, suggesting that, because the agency
has found fraud, such fraud is pervasivePhrases such as “one official told us,”
“views of INS officials,” “district
officials told us” and similar attributions are repeated throughout the
report, with anecdotal data treated not only as fact, but as pervasive fact.
In addition, when citing to various instances of fraud throughout the
report, the GAO, instead of crediting the INS for having mechanisms in place
that have been successful in uncovering such fraud, criticizes the agency
for the existence of the problem. The
GAO could have concluded instead that current INS procedures to detect fraud
are, indeed, working. At the
very least, these procedures are not as ineffective as the GAO alleges them
to be. Finally, the report’s tone and conclusions do not reflect what the
GAO itself admits, that the “estimates provided by INS supervisors and
managers were not based on scientific studies.”
The GAO has raised serious charges.
Such charges need to be based on fact, not allegations or conjecture. There
is room for improvement in any agency, especially the INS, but any successful
reform must be guided by accurate data.
GAO report reinforces the need for an INS headed by someone with clout and a
reorganized agency that coordinates the two functions of enforcement and
adjudications. While not focusing
extensively on INS reorganization, the GAO emphasizes the importance of
coordination in a reorganized agency that separates the enforcement from the
adjudications function: “Organizational
crosswalks would need to be devised to assure that the two primary functions
were still being effectively coordinated and balanced, that is that the
enforcement concerns were considered in performing service functions and
vice versa. Our intention is that these primary functions be coordinated and
balanced, regardless of how the agency is structured.”
The agency’s recommendations also support the need for one person
at the top who has the authority to coordinate all activities and goals.
Such coordination achieved both through the person in charge and
through the structure of the reorganized agency is critical throughout the
of Adequate Funding for Adjudications: The
GAO report was silent on one of the most critical issues needing to be
addressed: the importance of
adequate funding for the INS in general, and adjudications in particular.
While the GAO criticizes the agency for doing too little to combat
immigration benefit fraud, the Service has not received adequate funding to
undertake this task in a comprehensive and effective manner. Especially in
this time of enhanced security, the INS needs the funding and technology
that are critical for the agency to do a good job. The report also raises
concerns about the INS’s ability to balance its dual responsibilities of
application processing and fraud detection, and states that “unless INS
can devote additional resources to processing applications, its efforts to
expedite application processing will mean that the quality of adjudication
will most likely be sacrificed.” Again,
the most effective response to this concern is adequately funding the agency
so that the competing goals of quality and timeliness can be achieved. Such
funding must come from direct congressional appropriations that would
supplement user fees.
- Importance of Enterprise Architecture and
Information Technology: The
GAO report recognizes the importance of agency-wide case tracking,
information technology, and management capability to help ensure the
effective use of resources, and that necessary coordination occurs and
accurate immigration benefit decisions are made in a timely manner. The INS,
recognizing that the agency could achieve these goals through enterprise
architecture and information sharing, was moving in those directions even
before September 11. Since that
date, the Service has accelerated work in those areas, which will help
ensure the quality of adjudications as well as enhance our security efforts.
Once again, adequate funding will be critical to the ability of the
Service to develop and implement the needed improvements.