AILA Comments on Certification of Designated Outside Entities to Take Fingerprints

June 9, 1995
Policy Directives and Instructions Branch
Immigration and Naturalization Service
425 I Street NW, Room 5307
Washington, D.C. 20536
Attn: Public Comment Clerk

Re: Comments to Proposed Rule on Certification of Designated Outside Entities to Take Fingerprints, INS No. 1666-94

Dear Clerk:

We have read the INS Proposed Rule concerning Certification of Designated Outside Entities (DOE) to Take Fingerprints, published in the Federal Register, Vol. 60, No. 93, on May 15, 1995. We would like to take this opportunity to make some comments to this rule, as provided by law.

First, we applaud INS' efforts to establish procedures to institute control and oversight of the fingerprinting process. As the INS is well aware, the business of fingerprinting aliens for immigration benefits has ballooned in direct correlation to the decisions by local INS offices to discontinue fingerprinting applicants. This in turn has created a pool of small businesses, usually located within close physical proximity to an immigration office, which derive a profit from providing information to the INS by charging the applicants for their services.

Some of these new business are producing quality, reliable fingerprints at reasonable prices. Other business are doing substandard work at outrageous prices. Since the INS relies on the information given by applicants to determine if they are in fact eligible for immigration benefits, it is imperative that the information be accurate and therefore reliable. Furthermore, we believe it is critical that applicants not be abused by private businesses in their efforts to provide the required documentation as part of the process to apply for benefits they are legally and properly entitled to receive.

In the interest of ensuring that the INS and the public will receive appropriate information, services and prices from DOEs taking fingerprints, we would like to suggest some additional requirements to be included as part of your rulemaking in this matter.

1. Prohibit Violation of Section 292 to Qualify for Designation

We suggest that Section 103.2(e)(6)(i) be amended to include a provision which would require the DOE to sign a statement saying it will abide by Service Regulations in Section 292, in addition to Section 103. Section 292 of the regulations of the INS prohibit anyone who is not an attorney or accredited representative to be authorized to practice before the INS by giving advice in connection with any immigration matter. We suggest that DOE applicants be required to agree to refrain from the unauthorized practice of law, as defined by 292, in order to be qualified to receive DOE certification. This requirement could be included as one of the questions on the Application for Certification, Form I-850.

2. Clarify Purpose of DOE Designation

We suggest that Section 103.2(e)(6)(xiii) be amended to provide that the Attestation (Form I-850A) given to the fingerprinting applicant state that the DOE designation does not qualify the DOE to give advise on eligibility of immigration benefits. This would presumably discourage DOE's of violations of 292 and also inform the public as to the limited purpose of a DOE designation, that is to regulate the entities who charge for services in taking fingerprints.

3. Obtain List of Other Services Offered by the DOE Applicant

We suggest that Section 103.2(e)(8) be amended to require the DOE to give a description of the types of immigration services it intends to offer to applicants, in addition to the taking of fingerprints. For example, DOE applicants should list in the Application for Certification if they will also be charging for taking pictures, providing translations, notarizing signatures, and completing immigration forms. This information will assist the INS in determining if the DOE applicant is exceeding the certification authority being given and is engaging in a violation of 292.

4. Make Public Record of Application of DOE Applicant

We suggest that Section 103.2(e)(8) be amended to require the DOE Application of a certified applicant be made available to the public upon written request to the local District Director. This requirement will allow competing DOEs to supervise the activities and employees of other DOEs with whom they are in competition. This will result in a sort of self-policing mechanism for DOEs.

5. Confirm Free Retakes on Applicants' Fee Receipt

We suggest Section 103.2(e)(6)(vii) be amended to include a statement on the fee receipt that the applicant's prints will be retaken for free should the DOE initially fail to take legible and classifiable prints. Printing this notice on the fee receipt for payment of the service will allow the applicants the maximum opportunity to be notified of their right for free reprints. In addition, this proviso will encourage the DOE to take acceptable prints the first time the effort is made.

6. Bond Requirement

We suggest Section 103.2(e)(6) be amended to include the requirement that a $500 bond be paid by the DOE to the INS prior to receiving certification. This provision would be similar to the bond required of a construction contractor for obtaining a state license to perform services. The purpose of the bond would be to assure the public of an ability to recover costs should the work of the DOE provider be inadequate. Should the INS receive complaints from applicants of the DOE's failure to retake free prints, or complain of repeated poor retakes, the INS would not only be able to revoke the DOE's certification but would also be able to provide money to the public to be able to purchase classifiable prints elsewhere.

We hope these comments will receive serious consideration before publication of the final rules regarding the certification of fingerprint providers. Our suggestions have been made in the interest of securing quality service to INS while protecting the public from unscrupulous fingerprint providers.

If there are any questions, we would be happy to respond or provide greater clarification of the points made in this letter. Thank you for your attention.

Charles Kuck,
Carlina Tapia-Ruano,
AILA Consumer Protection Authorized Representation Committee

cc: AILA Executive Board

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 95060999.