Correction: A previous version of this story misidentified the parent organization of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency, which is the House Homeland Security Committee.
The Electronic Immigration System deployed by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in May 2012 has done little to ensure that USCIS processes immigration benefits accurately and efficiently, according to testimony by Department of Homeland Inspector General John Roth given before the House Homeland Security Committee's Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency.
In general, USCIS has made little progress over the last decade in regard to automating its paper-based processes, and there is little confidence in USCIS' estimates for completing the program transformation, Roth said in a report released March 16.
The ELIS software only allows for customers to apply online for two of 90 immigration benefits (accounting for less than 10 percent of the agency's total workload) and, even then, the system was deemed not to be user-friendly and missing critical functionality. In addition, the system has resulted in nearly 20,000 green cards issued with erroneous information or incorrect expiration dates, as well as 200,000 reports of approved green cards either delivered late or believed lost. This has posed significant risks and burdens for the agency.
ELIS has not assisted certain performance metrics being met, according to the report, and the time and cost for full implementation of the system to achieve its workload processing, customer service and national security goals is now expected to take three more years and an additional $1 billion.
A management alert has been issued strongly recommending ELIS not be used for the N-400, Application for Naturalization benefits processing until identified system problems are resolved to avoid significant operational and security issues that could lead to incomplete or inaccurate background and security checks, as well as widespread certificate printing problems that delayed numerous naturalization oathing ceremonies.
Deficiencies have also been found in USCIS' use of fingerprint records and the security of USCIS' Systematic Alien Verification System for Entitlements. This has or could lead to naturalizing individuals who may be ineligible for citizenship or who may be trying to obtain U.S. citizenship fraudulently, as well as allowing a deportable, erroneously cleared individual to receive benefits ranging from public assistance to a driver's license or even credentials such as transportation worker ID credentials.
The IG plans to continue auditing USCIS capabilities and pilots to identify variables impacting error reduction and program integrity.
The complete report can be viewed on the DHS OIG website.