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Memorandum Audit Report
Report No. 97-16
Office of the Inspector General
|MEMORANDUM FOR||STEPHEN R. COLGATE
ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL
JUSTICE MANAGEMENT DIVISION
|FROM:||MICHAEL R. BROMWICH
|SUBJECT:||MEMORANDUM AUDIT REPORT, 97-16 -- Immigration and Naturalization Service Data Input Procedures, State of New York Complaint|
This memorandum presents the final report prepared by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), Audit Division, on the Immigration and Naturalization Service's (INS) Data Input Procedures based on a complaint by the State of New York. The report was discussed with your staff and they concurred with our findings. Our objective, scope, and methodology are contained in the Attachment.
The State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP) is funded through the Office of Justice Program's (OJP) Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA). The purpose of the program is to reimburse states and localities for the cost of incarcerating illegal aliens convicted of felony offenses. For FY 1995, SCAAP reimbursed the states about $130 million. Generally, the INS' function in processing a SCAAP reimbursement request was as follows:
In July 1996, the New York Department of Correctional Services (NYDOCS) complained that for FY 1995, it had not received full reimbursement from OJP for its incarcerated illegal aliens. The NYDOCS believed that INS was not tracking aliens housed in state institutions, and was not updating the INS CIS and DACS databases in a timely manner. Therefore, New York officials believed they were under-reimbursed.
In response to the complaint, the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General requested that a SCAAP Working Group (SWG) look into the NYDOCS complaint. The SWG, under the direction of the Counsel to the Deputy Attorney General, was comprised of members from the Justice Management Division (JMD), BJA, and INS. The SWG requested that JMD take the lead in addressing the INS automation related issues. The group generally agreed that the INS' failure to verify all of NYDOCS' alien inmates claimed was not due to systems-related problems with the INS databases; rather, there appeared to be problems with the management of INS' data input procedures. The OIG was also asked to review the issue and our results follow.
For FY 1995, New York requested reimbursement for 3,979 inmates. OJP reimbursed the state approximately $13 million for 2,390 inmates (60 percent). The reimbursement for the 2,390 inmates was based on INS' matching of 1,514 eligible illegal aliens and allowing an additional 876 inmates, based on the standard formula for inmates whose statuses were unknown.
We asked New York officials what criteria they used to submit names to OJP for reimbursement and were told that they generally submitted inmates with INS alien numbers (A-numbers). However, INS officials stated that not all aliens with A-numbers were eligible for reimbursement because many were legal resident aliens. In our judgment, this is one reason why NYDOCS was not reimbursed to the extent it had anticipated. Another reason was that INS' CIS and DACS databases did not contain current Institutional Hearing Program (IHP) information.
The IHP is a nationwide program that allows INS investigators to interview incarcerated criminal aliens at mostly state institutions to determine whether they are deportable. INS stated that during FY 1996, its agents interviewed 23,367 state prison inmates under the IHP in California, Texas, New York, Florida, and Illinois. If an inmate is determined deportable through the IHP, INS lodges a detainer with the institution, instructing officials to release the inmate into INS custody at the conclusion of the inmate's sentence. The goal of the program is to deport criminal illegal aliens immediately upon completion of their sentences and to avoid additional detention costs to INS.
The IHP process requires INS agents to perform background analyses on alien inmates, conduct inmate interviews, and prepare documents necessary for deportation hearing proceedings. We estimated that the processing time to complete an Order to Show Cause (OSC)1 can range from 17 to 399 days, depending on the complexity of the case. Although there is a wide variance in time for completing the entire OSC process, we found that agents should generally be able to determine an inmate's alien status within 1 to 2 weeks after the inmate interview.
We also found that, prior to the SCAAP, there was not a high priority for INS to enter the statuses of incarcerated criminal aliens, based upon the IHP, into the CIS and DACS databases. Generally, INS data transcribers entered alien data into CIS when it was received from the investigative agents; however, the data did not always include alien status. Detention and Deportation docket clerks entered alien data into DACS upon receiving the inmate alien files from the investigative agents, which is after the completion of all IHP investigation related tasks. Therefore, INS systems did not contain up-to-date information on the statuses of all aliens incarcerated at state institutions because of the time lag in data entry. The lack of current data in INS' databases could have contributed to INS concluding that the status of an inmate was unknown during the SCAAP matching process.
Changes in Procedures for FY 1996 SCAAP Reimbursements
We identified three areas where changes in procedures were implemented for the FY 1996 SCAAP. Each improved the inmate matching process. First, New York did not resubmit previously determined "ineligible" inmates in its 1996 request.
Second, the INS IHP Director for New York implemented a policy to enter alien information into CIS soon after an inmate's interview.
Third, prior to officially submitting inmate names for reimbursement, NYDOCS provided the INS IHP Director in New York with a list of inmates that it intended to submit for SCAAP. The NYDOCS requested that INS update the CIS to ensure current data for matching purposes.
The CIS updating project significantly reduced the number of unmatched names for NYDOCS. Review of the FY 1996 SCAAP application showed that New York reduced the number of inmates for which it requested reimbursement. The published awards indicated that the State of New York was reimbursed for approximately 97 percent (2,384/2,462) of the names submitted. The higher FY 1996 reimbursement rate is a contrast to the 60 percent reimbursement rate for FY 1995.
The State of New York was reimbursed for approximately the same number of criminal aliens in FYs 1995 and 1996 (about 2,400). The overall dollar reimbursement was about $13 million in FY 1995 and about $47 million in FY 1996.2 The percentage of aliens reimbursed versus aliens submitted was vastly different for the 2 years (60 percent in FY 1995, 97 percent in FY 1996). We attribute the increased reimbursement rate to: (1) inmate names determined ineligible for reimbursement in FY 1995 were not submitted for FY 1996, and (2) INS' CIS records were updated prior to INS' FY 1996 inmate matching process.
Based upon our review and analysis, we believe the problem identified in New York has been corrected. Therefore, we offer no formal recommendations in this report and consider the issue closed. We do, however, plan to test controls over SCAAP reimbursements nationally during our ongoing audit of the SCAAP.
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If you have any questions or would like to meet to discuss this report, please contact me on (202) 514-3435 or M. Thomas Clark, Regional Audit Manager, San Francisco Regional Audit Office, on (415) 876-9220.
OBJECTIVE, SCOPE, AND METHODOLOGY
The audit was performed in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. However, we may not be considered by others to be completely independent of INS as required by the standards, because INS has reimbursed us for work that pertained to INS fee-supported programs. The Office of Management and Budget and the Department of Justice (including the OIG, the INS, and the JMD) disagree with INS funding our work and are attempting to have the funds appropriated directly to the OIG. In FYs 1996 and 1997, the OIG received $5 million for fee-related audits, investigations, and inspections. The dollar amount funded approximately 14 percent of the total OIG staff positions. Nonetheless, we consider ourselves independent and do not believe that our reimbursement arrangements with INS have had any effect with regard to our conduct of this audit. Our objective was to review management of data input procedures identified in the NYDOCS complaint.
We discussed the complaint with NYDOCS officials in Albany, New York. We also interviewed INS officials at the district offices in New York and San Francisco, and documented the IHP interviewing, processing, and data input procedures. Our review work in the districts included on-site work at the Downstate Correctional Facility in New York and San Quentin Prison in California, to observe and document the IHP interview process at these state intake centers. Our review did not include any assessment of compliance with laws or regulations.