DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE

OFFICE OF THE INSPECTOR GENERAL

INSPECTION REPORT

 

ALIEN FINGERPRINT REQUIREMENTS IN

THE IMMIGRATION AND NATURALIZATION SERVICE

 

February 1994

Report Number I-93-13

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

EXECUTIVE DIGEST

INTRODUCTION

Objective

Scope and Methodology

Background

RESULTS OF THE INSPECTION

Necessity of Alien Fingerprint Checks

Need for Fingerprint Checks

Options

Use of profiles

Officer discretion in submitting fingerprint cards

Conclusion

Controls Over Applicant Fingerprints

Recommendation

FBI Arrest Record Reports

Timely Receipt of Arrest Reports from the FBI

FBI Arrest Reports

Recommendation

Resubmission of Unclassifiable Fingerprints

APPENDIX I Form FD-258 Applicant Fingerprint Card - NOT INCLUDED IN THIS HYPERTEXT VERSION.

APPENDIX II Immigration and Naturalization Service Response to Draft Report - NOT INCLUDED IN THIS HYPERTEXT VERSION.

APPENDIX III Office of the Inspector General's Analysis of Management's Response - NOT INCLUDED IN THIS HYPERTEXT VERSION.

 

 


 

EXECUTIVE DIGEST

The Inspections Division, Office of the Inspector General, Department of Justice, has completed an inspection of Alien Fingerprint Requirements in the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). Field work was conducted from July 1, 1993, through October 15, 1993.

The objective of the inspection was to determine the necessity and effectiveness of conducting fingerprint checks on applicants for naturalization, permanent residency, and other benefits.

In fiscal year (FY) 1993, INS paid the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) $14.7 million for 866,313 fingerprint checks. The FBI fingerprint checks are the only practical means available for determining if an applicant for INS benefits possesses an arrest record. Applications for naturalization, permanent residency, and other benefits may be denied depending upon the seriousness of an applicant's criminal history. The inspection confirmed that fingerprint checks are necessary, but changes may be in order to the current policy of conducting checks for all applicants.

A September 1993 INS study presented several options regarding fingerprint processing. One option recommends INS forward to the FBI only applicant fingerprint cards for aliens who fit a profile based on arrest statistics for age and gender. Our report discusses this and other options. The FBI provided records of fingerprint checks conducted in July 1992, for the four district offices we visited. Our review of these records indicated that 5.4 percent of the aliens submitting applications had an arrest record and nearly 80 percent of these applicants with arrest records were men.

We found controls need to be strengthened to ensure that fingerprints submitted by the applicants belong to the applicants. INS does not provide fingerprinting services. Most applicants complete the fingerprint cards at privately owned photography shops. There are no effective controls to prevent individuals intent on hiding their criminal records from having someone else complete the fingerprint cards at these shops and then submitting the prints as their own.

The INS Examiners are approving applications, unaware that the applicants have arrest records. In one district office, 78 percent (54 out of 69) of the alien files reviewed lacked the FBI arrest reports and there was no evidence that these reports were in the file at the time the applications were granted, denied, or withdrawn. In two of the remaining three district offices we visited, at least some of the alien files were missing the FBI reports at the time the applications were adjudicated.

In FY 1993, 91,827 fingerprint cards, or 11 percent of the total INS submissions, were rejected by the FBI as unclassifiable. Most of the applications associated with these fingerprint cards were subsequently adjudicated on the basis of an FBI name check only; a fingerprint check was not conducted. The FBI allows INS to submit a new set of fingerprints at no additional cost if the first set is unclassifiable. However, we found in most cases new fingerprints were not submitted. At two district offices, we found many of the unclassifiable fingerprint cards returned by the FBI were destroyed.

 

 

 

INTRODUCTION

The Inspections Division, Office of the Inspector General, Department of Justice, has completed an inspection of Alien Fingerprint Requirements in the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). Field work was conducted from July 1, 1993, through October 15, 1993.

OBJECTIVE

The objective of the inspection was to determine the necessity and effectiveness of conducting fingerprint checks on applicants for naturalization, permanent residency, and other benefits.

SCOPE AND METHODOLOGY

The inspection examined procedures for processing applicant fingerprint cards required of aliens who apply to INS for naturalization, permanent residency, and other benefits. We also reviewed procedures for applicant fingerprint checks conducted on United States citizens who are seeking to adopt or sponsor children from other countries.

Fingerprint checks conducted on aliens arrested by INS, and on INS employees and prospective employees as part of their background investigations, were not included in the inspection. Unlike applicant fingerprint checks, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) does not charge INS a fee for criminal fingerprint checks.

The inspection team reviewed immigration laws and regulations, INS and FBI management and statistical reports, and the interagency agreement between the FBI and INS. We conducted interviews with responsible personnel from INS and FBI Headquarters, and from selected INS district and asylum offices. At district offices, we reviewed alien files for which fingerprint checks, conducted in July 1992, had identified arrest records.

The inspection was conducted at INS and FBI Headquarters, Washington, D.C.; INS district offices in Baltimore, MD; Boston, MA; San Francisco, CA; and Chicago, IL; and INS asylum offices in San Francisco, CA; and Chicago, IL.

BACKGROUND

The INS is responsible for administering and enforcing laws and issuing regulations relating to the immigration and naturalization of aliens. Title 8 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Aliens and Nationality, requires aliens to submit a complete set of fingerprints on Form FD-258, Applicant Fingerprint Card (see Appendix I), when submitting the following applications:

• N-400 Application for Naturalization [Citizenship];

• I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status;

• I-589 Request for Asylum in the United States;

• I-590 Registration for Classification as Refugee;

• I-817 Application for Voluntary Departure Under Family Unity Program;

• I-821 Application for Temporary Protected Status;

• I-90 Application by Lawful Permanent Resident for New Alien Registration Receipt Card (FD-258 is only required for aliens who are registering at age 14 to comply with Section 262(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act);

• I-256A Application for Suspension of Deportation;

• I-724 Application to Waive Exclusion Grounds.

The following applications, used by United States citizens seeking to adopt foreign children or sponsor Amerasian children, also require submission of Form FD-258:

• I-600 Petition to Classify Orphan as Immediate Relative; • I-600A Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition;

• I-360 Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant.

The fingerprint cards are sent to the FBI to determine if the applicants possess criminal or arrest records. An application may be denied depending upon the seriousness of an existing criminal record. An application may also be denied if the applicant falsely denies ever having been arrested, even if the criminal charges did not result in a conviction.

The FBI charges INS a user fee of $17 for each applicant fingerprint check conducted. In fiscal year (FY) 1992, INS paid the FBI $12.1 million for 713,824 applicant fingerprint checks. In FY 1993, INS paid the FBI $14.7 million for 866,313 fingerprint checks. The majority of cards sent to the FBI are from applications for naturalization and adjustment of status to permanent residency. During the next 3 fiscal years, INS could receive an additional 2.5 million applications for naturalization over and above the current annual submissions. These applications will come from aliens who were granted temporary and permanent residency through legalization by the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986.

The INS passes the costs of the fingerprint checks on to the applicants through user fees charged for the different applications. Section 286(m) of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, as amended, and Title 31 of the United States Code 9701 authorize INS to establish fees for providing adjudication and naturalization services. INS conducts periodic cost analyses to determine the proper application fees based on its costs, including the user fees charged by the FBI for conducting the fingerprint checks.

After the FBI receives the completed fingerprint card from INS, it begins the fingerprint check process by determining if the upper portion of the card is complete. The upper portion includes the descriptive data of the applicant and the Originating Agency Identifier, or ORI code. Each district office, sub-office, asylum office, and service center has its own ORI code. It is used for billing purposes and for returning any reports of identified arrest records to the office which initiated the fingerprint check. If any critical information (name, date of birth, sex, ORI code) is missing from the card, the FBI rejects it immediately and returns it to INS with a standard form which explains why the card was rejected. There is no charge for cards rejected at this stage.

If the upper portion of the fingerprint card is complete, FBI technicians attempt to classify each set of 10 prints with an alphanumeric code based on the patterns of loops, whorls, arches, and ridge lines that each print makes. The FBI may not be able to classify the set if one or more of the prints are smudged or illegible, but it will still conduct a name search against the 28 million fingerprint files in the FBI criminal data base using the name and other descriptive data from the card. A name search may yield many candidates for a possible match. The FBI verifies possible matches by comparing the submitted prints to the candidate's prints taken from the data base. If an arrest record is identified ("ident"), the arrest report is attached to the fingerprint card and mailed back to the INS office which initiated the check.

Prints which are unclassifiable and not matched through a name search are returned to the originating INS office. The returned cards are stamped by the FBI, "Unclassifiable - No Record By Name." INS is still charged the $17 fee for unclassifiable prints, but the FBI permits INS to submit a second set of prints at no charge if the original prints are stapled to the second set.

After the prints are classified, the FBI will conduct a name search as they would if the prints were unclassifiable. If there is no ident from the name search, the FBI will use the fingerprint classification and descriptive data to conduct an automated search of the fingerprint files in the criminal data base. This search will detect an applicant with an arrest record who may have been missed by the name search because the applicant used a different name at the time of his or her arrest. As with the name check, if an ident is made, the arrest report is attached to the fingerprint card and returned to the originating INS office.

If there is no ident, the FBI destroys the fingerprint card. Unlike criminal fingerprint cards, the FBI does not maintain a record of alien fingerprint cards. No notification is sent to INS if the fingerprint check does not identify an arrest record. INS assumes there is no ident if there is no response from the FBI within 60 days of submission. Procedures for fingerprint checks of United States citizens seeking to adopt or sponsor foreign children differ in that the FBI notifies INS of the results regardless of whether or not an arrest record was identified.

The INS and the FBI are currently developing and implementing new fingerprinting technologies such as the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS). IAFIS will allow the subject to be fingerprinted using an electronic scanner. The fingerprint image and personal data will be transmitted electronically to the FBI, processed, and a response electronically returned to INS, within hours. FBI officials told us they estimate IAFIS will become operational sometime in 1995 at the earliest. At that time, a reevaluation of INS fingerprint procedures will be necessary.

RESULTS OF THE INSPECTION

NECESSITY OF ALIEN FINGERPRINT CHECKS

We found fingerprint checks are necessary to detect criminal records which may make an applicant ineligible for benefits. However, changes to the current policy of conducting checks for all aliens applying for naturalization, permanent residency, and other benefits may be in order.

Need for Fingerprint Checks

Applicants for INS benefits undergo FBI fingerprint checks to determine if they possess criminal or arrest records which may make them ineligible for the applied benefits. While there is no statutory requirement to conduct a fingerprint check, the Immigration and Nationality Act (Act) does contain provisions which restrict INS benefits for individuals with criminal records. Section 316(a) of the Act, requires applicants for naturalization to be of "good moral character." Section 101(f) of the Act excludes from this category all individuals who have been convicted of an aggravated felony, drug trafficking, two or more offenses in which the aggregate sentence imposed was 5 years or more, or other crimes involving moral turpitude. The Act contains similar requirements of applicants for permanent residency, asylum, and temporary protective status.

The INS, Office of Enforcement, considers the FBI fingerprint check to be the only practical means available to positively identify any known criminal history of an applicant. While INS has access to other automated systems used to check criminal files, these are generally not available to check an applicant for criminal records. For example, the FBI operates the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) which provides INS and other law enforcement agencies with automated access to criminal records maintained by the FBI and all 50 states. INS Enforcement officials and the FBI informed us that NCIC cannot be used for routine criminal record checks of applicants. This is because many states will not allow on-line access for application purposes. NCIC may be used for updating the record of an applicant already known to have an arrest record identified through a fingerprint check.

We interviewed INS Examiners at each of the four district offices we visited. Examiners interview the applicants and adjudicate their applications. They told us they regard the fingerprint checks as necessary and an important source of information. Examiners interview as many as 20 applicants a day and may have to base their decision to grant or deny an application on an interview as short as 15 minutes. One Examiner described the checks as the only "window" they have to determine if the aliens are answering questions truthfully.

We reviewed applications to determine if aliens who had been arrested answered truthfully to the question on the applications regarding previous arrests. Applications for naturalization and permanent residency contain a question which asks the alien whether he or she has ever been arrested, cited, charged, indicted, convicted, fined or imprisoned for breaking or violating any law or ordinance excluding traffic violations. In our review of 170 applications in which we were aware that the aliens had arrest records, 118 aliens, or 69 percent, initially denied ever having been arrested. We cite this as an example that a significant number of aliens will commit fraud to avoid having their arrest records become known by INS. INS Examiners told us the aliens are generally given the opportunity to correct their applications during the interview, although they do not always take advantage of this opportunity and risk denial for giving false testimony under oath.

Our review of FBI records of fingerprint checks conducted for four district offices in July 1992, indicate that 5.4 percent of the aliens submitting applications have an arrest record. We categorized these arrests as follows:

Immigration Violations/Deportation Proceedings..........32%;

Assault/Battery/Rape....................................19%;

Theft/Robbery/Burglary..................................18%;

Drug Possession/Distribution............................10%;

Other (Prostitution, Disorderly Conduct, DUI, etc.).....20%.

An arrest record by itself does not warrant denial of an application. The arrest must result in a conviction for one or more of the offenses listed in the Act, in order to be grounds for denial. However, the arrest record could alert an Examiner to spend additional time reviewing the application and to request supplementary information from the applicant.

Our review of alien files which contained arrest reports showed that 59 percent of these applications were approved. We found no indications that these applications were approved inappropriately. Of the remaining 41 percent, 6.8 percent were denied, 7.3 percent were withdrawn, and 27.1 percent were still pending at the time of our review. Approximately half of the denials were based on information contained in the arrest reports. The remaining denials were based on the aliens' failure of the citizenship examination or for other reasons. Further, we believe a number of the applications were withdrawn by the aliens because information in the arrest reports would have resulted in a denial.

Frequently, the arrest report does not show the final disposition of the charges. In these cases, the Examiner may request additional information on the disposition of charges from the alien and place the application in a pending status until the alien provides the information. It is reasonable to conclude that a number of the pending applications have been abandoned by the alien because of the identified arrest record.

While we believe fingerprint checks are a necessary tool, an INS study recommends consideration of options other than the 100 percent submission of fingerprint cards to the FBI for every application.

Options

These options, while not all inclusive, would allow INS to detect most aliens who are ineligible for benefits due to their criminal history and may provide additional resources for controls over the fingerprints submitted.

Use of profiles. Under this option, INS would submit to the FBI only those alien fingerprint cards fitting a select gender or age group. This was one of the options presented in a September 1993 INS study, "Cost Savings Initiatives in Fingerprint Processing." The study cites statistics from the FBI's 1991 Uniform Crime Report (UCR) which indicate that 81 percent of all reported arrests involved males and 71 percent involved males between the ages of 15 and 44. Our review of 336 alien arrest reports supports these statistics. We found 267 arrest reports, or 79.5 percent, belonged to males and 210 arrest reports, or 62.5 percent, belonged to males between the ages of 15 and 44.

Males accounted for approximately 54 percent of the total number of immigrants admitted into the United States between 1982 and 1991. Conceivably, INS could submit to the FBI the fingerprint cards for only male applicants, save nearly half the estimated total of FBI user fees, and still detect 80 percent of the aliens with arrest records. Any cost savings could be used to strengthen controls over the fingerprint process, such as verification of the alien prints as discussed later in this report.

Officer discretion in submitting fingerprint cards. The INS study further suggests officer discretion in submitting fingerprint cards for applicants whose cards are not automatically sent to the FBI. Discretion could be based on a number of factors such as the time the alien has been in the United States; the officer's experience and knowledge of the local alien population; and the officer's impression of the alien during the interview.

Conclusion

Overall, our review found arrest records identified from fingerprint checks affect the final adjudication of an application for INS benefits. For the 41 percent of applications that were denied, withdrawn, or still pending, the identified arrest record often prevented the approval of the application. Based on our review of the Act and arrest records identified by the fingerprint checks, and interviews with INS Examiners, we conclude that fingerprint checks are a necessary step in the application process to determine eligibility for benefits.

CONTROLS OVER APPLICANT FINGERPRINTS

The INS does not verify that fingerprints submitted by applicants for naturalization, permanent residency, and other benefits (including United States citizens seeking to adopt foreign children) belong to the applicants. The applicants are instructed to complete the fingerprint cards at local police departments, voluntary agencies (VOLAGs), or other reputable organizations. INS has no effective controls over "other reputable organizations," which are used by the applicants more than any other source.

The INS began phasing out fingerprinting services to applicants approximately 10 years ago. INS officials at Headquarters and the district offices indicated these services were discontinued because of a lack of resources (funding for personnel and space).

After INS began phasing out fingerprinting services, photographers and other entrepreneurs set up shops around district offices to take advantage of the large demand for fingerprints. INS does not have effective controls over these vendors to ensure the fingerprints are properly taken and the applicant's identity is verified.

In an October 1991 memorandum, the Baltimore District Director stated that some individuals were providing fingerprinting services out of the trunks of their cars. In Chicago, we were told the vendors became so competitive they hired people to physically pull the aliens off the streets until local police stopped the practice. Vendors near the district offices told us they charge the aliens between $7 and $10 for fingerprinting services. At one shop, we found they charged the aliens an additional $4 for fingerprint cards which the shop obtained at no charge from INS.

The vendors are not required to verify the identities of the aliens who are being fingerprinted. We visited several vendors who said they do not verify the alien's identification. An alien who wishes to hide a criminal record could have someone else fingerprinted in his or her place. FBI officials told us that this has occurred in the past. As previously cited, we found 69 percent of the aliens with arrest records had falsely denied ever having been arrested.

Instructions on the applications direct the alien to take the fingerprint card to a police station, sheriff's office, VOLAG, or other reputable person or organization for fingerprinting. Since INS and many police stations no longer provide finger printing services, most fingerprints are taken by the private vendors set up around the district offices. INS does not define what constitutes a "reputable" organization and, in most cases, would be unable to determine which organization was used because the card only contains the signature of the person taking the fingerprints and not the name of the fingerprint shop. In effect, a criminal alien, with his own ink pad, could take someone else's prints and submit the card as his own to INS. INS has no controls to prevent this type of fraud.

In addition, the instructions direct the alien to sign the fingerprint card in the presence of the person taking the fingerprints. This should allow INS to compare the signature on the fingerprint card to the signature on the application to verify it was the applicant who was fingerprinted. We do not consider this an effective control because INS cannot be certain the aliens or the private vendors are following these procedures. The alien could simply sign the card before giving the card to the imposter or have the imposter forge the signature.

The INS Examiners, who interview the aliens and adjudicate their applications, usually do not see the fingerprint cards. The cards are immediately pulled from the application after receipt by the application clerks and sent to the FBI. The FBI does not return the cards unless they identify an arrest record.

The potential for fraud with fingerprint submissions has been raised with INS Headquarters. The previously cited October 1991 memorandum from the Baltimore District Director stated that, ". . . there is always the risk that an unscrupulous outlet will deliberately switch the prints of an alien known to have an adverse history with one who is clean, thus defrauding the government."

Title 8, 332.2, of the CFR allows for non-profit organizations to establish studios offering photographic and fingerprinting services at district offices. Of the district offices we visited, only Boston had provided space for a VOLAG to set up a booth where fingerprints were taken. The VOLAG charged applicants $4 for the service. The applicants were not required to use the VOLAG and it appears from our review of fingerprint cards that many aliens went elsewhere for fingerprinting services, despite the relatively small fee and convenience of having them taken at the district office.

Permitting VOLAGs to take fingerprints at the district offices could increase control over the fingerprints if the applicants were required to have them taken there and the VOLAGs verified the identities of the applicants. The problem we see is that the purpose of the VOLAG is to provide assistance to the applicants and not to detect fraud. A possible solution is to have an INS official verify identities while VOLAG personnel take the fingerprints.

Another solution would be for INS to contract for fingerprinting services. This would give INS greater control over the private vendors which provide fingerprinting services for profit. Unlike the private vendors operating now, INS could require vendors operating under contract to verify the identities of applicants. Verification could be made by comparing information on the fingerprint card with the applicant's passport, birth certificate, or alien registration card.

RECOMMENDATION

The Inspections Division recommends that the Commissioner, Immigration and Naturalization Service:

1. Institute procedures to verify that fingerprints, submitted by all applicants for INS benefits, belong to the applicants.

FBI ARREST RECORD REPORTS

The INS Examiners are approving applications, unaware that the applicants have arrest records. In one district office, 78 percent of the alien files reviewed lacked the FBI arrest reports and there was no evidence that the reports were in the file at the time the applications were granted, denied, or withdrawn. In two of the remaining three district offices we visited, at least some of the alien files were missing the FBI reports at the time the applications were adjudicated.

Officials from the FBI Criminal Justice Information Services Division provided us with listings of all fingerprint checks conducted during July 1992, for four INS district offices. The listings contained the name and alien number of the applicant, the date the fingerprint card was received by the FBI, the date the check was completed, and the results of the check: arrest record was identified ("ident"), no arrest record was identified ("non-ident"), or prints were unclassifiable ("reject-unc").

The FBI provided the arrest report for each of the aliens listed as an ident. The arrest report contains the name of the person arrested and any aliases, birth date and place of birth, sex, and other descriptive data. The report lists the dates of all arrests and the charges. Some reports also contain the disposition of the charges.

In the four district offices, we reviewed the alien files of those applicants listed as an ident. Our review was conducted approximately 1 year after the fingerprint check was conducted on these applicants. The purpose of the review was to determine: (1) if INS received the arrest report from the FBI within 60 days (INS assumes there is no arrest record if it does not receive a report within 60 days); and (2) if the file contained the arrest report from the July 1992 fingerprint check at the time the application was granted, denied, or withdrawn.

Timely Receipt of Arrest Reports from the FBI. We reviewed the dates from the listings provided by the FBI for the four district offices to determine how long it took the FBI to complete the fingerprint check after it received the fingerprint card from INS. The average time for the FBI to complete the fingerprint check was 7 days.

Only the Baltimore District Office stamped the date received on the FBI arrest report. We reviewed these dates and the dates from the FBI listing for Baltimore to determine how long it took to return arrest reports to the district office after the fingerprint card was received by the FBI. The average time between the date the fingerprint card was received by the FBI and the date the FBI arrest report was received by the district office was 25 days. Based on our review, we conclude the FBI is completing the checks and returning the arrest reports to the INS district offices within 60 days.

FBI Arrest Reports. Procedures for submitting fingerprint cards to the FBI and returning the arrest reports to the alien files varied between district offices. INS asylum offices, which work independently from the district offices, have their own procedures.

An applicant obtains an application package (including the blank fingerprint card) from a district office. The application contains instructions on how and where to be fingerprinted, as described earlier. INS Information Officers hand out the applications and assist with questions.

After the application and fingerprint card are completed, the alien returns them in person or mails them to the district office, depending on the type of application. An application for permanent residency must be brought in and reviewed by an Information Officer because the application package contains numerous documents. Applications for naturalization are mailed to the appropriate district office. Applications for asylum are mailed to INS service centers, where they are assigned an alien number and forwarded to the appropriate asylum office.

In the district offices, applicants for naturalization or permanent residency are scheduled for interviews. Generally, the interviews are scheduled at least 60 days after the application is submitted to provide enough time for completion of the fingerprint check and receipt of reports of any identified arrest records. Application clerks remove the fingerprint cards from each of the application packages and mail them to the FBI. In the asylum offices, the fingerprint card is not sent to the FBI until after the scheduled interview and only if it appears that the application for asylum will be granted.

If an arrest record is identified, the FBI mails the arrest report and the fingerprint card directly to the district or asylum office which submitted the card. The mail room receives the report and delivers it to the Records Section. The Records Section determines the location (Records, Examinations, Investigations, etc.) of the alien file and delivers the arrest report accordingly.

In our review of alien files to determine if they contained the FBI arrest reports before the applications were adjudicated, we found that the results differed significantly among the four district offices. The results were as follows:

District Office Alien Files Reviewed Files Missing
FBI Report
Percent of Files Missing FBI Report 1
Baltimore 25 0 0.0 %
Boston 41 4 9.8 %
Chicago 69 54 78.3 %

San Francisco

136 21 15.4 %

1 [ Some of these alien files contained old arrest reports from earlier fingerprint checks or NCIC checks, but did not contain the FBI arrest reports from the July 1992 fingerprint checks.]

 

An additional 14 alien files were missing the FBI arrest reports. However, all of the associated applications were in a pending status at the time of our review.

Arrest reports, missing from alien files, included charges of assault, battery, theft, and drug offenses. In one example of an alien file in which the arrest report was missing, the alien had been convicted of multiple drug trafficking offenses and battery. The alien denied on his application that he had ever been arrested and the application was subsequently approved for permanent residency. After we brought this to the attention of a district official, he informed us that the benefit would be rescinded.

In one district office we noted several weaknesses in the procedures to submit the fingerprint cards and return arrest reports to alien files:

• Fingerprint cards were not sent to the FBI on a daily basis. Cards were collected in a box in the mail room and sent to the FBI every 2 to 3 weeks when the box was full.

• Filing arrest reports received no priority over other material. We found several boxes of mixed material in the Records Section. This material included old arrest reports from 1992 and earlier which were never filed.

• Arrest reports in the Citizenship Branch (Naturalization) were not placed directly in the alien file after they were received from the Records Section. The arrest reports were filed by alien number in a central holding file. INS Examiners searched the holding file for arrest reports prior to the scheduled interview. The Examiners told us during interviews they rarely found arrest reports in the holding file. We noted most of the arrest reports in the holding file were from old fingerprint checks completed in 1992.

RECOMMENDATION

The Inspections Division recommends that the Commissioner, Immigration and Naturalization Service:

2. Instruct District Directors to ensure fingerprint cards are mailed promptly, and arrest reports which are received, are placed in the alien files before final adjudication.

RESUBMISSION OF UNCLASSIFIABLE FINGERPRINTS

In FY 1993, 91,827 fingerprint cards, or 11 percent of the total INS submissions, were rejected by the FBI as unclassifiable. Most of the applications associated with these fingerprint cards were subsequently adjudicated on the basis of an FBI name check only; a fingerprint check was not conducted. The FBI allows INS to submit a new set of fingerprints at no additional cost. However, we found in most cases new fingerprints were not submitted. At two district offices, we found the unclassifiable fingerprint cards returned by the FBI were destroyed.

Fingerprints which are smudged or illegible cannot be classified by FBI technicians in preparation for an automated search of the fingerprint data base. If the fingerprints are unclassifiable, the FBI will still conduct a name search of their records, but there is no search using the fingerprint classification. A name search may not detect the criminal record of an applicant who used a different name at the time of his or her arrest. If there is no ident through the name check the cards are stamped "Unclassifiable - No Record By Name" and returned to the INS office which initiated the check.

The FBI charges INS the $17 user fee even if the prints are unclassifiable, but the FBI does permit INS to submit a second set of prints at no charge if the original prints are stapled to the second set. On four occasions (October 26, 1990; April 11, 1991; October 1, 1991; and August 24, 1992), memoranda were issued to the district offices advising them of these procedures and the importance of submitting legible fingerprints.

Records provided by the FBI show that in FY 1993, 91,827 fingerprint cards (11 percent of the total INS submissions) were rejected by the FBI as unclassifiable and only 1,313 cards, or 1.4 percent, were returned using the procedures described above. We found in most cases the unclassifiable cards were not resubmitted, and at two district offices many of the cards were destroyed. Applications associated with these fingerprint cards were adjudicated on the basis of the name check only. In Chicago, the mail room often burned the rejected cards after receipt from the FBI and, in San Francisco, the Citizenship Branch placed them in a paper recycle bin. Examiners who adjudicated these applications were not aware that a complete fingerprint check was never conducted. Officials at both of these district offices stated that these practices would end.

Officials from the district offices cited several problems regarding submission of new fingerprints:

• Since INS does not do the actual fingerprinting or classification of the prints, it is difficult for INS officials to explain to the aliens why the prints are unacceptable. One official said, in some cases, all of the prints on the rejected card appeared legible. The alien must return to the fingerprint vendor and obtain a second set of prints.

• It usually means the applicant interview must be rescheduled to allow time for another fingerprint check to be completed.

• Requiring the alien to be refingerprinted involves a significant amount of time on the part of INS clerical staff. INS must send a new fingerprint card and letter to the alien, explaining why the prints must be retaken. The old prints must be filed in the alien file so the INS Examiner is aware a second fingerprint check should be conducted. The old prints must be pulled and attached to the new set when they are received from the alien and sent to the FBI a second time.

The quality of the fingerprints submitted depends upon the organization or individual who is providing the service. Since INS does not control or regulate these organizations, it is limited in its options for reducing the rejection rate. In one district office, in-house training was given to application clerks for identifying unclassifiable fingerprint cards before sending them to the FBI. This type of training could aid in detecting cards which are obviously unclassifiable before they are sent to the FBI.

Improvements in the quality of the fingerprints submitted by the applicants will require greater controls over the organizations or individuals providing the service. This issue provides further justification for the district offices to make greater use of the VOLAGs or to contract for fingerprinting services. It would be easier for INS officials to direct an applicant to obtain a second set of fingerprints if there was a VOLAG providing services in the district office. It would also provide INS with greater oversight of the services provided.

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