RESULTS OF THE INSPECTION
Abuse of the VWPP poses threats to U.S. national security and increases illegal immigration. There is evidence that terrorists and criminals intercepted while attempting to enter the United States applied under the VWPP because they thought they would have a greater chance of successful entry. It is believed that thousands of additional mala fide VWPP applicants that INS failed to intercept successfully entered the United States.13 Included in this group are alien smugglers and illegal immigrants. Overall, INS's efforts to reduce the risks for fraudulent entry under the VWPP have proved insufficient.
THE VWPP FACILITATES ILLEGAL ENTRY INTO THE UNITED STATES
The VWPP facilitates illegal entry because it eliminates the need to obtain a U.S. visa and VWPP applicants avoid the pre-screening normally performed by consular officers overseas. We found evidence that a variety of groups are abusing the VWPP to fraudulently enter the United States. These groups include terrorists, criminals, and alien smugglers. In many cases, these mala fide VWPP applicants are impostors (i.e., they have falsely claimed to be citizens of VWPP countries in order to apply for admission under the VWPP).
Terrorists and Criminals
INS inspectors we interviewed told us that identified terrorists and criminals believed they would receive less scrutiny during the inspection process if they applied under the VWPP and would have a greater chance of entering without being intercepted. In addition, several of these terrorists and criminals had criminal records that would have prevented them from obtaining a visa. The VWPP provided an alternative avenue of entry into the United States for these individuals. The following bullets provide examples of terrorists and criminals who attempted entry under the VWPP:
- One of the conspirators in the World Trade Center bombing entered the country on a photo-substituted Swedish passport in September 1992. The suspect used a Swedish passport "expecting to pass unchallenged through the INS inspection area at New York's Kennedy Airport -- since an individual bearing a valid Swedish passport does not even need a visa to enter the United States."14 When the terrorist arrived at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), an INS inspector suspected that the passport had been altered. A search of his luggage revealed instructional materials for making bombs; the subject was detained and sentenced to six months' imprisonment for passport fraud. In March 1994 he was convicted for his role in the World Trade Center bombing and sentenced to 240 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.
- Two Irish VWPP applicants attempted to pass through an INS overseas pre-inspection facility in August 1998. INS inspectors questioned both applicants, one of whom admitted that he had served jail time for possession of explosives and had been a member of the Irish Republican Army (IRA). Irish immigration authorities informed the INS inspectors that this applicant was a current member of the Real IRA -- a terrorist group that has broken away from the original IRA. INS inspectors felt that there was sufficient evidence to deny entry and both applicants were refused admission.
- In July 1988, the United Kingdom became the first country to join the VWPP. Seventeen months later (November 1989), the INS New York District Office reported a trend in which Nigerian drug couriers were using photo-substituted U.K. passports to facilitate their drug smuggling activities. An INS intelligence report documented the apprehension of four Nigerian drug couriers within a four-day period by members of the Customs' Contraband Enforcement Team. Two of the applicants presented photo-substituted passports. The report stated, "[t]he travel document of choice is an altered British passport."15
- Some U.K. citizens traveling under the VWPP are smuggling khat, a leafy narcotic from Africa, into the United States. Drug smugglers solicit help in local pubs, finding unemployed people who need to make extra money. The "mules" are told that they are carrying a plant or a vegetable ratherthan an illegal substance. When Customs officers discover the drugs hidden in luggage, they refer the passengers back to INS for removal. INS inspectors with whom we spoke identified khat smuggling as a problem related to the VWPP.
- An INS inspector in Miami told us that during one week in early 1998, three convicted child molesters from Australia were refused entry under the VWPP. INS inspectors were alerted to the suspects by three records (two from Interpol and one from Dade County, Florida) in the lookout system.
Smuggling operations are complex and dynamic, and individuals will pay as much as $50,000 to be smuggled into this country; the VWPP simplifies the process because smugglers and the persons being smuggled do not need to obtain visas to attempt entry into the United States. Recent stories in the media indicate that alien smuggling is a growing trend and results in thousands of individuals entering the United States illegally each year.
We observed the following case during our July 1998 field visit to Honolulu International Airport. INS intercepted a Chinese citizen posing as a Japanese citizen seeking entry under the VWPP (i.e., he presented a Japanese passport during primary inspection). The INS inspector noted that the Japanese passport presented by the Chinese citizen contained characteristics consistent with recent trends in altered Japanese passports. The inspector also reported that the Chinese citizen appeared nervous. A forensic check revealed that the passport had a counterfeit biographical data page and a counterfeit back cover page.
During questioning, the Chinese citizen admitted that he was attempting to enter the United States illegally. He explained that a Japanese citizen on the flight was his escort and that a third man back in China had made the arrangements (e.g., provided the escort and arranged travel). The man in China had instructed the Chinese citizen to pay the Japanese citizen $1,000 when they arrived in Honolulu; the Chinese citizen's family would then pay the man in China $10,000 when the Chinese citizen successfully entered the United States.
ALIENS ARE ABUSING THE VWPP
We identified other VWPP applicants who entered the United States legally, but violated the VWPP in other ways. Some of them lived or worked illegally in the United States. Others used the VWPP to enter the United States even though the countries in which they lived were not part of the VWPP. The VWPP facilitated these situations, which increased the threats to U.S. law enforcement and the potential for illegal immigration.
Aliens Who Violate Their Nonimmigrant Status
The VWPP makes it easier for aliens to immigrate illegally to the United States. Without having an interview with a U.S. Department of State consular officer, nonimmigrants are no longer required to prove that they are coming to the United States to visit and not to live or work. INS inspectors conducting primary inspections do not have definitive measures to check whether a passenger intends to immigrate illegally. Therefore, these individuals can slip through the inspection process without being intercepted, overstay their period of admission, and, essentially, remain in the United States permanently.16
In contrast, some aliens admitted under the VWPP do not overstay their period of admission, yet essentially live permanently in the United States. These aliens repeatedly leave the United States before their 90-day admission period expires and re-enter a short time later in order to live in the United States. With the help of an INS inspector, we discovered a U.K. citizen who fit this pattern. The woman frequently traveled out of Miami International Airport approximately 90 days after entry, only to return a few days later. We found that she had a husband living in the United States and had an apartment and a Florida driver's license indicating that she was a Florida resident. Because the INS inspector believed that the woman was living in the United States illegally, he created a lookout record for her.
Aliens also work in violation of their status. For example, INS inspectors identified groups of 20 to 40 Japanese women who used the VWPP to enter the United States in order to solicit funds or sell items to support their religious organization. These women would leave 85 days after entry and return 3 to 4 days later to request an additional 90 days. INS inspectors eventually recognized this pattern and, after conducting further research, they determined that these women were working in violation of their status. The INS inspectors created lookout records to prevent futureattempts at entry.17 Some of the women, after being refused entry, went to local consulates and reported their passports lost or stolen in order to obtain new passports. They hoped the new passports would allow them to enter the United States without being intercepted because the numbers of their new passports would not be in the lookout system.
An Unintended Consequence of the VWPP
Although unable to provide statistics, INS inspectors in the field described derivative citizenship as a potential source of abuse in the VWPP. Some countries automatically bestow derivative citizenship on children and grandchildren of citizens irrespective of where the children or grandchildren were born or reside. INS officials specifically noted that Brazilians who have Italian parents or grandparents were obtaining Italian passports. Therefore, these citizens and residents of Brazil (not a VWPP country) can enter the United States using passports from Italy (a VWPP country).
Derivative citizenship is what some INS inspectors described as a loophole in the VWPP. Using a VWPP passport obtained through derivative citizenship -- rather than a passport from their country of residence -- allows aliens who are not eligible for a U.S. visa (because of economic reasons, a criminal history, etc.) to circumvent the visa process and enter the United States under the VWPP.18 As the VWPP expands, derivative citizenship will become a larger issue because some of the countries proposed for nomination have large expatriate populations.
MALA FIDE VWPP APPLICANTS ARE ENTERING THE UNITED STATES WITHOUT BEING INTERCEPTED
Although the previous examples document mala fide VWPP applicants whom INS inspectors intercepted, many mala fide applicants pass through ports of entry without being intercepted. We selected a sample of stolen blank passport numbers from 10 VWPP countries and queried them against NIIS records to determine whether aliens had used these passports to enter the United States illegally.19 While fraudulententry can be achieved using a variety of methods, we limited our test to stolen blank passports because it was possible to compile a list from which to draw a statistically valid sample.
From our sample of 1,067 reported stolen blank passports from VWPP countries, 40 passports (3.7 percent) had exact matches to NIIS records that showed the passports had been presented for successful entry into the United States (see Table 2). These 40 successful entries project to 2,350 successful entries based on our universe of 61,836 stolen blank passports.
Table 2: Stolen Passports Used for Entry Into the United States
|SAMPLE COUNTRIES WITH EXACT MATCHES||NUMBER OF MATCHES|
|Belgium [not machine-readable]||21|
|France [not machine-readable]||2|
|Germany [not machine-readable]20||11|
|Italy [not machine-readable]||2|
Source: Passport Number Checks Against NIIS
An additional 61 passports (5.7 percent) had possible matches to NIIS records (see Table 3). For those 61 passports, the NIIS record listed a passport number that was slightly different than the number reported as stolen. For example, passport numbers in the NIIS record were missing one or more alpha characters.21 Despite the absence of an exact match, we conclude that it is likely that these cases also reflect the use of stolen passports to enter the United States under the VWPP.
Table 3: Stolen Passports Possibly Used for Entry Into the United States
|SAMPLE COUNTRIES WITH POSSIBLE MATCHES||NUMBER OF MATCHES|
|Belgium [not machine-readable]||44|
|France [not machine-readable]||7|
|Germany [not machine-readable]||1|
|Italy [not machine-readable]||6|
|United Kingdom [machine-readable]||2|
Source: Passport Number Checks Against NIIS
NIIS records indicate that 14 stolen passports were used for multiple entries into the United States; records for 1 stolen passport show 11 successful entries. For each of the stolen passports exhibiting multiple entries, the same name appears in each NIIS record associated with a given stolen passport. Therefore, two possible scenarios exist:
- one person was able to pass through INS inspections to enter the United States illegally on several occasions; or
- multiple individuals "recycled" the same passport to enter the United States, a common practice in alien smuggling operations.
A Case Study of Stolen Blank Passports
We queried all 138 stolen Icelandic passports from our sample universe because INS intelligence reports indicated that a significant number of these passports were being used by organized rings to smuggle children into the United States. We found that mala fide VWPP applicants had used 46 of the Icelandic passports to enter the United States successfully. Twenty-seven of the passports were used by more than one person (i.e., an adult traveling with one to three children). Some records indicate that the adults left a short time later, but the children did not. The adults returned to the United States (sometimes at different ports of entry) with one to three additional children. For example, NIIS records indicate that a woman accompanied by two children entered the United States via John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) on July 14, 1996. NIIS records indicate she left the United States via Hartsfield International Airport (Atlanta, Georgia) on July 15, 1996, but the children did not. She again entered the United States through Newark International Airport on October 13, 1996, accompanied by two children. She left through JFK on October 15, 1996, but NIIS records indicate the children did not depart. In total, 116 mala fide VWPP applicants (adults and children) entered the United States using the 46 passports.
The passports themselves were stolen from the Icelandic Embassy in Paris, France, in March 1996. The U.S. Department of State issued a cable on May 28, 1996, reporting the theft. INS created a lookout record for the entire block of stolen blank passports on May 30, 1996. After identifying a pattern (i.e., after mala fide VWPP applicants had used 24 of the passports to enter the United States successfully), the INS's Forensic Document Lab issued an alert to INS field personnel on February 20, 1997, describing the pattern of fraudulent entry using stolen Icelandic passports.
INS efforts to prevent illegal entry proved unsuccessful. Even after creation of lookout records and release of the alert, mala fide VWPP applicants continued to enter the United States using stolen Icelandic passports. Applicants successfully used 22 additional stolen Icelandic passports to enter the United States; two were used twice; two were used as recently as February 24, 1998. (We completed all checks by May 18, 1998.)
The fact that Icelandic passports are not machine-readable contributes to the success of applicants presenting stolen Icelandic passports. As with all passports that are not machine-readable, it is reasonable to assume that INS inspectors will not routinely check Icelandic passport numbers against the lookout system. Because the lookout record for these (and other) stolen blank passports is based on the passport numbers, INS inspectors will not get a match to a stolen passport record when they enter only applicants' names and dates of birth.
INS DOES NOT QUERY ALL PASSPORT NUMBERS AGAINST THE LOOKOUT SYSTEM
The lookout system is INS's principal tool for identifying aliens attempting to enter the United States illegally. INS policies state that INS inspectors must query all applicants' names and dates of birth against the lookout system. If applicants present machine-readable passports, the passport numbers, along with the names and dates of birth, are checked automatically against the lookout system. If applicants present passports that are not machine-readable, INS inspectors are required to manually enter applicants' names and dates of birth -- but not passport numbers -- and check them against the lookout system.
According to INS officials, manually entering passport numbers for all passports that are not machine-readable would hamper INS's ability to comply with the congressionally mandated requirement to inspect all passengers within 45 minutes of a flight's arrival. Depending on the volume of applicants at a port of entry, INS inspectors may have to perform quick, rather than thorough, inspections. INS inspectors informed us that they manually enter passport numbers only if they are suspicious of applicants. Therefore, the full benefit of the lookout system is lost for many VWPP applicants whose passports are not machine-readable.22
The passports of 5 of the 10 VWPP countries in our sample -- Belgium, France, Germany, Iceland, and Italy -- were not machine-readable; out of the 1,067 stolen passports comprising our sample, 846 (79.3 percent) were not machine-readable. This number, projected to our universe, results in 49,036 stolen blank passports that are not machine-readable. This large number holds significant potential for abuse. If these passports were presented by mala fide VWPP applicants and an INS inspector were not suspicious of those applicants, it is reasonable to assume the passport numbers would not be checked against the lookout system and the applicants would gain entry into the United States.
INS FAILS TO ENTER STOLEN PASSPORT INFORMATION INTO THE LOOKOUT SYSTEM IN A TIMELY OR ACCURATE MANNER
Even if INS checked all passport numbers against the lookout system, the effectiveness of the checks is reduced by problems we identified in INS's entry of stolen VWPP passport information. Mala fide VWPP applicants have entered the United States without being intercepted because INS did not systematically collect information on all stolen passports and did not create lookout records based on the information that it did receive. There are also problems with the timeliness and accuracy of the lookout records that INS did create.
INS Has Not Designated Responsibility for Collecting and Entering Information on Stolen Passports
There is no single entity within INS responsible for the collection of information on stolen passports. While the INS Forensic Document Lab (FDL) receives cables and faxes from foreign governments and the U.S. Department of State, the INS LookOut Unit and the ports of entry receive reports mainly from the U.S. Department of State and INS headquarters. We could find no policies or guidelines instructing these INS entities to systematically obtain information on stolen passports from outside sources. A limited review of reports of stolen passports (received over a nine-month period) at the LookOut Unit and the FDL showed only one block of stolen passports that was reported to both offices. This suggests that poor coordination exists among the various INS entities receiving stolen passport information.
Similarly, no single office within INS is responsible for systematically entering stolen passport numbers into the lookout system. Personnel at the LookOut Unit, the FDL, and multiple ports of entry are all creating lookout records. Five hundred stolen blank passports from our case sample of 1,067 had lookout records.23 Of these, 202 passports (40.4 percent) had more than one lookout record because the system is not designed to prevent the entry of duplicate records. Without the delegation of sole responsibility for creating lookout records, there is a duplication of effort among the various offices.
INS Fails to Enter All Stolen Passport Numbers Into the Lookout System
We found that 567 stolen passports in our sample (53.1 percent) had no lookout record. Mala fide VWPP applicants successfully entered the United States by using stolen passports that had no lookout records. In one case, a Dutch passport was stolen in August 1990. The FDL received the theft information in December 1990. No lookout record was created at the time, and a Chinese alien used this passport to enter the United States in September 1993. Using the same stolen passport, the alien attempted another entry at a different port in March 1996. Although the alien was caught and refused entry, his prior entry could have been prevented had INS created a lookout record. The stolen passport was finally entered into the lookout system by INS at the time of the alien's refusal, over five years after INS was alerted to the theft of the passport.
We also found that lookout records were not being made in a timely manner. We found lookout records that INS created up to two years after the theft of the passport was reported, and lookout records INS created after mala fide VWPP applicants had successfully entered the United States. In one case, an Italian passport was stolen in May 1996. Even though the U.S. Department of State reported the theft in July 1996, INS did not make the lookout record until May 1997. A mala fide VWPP applicant had used the passport to enter the United States in January 1997.
INS inspectors we interviewed did not know who was responsible for entering stolen passports into the lookout system. Some suggested that the FDL should be responsible for entering this information because it already has contacts with foreign agencies and already receives much of the information on stolen passports. Others suggested that the LookOut Unit should be responsible. While there was no consensus for who should have this responsibility, there was support from INS inspectors that the process should be centralized at headquarters.
INS Experiences Problems With Entering and Querying Passport Numbers
Passport numbers may contain both numeric characters and alpha characters; alpha characters may occur at the beginning, the end, or in the middle of a passport number. Because the lookout system searches for exact matches, the correct placement of these alpha characters is crucial to searching for stolen passport numbers. Of the 500 stolen passports that had lookout records, 112 (22.4 percent) had discrepancies between the placement of the alpha characters in the actual passport number and the way it appeared in the lookout record. If a query were conducted with accurate passport numbers against inaccurate passport numbers in the lookout system, there would be no match and it is likely that INS inspectors would admit the individual.
Discrepancies exist because INS staff believe that they have not received sufficient instruction for entering passport numbers into the lookout system. INS Inspections officials told us that informal messages have been sent to the field regarding procedures for entering passport numbers. However, we spoke with INS inspectors who stated that they received inadequate guidance.
INS inspectors can experience problems with querying passports during inspection because some passports contain more than one type of number. In addition to the passport number, there are sometimes other numbers, such as serial numbers or issuing numbers, printed on the passport. If the INS inspector queries a number other than the passport number that was used to create the lookout record, or if the lookout record was created using a number other than the passport number, a match will not be found.24 Some INS inspectors we interviewed said that they did not receive sufficient instruction to distinguish between the different kinds of numbers on passports.
INS FAILS TO COLLECT AND DISSEMINATE VWPP INTELLIGENCE INFORMATION SYSTEMATICALLY
INS headquarters officials responsible for VWPP intelligence information told us that VWPP fraud is a significant intelligence concern but said that the INS intelligence operation does not have an effective structure for collecting intelligence data and that few ports of entry are consistently producing useful intelligence.
During our field work, we identified problems with INS's ability to collect and disseminate VWPP intelligence information. These include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Intelligence functions at the ports of entry are often collateral duties. We observed that the volume of passenger traffic adversely affects the amount of time allowed for intelligence work. For example, we observedintelligence officers who were interrupted during the course of their intelligence work and asked to help conduct primary inspections.
- Intelligence efforts at the ports of entry frequently are limited to individuals or small groups. If an intelligence officer departs, the intelligence program leaves as well.
- Some ports require their intelligence officers to produce a certain number of intelligence reports per month. Therefore, the emphasis is on quantity rather than quality, and intelligence officers often write reports on single incidents rather than identifying patterns that can benefit other ports.
- Individuals assigned intelligence duties do not have complete access to all available data sources. For example, INS maintains its Record of Intercepted Passenger System (RIPS) database, which contains information on applicants on whom INS has taken adverse actions, including VWPP applicants who were denied admission. Intelligence officers at the ports have access only to RIPS information for their port. Therefore, if intelligence officers identify a pattern at their port, they can not check to see if similar patterns exist at other ports.
- The primary means headquarters uses to disseminate intelligence information is the INS electronic mail system. While all ports of entry have an electronic mail system, port management determines how many INS inspectors have access to it. Therefore, intelligence information is not always shared systematically.25
On June 9, 1998, INS issued a standard operating procedure (SOP) for district intelligence offices that could lead to regular reporting and analysis of VWPP intelligence issues. The goals of the SOP are: to promote standardization of intelligence procedures, to establish intelligence units in each District (and in the major ports of entry), to improve and expand intelligence training, to improve the flow of information to and from field offices, and to improve intelligence support to field managers.
INS intelligence officials told us that headquarters has not allocated the necessary funds or resources to accomplish the outlined goals. Without a commitmentfrom headquarters to support the SOP, INS's collection and dissemination of intelligence information will continue to be incomplete.
Collecting and disseminating intelligence information is important in reducing the risks posed by the VWPP. Therefore, we strongly encourage INS to commit to supporting establishing an effective intelligence operation. INS headquarters officials responsible for VWPP intelligence information told us that VWPP fraud is a significant intelligence concern but said that the INS intelligence operation lacks the necessary staffing and resources to effectively manage the program.
DESPITE SOME SUCCESS IN PREVENTING ILLEGAL ENTRY UNDER THE VWPP, INS EFFORTS ARE INSUFFICIENT
INS is aware that the VWPP presents problems for law enforcement interests and increases the opportunity for illegal immigration. In a report issued in August 1998, the INS Inspections Division outlined several of its more prominent concerns, including stolen VWPP passports (especially blank, unissued passports) and mala fide VWPP applicants abusing the program to enter the United States. INS has developed some successful efforts, many initiated in the field, to address these issues.26 However, these efforts tend to be ad hoc and sporadic.
In 1992, INS inspectors at JFK found 15,408 persons inadmissible; in 1997, INS inspectors at JFK found 4,510 persons inadmissible.27 INS inspectors attributed this drop, in large part, to their training of airline personnel. Over a five-year period, INS inspectors have conducted 159 training sessions for airline personnel on how to identify impostors or fraudulent passports. After completion of training, airline personnel regularly report intercepts to JFK. INS inspectors at JFK believe that every impostor or person using fraudulent documents who is prevented from boarding a flight reduces the burden on INS to identify these individuals when they present themselves for inspection at a U.S. port of entry.
In 1997, in an attempt to utilize this approach nationwide, INS instituted the Carrier Consultant Program to train INS officials, who will in turn train airline staff to identify impostors and fraudulent passports. The ability of INS to fully implement theCarrier Consultant Program hinges on its ability to obtain additional staffing resources, according to INS officials. Based on our review, we believe the program has the potential to provide positive outcomes by helping airlines conduct their responsibilities more effectively while, at the same time, reducing the overall burden on INS inspections.
Passenger Analysis Units
Passenger Analysis Units are comprised of INS inspectors trained to use special query features of the lookout system, and other computer programs and databases, to analyze passenger traffic at their ports of entry. Based on their analysis, these inspectors identify patterns and create lookout records for individuals who should be denied entry to the United States. Some passenger analysis activities at the ports we visited included the following:
- An INS inspector conducted computer queries to determine when and where certain passengers had traveled previously, who else was traveling with them, where they got their plane tickets, and where they stayed when they came to the United States. This analysis enabled the inspector to identify the pattern of VWPP abuse in the case we cited earlier about women from a religious organization.
- By querying flight information from airlines to find passengers who were traveling together and querying data from I-94Ws to find U.S. addresses that linked the passengers, INS inspectors have been able to connect smugglers with the individuals they were smuggling. Such analysis has led to the identification of organized smuggling rings.
- INS inspectors identified more than 480 Japanese passports with counterfeit biographical pages and created lookout records for those passports. Consequently, more than 80 citizens of the People's Republic of China were intercepted when they attempted to enter the United States illegally at various ports.
The complexity of these situations makes it difficult, if not impossible, for INS inspectors to detect them during primary inspection. Therefore, Passenger Analysis Units are essential for identifying patterns of mala fide VWPP applicants. Passenger Analysis Units have been in existence since late 1995. Despite their proven effectiveness, at the time of our review we were informed that Passenger Analysis Units existed at only five ports of entry: JFK, Miami International Airport, Newark International Airport, Honolulu International Airport, and San Juan International Airport. We subsequently received information that 13 additional ports of entry have either created Passenger Analysis Units or have experienced officers doing passenger analysis as part of their intelligence activities.
Yakuza Documentation Center
INS inspectors at Honolulu International Airport maintain the Yakuza Documentation Center (YDC), a database containing approximately 39,000 records of Japanese citizens who are members of organized crime (Yakuza) gangs and political groups associated with them. INS inspectors said that sixty-eight percent of the individuals whose names appear in the YDC have criminal histories that would bar them from the United States. Because significant numbers of Yakuza members arrive at Honolulu International Airport, INS inspectors there rely on the YDC to identify and refuse entry to inadmissible applicants. INS inspectors will then create an electronic lookout record to document the intercept.
The original YDC files were compiled over a 20-year period by a now-retired Customs officer, who obtained the information from confidential Japanese law enforcement sources. Although the project has been turned over to INS, Customs still owns the paper files.
The INS inspectors in Honolulu with whom we spoke believe that the YDC would be more effective if it were managed at INS headquarters and that it would have more credibility if the program were implemented on a national level. This could lead to increased interceptions of inadmissible individuals. It is Honolulu port policy to refer all applicants with YDC lookout records to secondary inspection for questioning about their criminal history. Applicants who admit to a serious criminal history are denied admission; for others, inspection is deferred while inspectors make further inquiries. INS inspectors in Honolulu told us that INS inspectors at other ports have admitted applicants with YDC lookout records without referring them to secondary because some INS inspectors regard the YDC lookout records as Customs records and do not recognize their importance to INS.28
INS-Customs Cooperative Effort
In order to identify aliens who intend to immigrate illegally, a joint INS-Customs operation was created at Miami International Airport in July 1996. This operation isdesigned to document and analyze the contents and quantities of household goods shipped by suspected illegal immigrants. In order to ship goods to the United States, an alien must complete Customs Form 3299.29 Customs officers in Miami examine Form 3299 and report to INS those cases in which a nonimmigrant alien appears to be immigrating illegally. INS inspectors then use a variety of methods -- including database searches for drivers' licenses, local addresses, and prior visits to the United States -- to verify that an alien intends to immigrate. INS creates lookout records and takes actions to intercept and remove these aliens. To date, INS inspectors have intercepted 40 individuals under this program.
One of the joint INS-Customs cases involved a married Belgian couple who arrived in the United States as VWPP applicants in March 1998. The couple had shipped 642 pounds of household and industrial goods (80 pounds of which were hair products and salon equipment) to Miami. Customs officers felt that this was a substantial amount of goods for nonimmigrants to bring on vacation; therefore, they forwarded the information to INS. INS inspectors suspected that the couple had come to the United States to establish a barber shop, and the couple was refused entry.
CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
In addition to expediting the entry of legal visitors to the United States, the VWPP provides an avenue for terrorists, criminals, and other inadmissible applicants to enter the United States; it facilitates their entry by removing the requirement that they first obtain visas. We can assume that individuals exhibiting characteristics similar to those described in this report have successfully entered the United States. To date, INS's efforts to address the risks posed by abuse of the VWPP have proved insufficient.
We realize that some issues related to the VWPP are beyond INS's control, such as the U.S. Department of State's ability to nominate countries for the VWPP, when or whether participating countries develop machine-readable passports, participating countries' passport issuing processes, and participating countries' reporting of stolen passports.
Nonetheless, we identified several areas that are under INS's control which must be addressed to better prevent mala fide VWPP applicants from entering the United States. INS needs to improve its collection and dissemination of VWPP-related intelligence. INS also needs to consider expanding successful methods (such as airline training and Passenger Analysis Units) for identifying mala fide VWPP applicants and preventing their entry into the United States.
In addition, to improve the effectiveness of the inspection process, the Office of the Inspector General recommends that the Commissioner, Immigration and Naturalization Service:
13 In its August 1998 report, Visa Waiver Pilot Program Analysis of Passports and Volume, INS stated that it fails to identify and allows entry to many times the number of mala fide VWPP applicants that it intercepts. This statement, coupled with the fact that INS intercepted 4,459 mala fide VWPP applicants who attempted to enter the United States in FY 1997, suggests that many thousands of mala fide VWPP applicants enter the United States annually.
14 Testimony of J. Gilmore Childers and Henry J. DePippo before the Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Technology, Terrorism, and Government Information Hearing on "Foreign Terrorists in America: Five Years after the World Trade Center," February 24, 1998.
15 Nigeria: Drug Smuggling Activities, INS Intelligence Report New York District, November 1989.
16 In our September 1997 report on nonimmigrant overstays, we found that INS had inadequate methods to determine if nonimmigrants had departed when required. This increased the likelihood that nonimmigrants could remain in this country illegally. For a full discussion of this issue, please see Immigration and Naturalization Service Monitoring of Nonimmigrant Overstays, DOJ/OIG I-97-08.
17 Since these lookout records were created, groups of women from this organization have been refused entry up to four times at different ports.
18 INS regulations state that a VWPP applicant must be a citizen of a VWPP country; however, the regulations do not include residency requirements.
19 See Appendix III for case sample methodology.
20 Although Germany has been issuing machine-readable passports since January 1, 1988, the German passports in our sample are an older format that is not machine-readable. Germany continued to issue these older-format passports after January 1, 1988.
21 Because passport numbers are not entered consistently in the lookout system, we queried all passport numbers both with and without alpha characters. We queried alpha characters at the beginning and at the end of the passport number.
22 When airlines participating in the Advance Passenger Information System (APIS) [see Appendix II] provide passenger records to INS prior to a flight's arrival, the passport number will be queried against the lookout system whether or not the passport is machine-readable. However, participation in APIS is voluntary; only about 40 percent of the passengers arriving in the United States are processed through APIS. Furthermore, records are not transmitted for every passenger on an APIS flight. INS inspectors told us that passengers who want to avoid having their record transmitted check in for the flight just before departure, after APIS information has already been transmitted.
23 See Appendix III for case sample methodology.
24 Because some passports contain more than one number, problems also could occur when lookout records are created for stolen blank passports. Four countries participating in the VWPP -- Argentina, Austria, Brunei, and Japan -- have serial or other numbers in blank, unissued passports that are different than the passport numbers; the passport numbers are added when the passports are issued. If an alert was created for stolen blank passports from these countries, the serial or other number would be the only number available to include in the alert and would be used, most likely, to create the lookout record. This decreases the chances of matches occurring if INS inspectors queried the stolen passports against the lookout system. In contrast, many countries, including Belgium and Iceland, have pre-printed passport numbers in blank, unissued passports. These passport numbers would be listed in stolen passport alerts and would be used to create lookout records. If INS inspectors queried these stolen passports against the lookout system, it is likely that a match would occur.
25 One port we visited ensured widespread dissemination of intelligence information by creating an electronic bulletin board which all INS inspectors at that port can access during primary inspection.
26 INS did not undertake all of these initiatives in direct response to the VWPP. However, many have a significant effect on INS's ability to prevent illegal or improper entry under the VWPP.
27 Intelligence Assessment, New York District Carrier Fraud Conference, NYC-DIINT-SA-98-03.
28 Lookout records contain agency owner identification codes. The codes in the YDC lookout records indicate that Customs owns these records.
29 Form 3299 documents the alien's passport number, address in the United States, description of household goods, etc.