In 1998, the Department successfully bolstered its immigration enforcement activities while assuring continued opportunity and access for lawful immigrants. Controlling our borders depends on the coordinated efforts of several Department components, including the INS, the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), the Civil Division, and the U.S. Attorneys' offices. Through the work of these agencies, the Department strengthened its enforcement activities, improved data availability and accuracy through automated technologies, improved customer services, expedited the removal of illegal aliens, and expanded community outreach initiatives.
During 1998, the INS continued to develop and deploy its enforcement case management and biometric identification system, ENFORCE-IDENT, providing technical capability to all asylum offices to help prevent identity fraud in the asylum claims process. The INS deployed ENFORCE-IDENT to 194 locations, nearly doubling the 1998 target of 100 locations and exceeding the target of ensuring processing capability at all key southwest border sites.
The INS continued to deploy upgrades of office automation platforms to support all INS offices. With installations at 285 sites in 1998, INS exceeded its 1998 target of 223 sites, bringing the total sites covered to 760. Additionally, both permanent and temporary versions of more than 1.2 million Alien Files have been consolidated and streamlined to eliminate duplicative material. This number significantly exceeds the INS' goal of 300,000 for 1998.
Over the past year, the INS focused on reengineering its naturalization process. These changes laid the groundwork for INS to enhance the integrity of the naturalization application process and deliver better services to its customers. Its significant accomplishments are summarized below:
Immigration cases accounted for 21 percent of all criminal cases filed by the U.S. Attorneys during 1998, up from 18 percent in 1997 and only 6 percent in 1992. The five U .S. Attorneys' offices along the southwest border filed 57 percent of all immigration cases during 1998.
The Southwest Border Strategy continued to affect illegal alien traffic at the border, forcing the traffic to distant areas that are more difficult for the aliens to reach. The difficult terrain gives the INS an advantage in detecting and apprehending illegal entrants. Overall apprehensions along the southwest border totaled more than 1.5 million in 1998, 10.8 percent more than in 1997.
The INS' heightened presence along the southwest border also resulted in the seizure of much greater amounts of marijuana entering the United States. In 1998, 860,818 lbs. of marijuana were seized by Border Patrol Agents--an increase of 88 percent over 5 years ago.
Overseas offices assist in the prevention of illegal entry by identifying malafides before they arrive in the United States. Also, the detection of fraudulent documents by INS employees, airline personnel, and foreign immigration officers overseas is an important deterrent to illegal entry. To this end, INS overseas offices trained more than 14,000 individuals in techniques for the detection of document fraud, far exceeding the 1998 goal of 9,304.
Finally, the INS in 1998 launched a comprehensive Border Safety Initiative designed to make the border safer for migrants, officers, and border residents. The initiative includes three elements: prevention, search and rescue, and identification. Prevention efforts inform and warn potential crossers of the realities and dangers of particular routes. Search and rescue operations target hazardous areas where migrants occasionally become lost, abandoned, and distressed due to the difficult terrain, climate, and the willingness of smugglers to lead them into and abandon them in dangerous territory. Identification operations help local officials identify those who have died while attempting to cross the border.
During 1998, the Department coordinated the first series of wiretaps used in alien smuggling investigations conducted by the INS. The underlying offenses that made this feasible were included in the recent list of predicate offenses for the use of electronic surveillance.
The INS nearly doubled its FY 1998 goal to reduce waiting times at airport ports-of-entry by providing primary inspection for 97 percent of commercial flights within the congressionally mandated 45-minute limit and clearing 61 percent of commercial flights in 30 minutes or less.
The INS and Customs implemented a new model of management coordination based on the San Ysidro Port-of-Entry to better facilitate management of U.S. ports-of-entry. Baseline data is being gathered to set measurable objectives for each of the ports and to improve the entire inspections process.
The expedited removal provisions of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 permit the prompt removal of persons who arrive at ports-of-entry without proper documents or who seek to enter the United States by fraudulent means. In 1998, the Department, through the work of INS, continued to expeditiously remove deportable aliens through an improved removal process and use of its expedited removal program. It also stepped up worksite enforcement activity, targeting businesses that knowingly hire unauthorized workers and freeing up jobs for authorized workers. The Department strengthened its overseas enforcement activities by working with foreign countries to uncover smuggling and other criminal activities affecting illegal immigration.
The Department expeditiously removed an increased number of deportable aliens from the United States without protracted litigation, achieving 170,574 final order removals in 1998 and exceeding the year-end goal by roughly a third. Also in 1998, the INS removed from the United States 48 percent more deportable/inadmissible aliens than in 1997. The INS' expedited removals program comprised 49 percent of 1998 final order removals.
Sustained focus on criminal removals yielded 55,776 of these removals in 1998. The Institutional Removal Program (IRP), implemented in 1998, encompasses many institutional activities and should result in INS' accurately assessing and removing greater numbers of deportable criminal alien inmates in the future.
Under the auspices of the DOJ Prisoner Exchange Program, the Bureau of Prisons worked with INS' Office of Enforcement Operations and the U.S. Marshals Service to return 208 foreign inmates from BOP facilities to 12 different countries and 47 American citizens from foreign prisons to the United States. Transferred inmates will complete their sentences in their native countries. The transfer of qualified applicants to their home countries relieves prison overcrowding in Federal and state prisons and allows for more prudent spending of incarceration dollars. The Department also has worked to secure removal orders on prisoners who are lawful permanent residents of the United States and thus barred by treaty from transfer to Mexico.
Under U.S. law, businesses may not hire any individual who is not authorized to work in the United States. The INS is responsible for conducting worksite enforcement activities to investigate, fine, or present for prosecution those employers who violate the law. In 1998, the INS presented for prosecution 127 criminal cases against serious employment violators.
In addition to targeting employers who knowingly hire unauthorized workers, the INS last year concentrated it efforts on disrupting and dismantling the criminal infrastructure that encourages and profits from illegal migration. The INS focused on smugglers, counterfeit document producers, transporters, and employers who provided aliens the means to enter illegally and find employment in industries within the United States, with consequent losses of employment opportunity for authorized workers. In 1998, the INS presented 325 fraud cases and 1,554 smuggling principals for prosecution, and accomplished 3,213 task-force-related apprehensions.
Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) in the Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer closed 83 employer sanctions cases, 21 unfair immigration-related employment practices cases, and 4 civil penalty document fraud cases. More than 63 percent of the sanctions cases were resolved through settlements, while more than 32 percent were decided on the merits. ALJs set fines amounting to $197,575 during the year and issued 21 subpoenas by request of the Civil Rights Division's Office of Special Counsel.
To reduce the potential for fraud, the INS issued a proposed rule to simplify the employment verification process for employers. This rule will reduce the number of acceptable documents for the Employment Eligibility Verification Form from 25 to 13. In addition, the INS launched three new pilot programs for employers, including two in cooperation with the Social Security Administration, to test the feasibility of new approaches to electronic employment verification. In addition to criminal cases, the INS identified a total of 44,474 jobs for authorized workers, 15 percent more than in 1997.
Throughout 1998, INS worked with the U.S. State Department and officials in several countries to uncover and break an international alien smuggling and money-laundering cartel. This smuggling investigation was the largest in U .S. immigration history and succeeded in completely dismantling the entire organization and its smuggling pipeline.
The Department succeeded in getting provisions of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act upheld through dismissal of a long-standing 45,000-member class action. This dismissal upheld a provision that limited the court's jurisdiction and is crucial to ending disputes regarding the amnesty offered by the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act.
Immigration Courts received a total of 266,000 cases during the year, including 62,451 asylum cases and 13,878 criminal alien cases. Immigration Judges completed 14,281 criminal alien cases--94 percent prior to the alien's release from incarceration, a key Department goal. Immigration Judges also completed 75,623 asylum cases, including 27,975 expedited cases under EOIR's priority case processing initiative. Of the expedited cases, 90 percent were completed within the 180-day time limit required by asylum reform regulations and statute. In addition, the Board of Immigration Appeals published a number of precedent-setting decisions related to asylum issues. Several of these decisions addressed the critical issue of credibility, including one that set forth in detail the circumstances under which an Immigration Judge's credibility determination should be given deference. The decisions also provided important guidance to Immigration Judges and INS asylum officers for assessing the reliability of testimony and evidence presented in asylum cases.
In 1998, the INS convened the Krome Service Processing Center (SPC) Liaison Project that involved monthly meetings between the Miami District Office, local attorneys, and community advocacy groups. The INS implemented several recommended initiatives, including a detainee handbook in English, Spanish, and Creole, designed to inform detainees of facility rules, services, and procedures. It also implemented a system that allows attorneys to schedule appointments with detainees 1 day in advance and reduces wait times for attorneys to 20 minutes. The INS has established a law library on detention center grounds for attorneys and detainees, and has created a separate communications system to give detainees access to pro bono attorneys and incoming messages.
The INS is also developing partnerships with Federal and state officials to improve its responsiveness and to allow local law enforcement agencies to perform detention and transportation functions. The INS is also working closely with U.S. Attorneys to aggressively prosecute those criminal aliens who return to the United States after formal removal.