Turning a Blind Eye to Immigration Fraud

A new internal report reveals startling information about corruption in the immigration system.

NotarioA new report issued by the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General (DHSOIG) accuses a small but critical agency within DHS of once again turning a blind eye to fraud.

The name of the agency is US Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS), and it is important because it is responsible for processing Visa and other applications. For example, it is USCIS that is approving the application of every single "DREAMer" under the Deferred Action Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy.

USCIS has already been the subject of two scandals involving fraud prevention under the leadership of its current director, Alejandro Mayorkas, and this new report has opened the door to a third scandal.

The investigation measured the effectiveness of the fraud prevention system for the family-based immigration system. The family-based immigration system is critical because, according to the most recent figures from the Department of Homeland Security Office of Immigration Statistics, 74% of all legal immigration admittance in 2012 (roughly 1 million people) was of the family-based variety.

While the report concluded that USCIS case workers were effectively spotting incidents of fraud, the report also concluded that managers weren’t putting in proper protocols to record and track individuals accused of defrauding DHS, or any other agency for that matter. As the report explained:

FDNS personnel did not record in appropriate electronic databases all petitions and applications denied, revoked, or rescinded because of fraud. Supervisors also did not review the data entered into the databases to monitor case resolution. Without accurate data and adequate supervisory review, USCIS may have limited its ability to track, monitor, and identify inadmissible aliens, and to detect and deter immigration benefit fraud.

This problem is not new. In fact, the Sub-committee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement in the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on this very issue on February 5, 2012. That hearing was titled “Safeguarding the Integrity of the Immigration Benefits Adjudication Process” and during that hearing, Texas Congressman Lamar Smith warned how dangerous all these mistakes can be.

There are foreign nationals who will do and say whatever they think will get their benefits approved—forge documents, get bogus employers to sponsor them, and even deny their terrorist ties. So we must have policies in place that help ensure we will not admit those who intend to cause us harm or make a mockery of our immigration system. We need immigration policy designed to protect American workers and taxpayers.

It should be noted that the Tsarnaev brothers, who bombed the Boston Marathon, slipped through the cracks due to similar oversights to what Rep. Smith describes. In their case, previous run-ins with federal law enforcement were overlooked because their names were spelled incorrectly. In the case of USCIS, the names of about half the cases aren’t even entered into the system at all.

In a statement given exclusively to Front Page Magazine, USCIS Press Secretary Christopher Bentley defended the record of the organization in the area of fraud prevention.

USCIS takes immigration fraud seriously and coordinates with other agencies to swiftly rescind or revoke benefits obtained through willful misrepresentation. At the same time, we ensure that individuals who are eligible for benefits are not harmed by the unscrupulous actions of others.  Since its creation in January 2010, the Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate (FDNS) has, in addition to many other enhancements, increased the scope and frequency of vetting for immigration benefit applicants, enhanced biometrics screening, established a new national security branch in its field operations, and increased its staffing of Fraud Detection and National Security officers by approximately 20%[.]

Under Alejandro Mayorkas, USCIS has developed a pattern of being soft on fraud. This is the third scandal involving USCIS that involves lax fraud prevention. The first such instance eventually became the feature for an award-winning 2012 series for the Daily.

According to that series, higher ups in USCIS were pressuring case workers to approve Visa applications at far too quick a pace. When at least one complained, USCIS targeted that person, and the whistleblower, Christina Poulos, was demoted.

In the second case, an astonishing 99.5% of all DACA applications were approved. If something like the Senate's new amnesty bill becomes law, USCIS will be in a position to process tens of millions of new applications.

Mayorkas, who has been running USCIS since early 2009, has his own checkered past that started long before his troubled reign as head of USCIS. In fact, a Politico article from 2010 suggested that Mayorkas's appointment was political in nature, payback for Mayorkas being a significant bundler for Obama’s 2008 campaign.

The same article repeated publicly available information about his time as a US Attorney in the Clinton Administration. Mayorkas recommended the pardon of Carlos Vignali, a politically connected convicted drug dealer who was eventually set free by then-President Bill Clinton in his final days in office.

It’s clear that for a comprehensive immigration reform bill to be successful, the organization in charge of processing millions of new applications must be competent. It’s clear that Alejandro Mayorkas has built a long resume for incompetence and/or corruption in terms of fraud prevention. So, before anyone can expect immigration reform to be successful, Alejandro Mayorkas must be removed as Director of USCIS.

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