Inspector General: Federal Database Approves Aliens Ordered Deported as Eligible for Public Benefits
A report released by the Inspector General for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) last week reveals that a government database that tracks immigration status erroneously confirms one in eight of all aliens run through it as eligible for public benefits and work in sensitive areas despite those aliens having deportation orders lodged against them. (See OIG -13-11, Dec. 2012; see also Washington Times, Dec. 18, 2012)
Federal, state, and local benefit-issuing agencies and licensing bureaus depend on the federal government database — known as the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) program — to determine the immigration status of applicants to ensure only those applicants with lawful immigration status are approved.
However, according to the report, only 88 percent of the individuals given a positive response by the SAVE program actually possessed lawful immigration status at the time their names were run through the program. (See OIG -13-11 at p. 1) In fact, the remaining 12 percent had been approved as having lawful status despite having been ordered deported from the country. (Id.)
According to the report, the reason SAVE erroneously identifies deported aliens as having lawful status is that USCIS databases used by the SAVE program are generally not updated at the time an alien is ordered deported. (Id. at 4) Rather, the databases are updated at the time an alien actually leaves the country. (Id.) USCIS officials claimed the reason for this discrepancy is that upon being ordered deported, an alien has the right to appeal such order, and thus it waits to update the status until an alien actually leaves. (Id.)
As such, aliens who have been ordered deported but refuse to leave are allowed to remain in the country and collect public benefits or gain access to jobs that otherwise would be prohibited to them. For instance, the report details an account of one green card holder who despite being ordered deported in 2000 for committing multiple crimes, was approved through SAVE as eligible for a Transportation Security Administration worker identification card, allowing the alien access to secure areas in transportation facilities. (Id. at 6) Another example laid out in the report is of an alien who was ordered deported due to a conviction for homicide/negligent manslaughter. Upon his release from incarceration, the alien applied for student aid in the District of Columbia. Erroneously, SAVE identified the alien as a lawful permanent resident eligible for the public assistance. (Id. at 5-6)
In response to the Inspector General report, USCIS says it plans to work with other agencies within the Department of Homeland Security to identify whether a final order of removal has been issued to an alien, and that it will initiate a review of other potential data sources for such information. (Id. at 7) "USClS will work with ICE to map a way forward to ensure that more timely information is shared," USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas told the Washington Times. (Washington Times, Dec. 18, 2012)
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Questions about President Obama's DACA initiative continue to go unanswered, this time in regards to the doling out of Social Security numbers (SSN) to those granted reprieve under the program. Last week, Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) was forced to send a follow-up letter to the Social Security Administration (SSA) after previous correspondence requesting information about SSNs for illegal aliens went unanswered. (Rep. Gingrey Letter, Dec. 14, 2012)
According to a fact sheet SSA posted online for DACA applicants, "if the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) grants you Deferred Action status and employment authorization, you may be eligible for a Social Security number." (See SSA Fact Sheet, Sept. 10, 2012; emphasis added)
Rep. Gingrey first sent a letter to the SSA in November, posing specific questions about this process such as how eligibility is determined and how many illegal aliens have been granted SSNs so far. (Rep. Gingrey Letter, Nov. 14, 2012; see also FAIR Legislative Update, Dec. 3, 2012) However, SSA has failed to respond with the information and has instead requested two extensions. The first extension was December 14, which passed last week, and SSA's second request was for an open-ended deadline.
Rep. Gingrey has rejected SSA's brush-off, standing firm in his response letter to the Administration. "The continued delay is unacceptable," he decried. "There are multiple questions you should be able to answer immediately." (Rep. Gingrey Letter, Dec. 14, 2012)
Alarmingly, this is not the first time a Member of Congress has encountered silence from Administration officials over DACA-related inquiries. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano has refused to respond to several letters from Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX). Those letters seek answers to questions about approval statistics, program costs, and fraud prevention. (Grassley-Smith letter, Aug. 13, 2012; Grassley-Smith letter, Aug. 7, 2012)
To date, more than 100,000 illegal aliens have been granted deferred action through DACA, potentially making them eligible for SSNs. (See DACA Stats, Dec. 2012)