A federal contractor is being blamed for taking as long as six months to collect fingerprints needed to proceed with immigration court cases.
The company, which also administered the background checks for National Security Agency whistle-blower Edward Snowden and Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis, was hired two years ago to collect biometric information, including fingerprints, for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
The information is used to determine immigration status, benefits, and to determine whether immigrants have a criminal background.
“Why is it taking so long?” San Antonio immigration judge Anibal Martinez asked immigration lawyer Linda Brandmiller in a recent hearing when told of the backlog, according to the San Antonio Express-News.
“I have no idea,” Brandmiller said. “The problem is with both detained and nondetained [immigrant cases].”
According to the paper, immigration lawyers say that wait times have tripled in recent months — an increase that is also likely due in part to a heavy influx of illegal immigrants from Central America.
According to Brandmiller, until recently biometrics results were provided after a little over a month. Her clients’ background checks are still sometimes conducted in that time frame, but some wait more than six months, she told the San Antonio Express-News.
“When we are reporting to the judge and all he is waiting on is a few details like this, it makes it difficult,” Brandmiller said.
Such delays drag down the process of determining status for immigrants.
“It’s one more time we have to set another court hearing,” Dana Marks, an immigration judge and president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, told the Express-News. “It’s inconvenient for the people involved and inconvenient for the court,” she said, adding that the backlog leads to more continuances, “which isn’t an ideal solution.”
In 2012, the Department of Homeland Security awarded USIS the five-year, $889 million contract to conduct the immigration checks. (RELATED: Company That Did Background Check On Snowden Got Hacked)
USIS has been further hit with allegations that it failed to complete 665,000 background checks in order to cut costs.
In a letter sent last month, U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings and U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn expressed concern that, despite its numerous failing, the Department of Homeland Security still awarded USIS a separate $190 million support services contract with U.S. Customs and Immigration Services.
USIS also suffered a cyber attack in which Department of Homeland Security personnel’s personal information was put at risk.
Update: A representative of USIS contacted The Daily Caller to point out that the Office of Personnel Management concluded that the company’s background check of Alexis met investigative standards.
“OPM has reviewed the 2007 background investigation file for Aaron Alexis, and the agency believes that the file was complete and in compliance with all investigative standards,” said Mert Miller, associate director of investigations for OPM, last year.
The representative also told TheDC that USIS has never been informed that its Snowden background check was flawed.
The USIS representative also insisted that the company has not contributed to any biometrics or fingerprints backlogs for immigration court proceedings.
“USIS meets or exceeds all of our contractual obligations to US Citizenship and Immigration Services on this vitally important contract, and we are proud of our strong partnership with the Agency in advancing its critical mission. We process each and every applicant scheduled by our customer to appear at an Application Support Center on a daily basis, to include unscheduled walk-ins,” the spokesperson said.