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Top DHS Investigator: Agency Should Stop Using Electronic Immigration System

(Photo: John Moore/Getty Images)

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Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Inspector General John Roth is urging immigration officials to abandon plans to reinstate its flawed electronic system for processing naturalization applications, citing the discovery of “alarming security concerns.”

Roth did not say what security lapses his investigators found in an ongoing DHS Office of Inspector General (IG) review of the troubled U.S. Center for Immigration Services electronic immigration system (ELIS), but the announcement cites severe concerns. It is highly unusual for an IG to make a recommendation before completing an investigation, the IG said in a public alert to DHS management.

“Rather than waiting several months to issue a report when the ongoing audit is completed, the OIG is taking the extraordinary step of elevating this urgent issue to USCIS leadership early so that immediate corrective action can be taken,” the IG said in its news release.

The IG began the review in December, prompted by previous discoveries that the system likely issued 200,000 Green Cards in error and failed to conduct an unknown number of background checks on people applying for citizenship. USCIS stopped using ELIS in August, 2016, because of those problems, but the IG learned immigration officials planned to begin using the system again in late January 2017. (RELATED: An Untold Number of Immigration Applications Never Received Background Checks) 

“Due to the significant unresolved functional and technical issues surrounding ELIS — issues my office has reported on in numerous reports in the past — we strongly advise USCIS leadership against the premature return to electronic processing of naturalization applications until corrective actions are taken and these persistent issues are resolved,” Roth said Monday in a statement.

USCIS, which falls under DHS jurisdiction, is not required to implement IG recommendations. DHS Secretary John Kelly is one of President Donald Trump’s only two confirmed cabinet nominees.

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