A massive backlog of expired immigrant visa cases at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) may pose a national security threat, a government watchdog reported Thursday.
The 1.2 million expired visa cases are piling up because of ineffective information technology and inadequate training of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) employees, a DHS inspector general report found. Information on visa holders is held in 27 DHS information technology systems that can’t communicate with each other, “forcing ICE personnel to laboriously piece together vital information,” an IG statement said. (RELATED: DHS Nominee Says Visa Overstays Should Receive Visit From Law Enforcement)
“As a result, it may take months for ICE to determine a visa holder’s status and whether that person may pose a national security threat,” the statement continued. “This inefficient process has contributed to a backlog of more than 1.2 million visa overstay cases.” (RELATED: Less Than 1 Percent Of Immigrants Who Overstayed Visas Were Deported In 2015)
“ICE must equip its personnel with the tools and training they require for the vital work of tracking visitors who overstay their visas,” said John Roth, the DHS IG. “Timely identification, tracking and adjudication of potential visa overstays is critical to ICE’s public safety and national security mission.”
The technological issues meant “DHS could not account for all visa overstays in data it annually reported to Congress,” the IG report said. The DHS chief information officer tried improving information sharing, but he “did not provide the oversight and centralized management needed to address these issues.”
“Additionally, ICE did not ensure that its field personnel received the training and guidance needed to properly use the systems currently available to conduct visa overstay tracking,” the report said.
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