It's all in the files'if you can find them

The Homeland Security Department's Citizenship and Immigration Services agency has millions of files, but information is worthless if users can't find it.

Many file-locating systems face complicated challenges to track down information spread across dozens of offices.

CIS special assistant Kelly Gilmore said the National File Tracking System simplifies the process of tracking the files, known usually as A files after their initial letter designation and nine-digit number.

'NFTS tracks not only A files but multiple files,' she said. 'If there is a duplicate file or if other temporary files have been developed, they are in the system.

'For example, if agents at the border have someone in custody, they can develop a T file, a temporary file until they get the original. NFTS will show all the files, so you will know if you have all the information before you make a decision.'

Under CIS rules, offices that assemble all the files on a given person are required to combine them into one file.

No clue

With NFTS' predecessor, 'you had no way of knowing if there were other files out there,' Gilmore said. 'Potentially, two agents at the border could make T files up on the same person at different points in time.'

Because NFTS has speeded the process of locating files to a matter of seconds rather than a day, Border Patrol agents now can handle problems faster, she added.

'If you are a border agent and you need to know something specific within a file, you don't need to get that file,' Gilmore said. A Border Patrol agent can determine a file's location via NFTS, call the official holding the file directly, and get the information. 'And you wouldn't even have to move the file,' she said.

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