INS uses app to reduce fraud

Immigration and Naturalization Service investigators said they have cut down on fraud
with a custom imaging application that can access 13.5 million sets of biometric data.

The Biometric Image Management Program has made immigrants’ fingerprint,
photograph and signature images available over a WAN in standard file formats, said
Fernanda Young, assistant commissioner of the Data Systems Division in INS’ IRM

Four regional service centers were the first to receive the application, which uses
query and retrieval software from Eastman Software Inc. of Billerica, Mass., working with
an Oracle 7.3.3 relational database management system. Eventually the biometric
application will serve 20 sites including airports, intelligence offices and border
crossing points, Young said.

“The most important site is the forensic laboratory, because it’s called when
there are suspicions of fraud,” Young said. She would not say how many fraudulent
claims the biometric program has uncovered, citing confidentiality and ongoing

The program has cost INS $1.2 million over the past two years, counting application
development, hardware purchases and system deployment, Young said. For wider use beyond
the four service centers, INS officials are awaiting a fiscal 1999 budget.

Between 1990 and April 1998, INS’ Immigration Card Facility in Grand Prairie,
Texas, produced 13.5 million biometric image sets for making alien registration, border
crossing and other types of cards. When the facility closed in April, INS shifted its
work, as well as the electronic data, to the four regional centers.

After agency officials completed a requirements analysis, contractor Imaging Automation
Inc. of Merrimack, N.H., converted the files into standard formats such as .gif and TIFF.
Eastman Software built the image storage repository using its Imaging for Microsoft
Windows NT, Workflow for Windows NT and Imaging for Windows, Professional Edition. That
work was finished in August.

“We’re extremely happy we could convert the files,” Young said, because
manual scanning of each proprietary archived file would have cost $18 million.

INS also wanted a scalable system to handle 4 million new immigration cases each year.
The system has enough capacity for 40 million more cases.

Users at the four service centers access the repository through a secure T1 link to
INS’ network backbone. Working at PCs running Windows 3.x, Windows 95 or NT
Workstation 3.51, they can view, locally store and print biographical data and images;
e-mail responses to law enforcement officials with images attached; or fax or send the
printed images by overnight delivery.

The standard client configuration is a 266-MHz Pentium II system with 32M of
synchronous dynamic RAM, 512K of Level 2 cache and 4.5G hard drive. The client systems
have Cirrus Logic graphics cards with 4M of RAM, 24X IDE CD-ROM drives, 10/100Base-T PCI
Ethernet or token-ring adapters, six drive bays, six slots, Hewlett-Packard Co. Ultra VGA
17-inch monitors and TCP/IP stacks. Servers are similarly configured.

As many as 20,000 potential users someday could consult the image repository for
benefits, enforcement and inspection services, Young said.   

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