Audit: INS botched $31m system

Audit: INS botched $31m system

The Immigration and Naturalization Service has mismanaged a $31 million automated system designed to keep track of foreign visitors, according to a recent Justice Department inspector general audit.

The service failed to manage the risks associated with the Automated I-94 System, which is intended to process forms to track air passengers coming into and leaving the United States, the IG's report said.

'One risk, the lack of air carrier participation, has halted the deployment of the system,' it said.

Only U.S. Airways and Trans World Airlines, recently acquired by American Airlines, have agreed to use the system, which is in operation at airports in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Charlotte, N.C.

Northwest Airlines is testing the system but declined to permanently participate, the audit said.
Because most carriers have refused to participate, INS is considering ways to redesign the system so that it works independently of airlines, the inspector general said.

INS introduced the system in May 1997, after the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 mandated that INS create an automated tracking system for use at all ports of entry.

Airlines using the system produce arrival cards that passengers present to an immigration inspector when they enter the United States. The inspector puts an arrival record in a local database, and the system produces a departure record containing the details of admission for the passenger, including his last day allowed in the country.

Passengers must surrender the departure cards on leaving the country, and airlines must collect and return them to INS.

Of the 5 million illegal immigrants living in the United States last year, 40 percent were visitors who had exceeded their authorized stays, the audit said.

INS estimates it will need an additional $57 million through fiscal 2005 to complete the system.
INS has not completed many steps required to measure the performance of the system, including converting the project's intended purpose into measurable goals, the audit said.

The IG recommended that INS:

  • Conduct a cost-benefit analysis before spending any more money and determine whether the project should proceed

  • Develop and implement performance measures before continuing with the system

  • Develop a risk management plan

  • Address the concerns of airlines that choose not to participate.

    INS officials failed to respond to repeated requests from GCN for comment.
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