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Guestworker Plan Discredited By New GAO Report
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March 15, 2006, 04:00 AM
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Aside from the fact that any guest worker plan would be nothing more than an amnesty deal tied with a big red bow for lawbreakers, there is another reason to reject it:

Our government can`t handle it!

The Government Accountability Office (the General Accounting Office until 2004) released investigative findings on March 15:

IMMIGRATION BENEFITS: Additional Controls and Sanctions Strategy Could Enhance DHS`s Ability to Control BenefitFraud GAO-06-259 [PDF here]

It reveals that an adjudicator for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) reviewing an application for legal residency has to follow a very specific guideline:

Just glance at it…and maybe check for spelling errors.

The GAO points to this smoking guideline in the USCIS Adjudicator`s Field Manual.

"…adjudicators are to try to adjudicate the application based only on their review of the evidence submitted…only when an adjudicator cannot decide whether to grant an immigration benefit based on the evidence submitted, are they to consider taking additional steps such as conducting internal research, requesting additional evidence, interviewing individuals, or requesting a site visit."

Adjudicators don`t interview these people unless they are "undecided"?!!?

That explains a lot!

Bryanna translation:  If the USCIS adjudicator were to look at the application, open a desk drawer and pull out a Magic 8 Ball, shake it and then make their decision based on the words that appear in the answer window that would be a more reliable system (in terms of fraud detection) than what is currently in place!

Example:  Should I approve this application for Ahmed Al Hafez? Shake, shake, shake…it says "signs point to yes." Ok then, application approved!

And guess what? The GAO also says that fraud is basically rampant where immigration benefits are concerned.

Here`s the problem with their methodology:

Current USCIS policy states that when the USCIS cannot adjudicate an application for permanent residency that contains an accompanying application for work authorization within 90 days, the applicant is entitled to an interim work authorization.

Yeah, the applicant is allowed to work in the U.S. while waiting for a final decision…and that`s not all they can do.

Again, according to the GAO, this is the racket:

"ICE agents we interviewed also said that they suspected that many individuals apply for permanent residency fraudulently simply to obtain a valid temporary work authorization document. The interim benefit remains valid until it expires or until it is revoked by USCIS."

How long is the interim employment authorization benefit valid for?

"Failure to complete the adjudication within 90 days will result in the grant of an employment authorization document for a period not to exceed 240 days." [Title 8 Code of Federal Regulations Sec. 274a.13 sub (d)]

That`s eight months (for those like me with math issues) to do a lot of damage…

Because, according to the GAO report,

"Once a temporary work authorization is fraudulently obtained, an alien can use it to obtain other valid identity documents such as a temporary social security card and a driver`s license, thus facilitating their living and working in the United States."

  • I said the problem was rampant so let`s look at the statistics.

"In fiscal year 2005, USCIS adjudicated about 7.5 million applications. (For "an immigration benefit—the ability of an alien to live and in some cases work in the United States either permanently or on a temporary basis," according to the GAO`s cover letter to Congress.)

"In fiscal year 2004, 67 percent of applications were adjudicated in `service centers` that generally process only applications that do not require an interview with the applicant.

(FY 2005 percentages not available…but we can use 2004 as a rough estimate.)

This means that roughly 5 million applications were adjudicated without interviewing the applicants to verify the evidence they provided.

Now then, according to the GAO report, in FY2005 there were three application categories which accounted for more than three-quarters of the fraud denials:



  • Application for a spouse to immigrate (14 percent)

(Almost half of the applications adjudicated by USCIS in FY2005 fell into these three categories.)

Stay with me folks, I know we`ve got a lot of numbers here and I hate numbers but I promise it will make sense.

According to the GAO report,

"…about 85 percent of applicants for permanent residency also apply for temporary work authorization."

According to my beloved James Fulford, about a quarter of the above-mentioned applications for permanent residency would therefore also be seeking work authorization.

In a nutshell, roughly two-thirds of the applications that are denied based on fraud are from applicants seeking authorization for temporary employment.

Some people call them guest workers.

Let me say that again just to make sure you read it correctly…guest workers.

To make matters worse…oh yes, it can always get worse…what happens when an applicant files fraudulent documents?

In a word: nothing.

One of the areas marked needs improvement by the GAO was fraud detection.

"Although best practice guidance suggests that sanctions for those who commit benefit fraud are central to a strong fraud control environment [Bryanna: No!!!!] and the INA (Immigration and Nationality Act) provides for criminal and administrative sanctioning, DHS does not currently actively use the administrative sanctions available to it."

In FY2005, USCIS only referred about 2289 immigration benefit fraud cases to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and of that number, ICE only accepted about 26%.

Slightly fewer than 600 fraud cases were looked into by ICE…not necessarily prosecuted but looked into.

But the USCIS has to power to impose sanction that would effectively pay for themselves.

  1. For document fraud (committed after 1999) the DHS can impose fines ranging from $275 to $2,200 per document for a first offense and from $2,200 to $5,500 per document for those with prior violations.
  2. Some individuals may be deemed inadmissible for future applications.
  3. Some aliens found guilty of fraud can be removed from the United States and barred from entering in the future.

That`s not all!

The penalties collected would go into a fund—the Immigration Enforcement Account at the Department of the Treasury.

This account can be used to pay for a variety of enforcement enhancement provisions, including:

  1. A system to identify and track criminal aliens, deportable aliens, inadmissible aliens, and aliens illegally entering the United States; and
  2. The repair, maintenance, or construction of border facilities to deter illegal entry along the border.

Yep, that 700 mile fence everybody keeps talking about could have been paid for by the lawbreakers themselves.

But it won`t—thanks to the Department of Homeland Security.

Americans will get to pick up the tab on that little project…no surprise there.

In closing, let me make something very clear:

I am not saying immigration officers have an easy job—they have a very, very difficult job.

I am not suggesting that there is an easy solution—but that doesn`t mean there isn`t one.

And read what the officers in the field told GAO:

"It would be impossible for USCIS to verify all of the key information or interview all individuals related to the millions of applications it adjudicates each year—approximately 7.5 million applications in fiscal year 2005—without seriously compromising its service-related objectives…" [Bryanna question: service? To whom?]

"For example, adjudicators at all four service centers we spoke with told us that operations management seemed to be almost exclusively focused on reducing the backlog in order to meet production goals…."

"At one service center the union representing adjudicators filed a grievance in June 2005 claiming that proposed new performance standards for adjudicators were unrealistic and would compromise the quality of adjudication decisions…."

"Adjudicators we interviewed at one service center said that whenever operations management communicated with them about practicing more discretion in issuing requests for additional evidence, they believed it was primarily intended to put more pressure on them to process applications faster, which in turn they said puts additional pressure on them to not to request additional evidence when making eligibility decisions…..

Who is pressuring adjudicators not to do their jobs?

We have heard about the benefits of a guest worker program and we have heard from the White House that a guest worker program is the easiest solution.

But try this on for size:

Our government is not capable of handling roughly 13-20 million temporary worker applications when our illegal alien population suddenly becomes eligible through guest worker legislation.

Because USCIS can`t handle what it already has.

It would be an irresponsible Act of Congress signed into law by an even more irresponsible President. But then again, it wouldn`t be the first time that has happened.

The GAO report comes shortly before the Senate resumes debate on guest worker legislation…maybe some Senators will actually read it before voting.

Shoulda, coulda, woulda…the bottom line is: a guest worker program can`t be done.

Bryanna Bevens [email her] is a political consultant and former chief of staff for a member of the California State Assembly.