IT Issues Hamper Tracking of Visa Overstays, DHS OIG Says
The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) recently found that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) relies on information technology (IT) systems that are “fragmented” and “ineffective,” lacking in integration and information-sharing capabilities. As a result, OIG said, ICE personnel are forced to “laboriously piece together vital information from up to 27 distinct DHS information systems and databases to accurately determine an individual’s overstay status.” It can take months for ICE to determine a visa-holder’s status and whether that person may pose a national security threat, OIG said, which contributes to a backlog of more than 1.2 million visa overstay cases.
Further complicating ICE’s efforts to track visa overstays is DHS’s lack of a comprehensive biometric exit system at U.S. ports of departure to capture information on nonimmigrant visitors. In the absence of such a system, OIG reported, ICE must rely on third-party departure data, such as commercial carrier passenger manifests, which do not include biometric land departure information reflecting those who cross the border on foot or using their own vehicles.
OIG made several recommendations to the DHS and ICE Chief Information Officers (CIOs) to improve information sharing, provide training and guidance, evaluate data reliability, and implement a biometric exit solution.