INS taps CSC for verification system

The Immigration and Naturalization Service will pay Computer Sciences Corp. up to $31 million for a computer system designed to verify the eligibility of foreigners applying for government benefits and jobs.

Among other things, the system will verify the eligibility of aliens to obtain U.S. driver's licenses and could become a key component in homeland security.

The verification information system will use the Internet to give benefits agencies and some employers virtually instant access to INS records that tell whether registered aliens may receive benefits or employment.

CSC, which is building the new system under a task order contract announced last week, says it will replace the "alien status verification index," a mainframe-based system augmented by a separate case-management system.

CSC program manager Dan Miller said the new system is being built to accommodate inquiries from more than 50,000 users at about 160 federal, state and local agencies across the country. The system, which should be ready by September 2003, is part of the INS Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) program.

The Social Security Administration and the California Department of Motor Vehicles are expected to be users. CSC will bill them and other users for each eligibility check. Under the current SAVE program, users are charged 2 cents to 23 cents per query. Initially, only a limited number of employers will have access to the system through pilot programs, Miller said.

CSC's contract requires the system to complete eligibility checks in about five seconds, Miller said. That would be a vast improvement over the current system, which can take days or weeks to provide eligibility information, according to Jim Dorcey, a former immigration fraud investigator for the Justice Department.

Problems with the current verification index may have more to do with personnel and management than with hardware and software, said Dorcey, who is now a consultant for the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

The database itself is capable of providing immediate access to eligibility information, Dorcey said. In theory, benefits agencies or employers should be able to telephone or send an electronic query to a local INS office and receive a response within minutes, he said.

But INS has "made the SAVE system rather complicated." The agency requires that all inquiries be sent to INS headquarters, where a small group of employees attempts to respond to tens of thousands of incoming requests for information, he said.

The new system will solve that problem by permitting users to receive eligibility information from INS on their computers via the Internet, said CSC spokes.man Charlie Greenwald.

INS program officials were unavailable to comment on the new system.

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