INS inspectors lack tools, training

The Immigration and Naturalization's Primary Inspections at Air Ports of Entry

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Inspectors at air points of entry do not have adequate equipment to share passenger information and they are not properly trained on the computer systems, a Justice Department inspector general's report said.

The audit evaluated the Immigration and Naturalization Service's procedures for secondary inspections of air travelers. Such follow-ups are based on inspectors' concerns about a traveler or information in a database about travelers.

The report found that inspectors were receiving passenger information before flight arrival via the Advance Passenger Information System, but they lacked the resources to analyze the information.

"Thus primary inspectors were making admissibility determinations for some travelers without using vital information that could be critical in identifying persons who should be referred for more detailed inspections," the report said.

Primary inspectors also were not entering necessary information about passengers into the National Automated Immigration Lookout System (NAILS), which informs inspectors of people who should not be let into the United States, the report said. The inspectors have a backlog of more than 1,800 lookouts for lost and stolen passports, down from 2,800 in fiscal 2002.

"Without such lookouts, aliens can enter the United States using stolen blank passports," the report stated.

The INS spent more than $19 million in fiscal 2002 to train about 1,000 new inspectors, but their training on the computer systems that provide passenger information was not adequate, the report stated.

"The [Immigration Officer Academy] needs to incorporate additional 'hands-on' computer training in the curricula," the report said. "Further, trainees need to be tested on the use of computer systems as they are for other curricula areas."

The report outlined 27 recommendations to improve inspections, focusing on speeding up passenger analysis before arrival and ensuring correct passenger data is entered into the systems.

Rep. John Hostettler (R-Ind.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee's Immigration, Border Security and Claims Subcommittee, said in a statement that he was discouraged by the report, especially the part about lack of adequate training.

"It is critical to our national security that inspectors at the ports be given the proper tools to identify aliens who pose a risk to our country," Hostettler said. "It is equally critical, however, for the inspectors to know how to use those tools, and to actually use them."

The subcommittee will hold a hearing in the next few months to examine the integration of inspection operations from the INS to the new Bureau of Customs and Border Protection in the Homeland Security Department. The bureau will be asked to describe the steps taken to address the concerns outlined in the report, Hostettler said.

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