Congress

Missed deportee fingerprints spark legislation

Shutterstock image (by Bruce Rolff): machine fingerprint.

The U.S. mistakenly granted citizenship to hundreds of applicants who had been slated for deportation in part because U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services lacked up-to-date digitized fingerprint records to catch the fraudsters, according to a watchdog report. Now Congress is trying to fix the problem.

Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) introduced the IDENT Fingerprint Digitization Completion Act of 2016, which would require the Department of Homeland Security to implement a fully digitized system for fingerprint identification records within three months of the legislation being signed into law.

"In this environment, with terrorists actively seeking ways to enter our country, these types of blunders are inexcusable," McSally said in a statement. DHS "needs to be one-step ahead, not decades behind."

The blunders she referred to are cataloged in a DHS Office of Inspector General report released Sept. 16 in which auditors said USCIS granted citizenship to 858 people who had been ordered deported but who had reapplied for naturalization under another identity. USCIS did not catch the deception because digital records were not available. The required checks against DHS and FBI digital fingerprint repositories were incomplete because neither database contains all old fingerprint records.

Additionally, the report said all old records were not included in the DHS repository when it was being developed. Furthermore, Immigration and Customs Enforcement identified about 148,000 older, undigitized fingerprint records of criminals or fugitive aliens with final deportation orders.

According to the IG's report, fingerprint records were missing from as many as 315,000 cases. In at least three cases, individuals had been mistakenly granted access to secure areas in airports or maritime facilities.

The is not the first time McSally, who represents a district with a wide stretch of the U.S. border with Mexico, has been critical of DHS. During a Sept. 14 House Homeland Security Committee hearing on shutting down pathways for terrorists into the U.S., she took DHS to task for not investigating commercially available "deception detection technology" to use in immigration security screenings.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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