DOJ immigration databases in the dark

The Executive Office for Immigration Review suffered "a hardware failure," but removal proceedings are continuing backed by paper files.

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The Justice Department division that decides immigration cases has been left without access to some of its databases, temporarily hobbling its ability to handle cases electronically.

The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) has suffered a hardware failure that is blocking the agency from performing some functions related to its computer systems, according to a notice on the office's website.

EOIR spokeswoman Lauren Alder Reid told FCW that the office "has suffered some system issues that affect databases," but that removal hearings are continuing backed by paper files.

"The Board of Immigration Appeals is continuing to process cases each day, but is prioritizing its caseload to compensate for reliance on manual processes," the notice states, adding that some cases could be postponed while officials resolve the issue.

The glitches affect a number of applications that require access to case databases, including EOIR's case information hotline and its e-registration functions.

Reports in New York City newspapers characterized the situation as a "meltdown" involving five servers in Falls Church, Va., that are part of the network that supports 52 immigration courts nationwide. The articles say the situation has caused significant delays or postponements of hearings in New York's immigration court and added that the system might not be repaired for some time.

Sources familiar with the situation discounted the reports' technical characterization, saying the issue was more of an access problem than a server problem.

Reid and the EOIR notice said IT managers are working on repairs to the system, but neither provided a specific date on when that work might be completed.

"This isn't a long-term problem," said Reid, adding that the solution won't require an extensive overhaul. She declined to provide further details, citing security concerns.

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