Botched USCIS Computer Implementation Costs Big, Leaves Gaping Loopholes for Terrorists, Fraud

Published on March 31st, 2015

Whenever I’m asked about the government’s ability to manage immigration programs, I always answer that after nearly 30 years of immigration research, I can’t recall a single thing the feds ever did to carry out a plan as originally promised.

The latest snafu is a doozy, the Electronic Immigration Services’ (ELIS) expensive failure. In November 2014 when President Obama announced his second-generation deferred action for childhood arrivals and his new deferred action for their parents, about 5 million unlawful immigrants, he hoped that ELIS would provide a low-cost, efficient system to help smooth application processing of immigration benefits.

Obama discounted the reality that ELIS has struggled since 2009. Originally slated to cost $536,000 and be fully functional in 2013, the latest prediction projects the tab at $2.6 billion, and the completion date sometime in 2018 or 2019. Immigration benefit application fees paid by legal immigrants have absorbed more than $1 billion of the cost overrun, but left taxpayers to pay the staggering balance.

In the meantime, the case load remains archaically paperwork-based. About 13,000 federal employees and 5,000 contractors struggle with the Herculean task of processing 6 million immigration applications. Disappointing though for officials is that the paper system is more effective to date than ELIS. A 2014 inspector general report found that ELIS takes twice as long as the paper-based system.

Even after billions are spent, ELIS’ future is in doubt. Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), the House Judiciary Chair who oversees ELIS, notes that despite years of efforts to computerize immigration benefits as well as weed out fraud and possible terrorists, not enough progress has been achieved. The result, Goodlatte fears, is rubber-stamping.

Among the many possible solutions to ending unchecked immigration that necessitates such expensive but flawed programs like ELIS is mandatory E-Verify that would eliminate the jobs magnet that draws illegal immigrants to the U.S. Please go to the CAPS Action Alert page here to urge your representative to support the Legal Workforce Act.

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