- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 5, 2002

Millions of illegal aliens armed with bogus documents enter the United States each year through the nation's 300 ports of entry because of inadequate screening methods by federal immigration officials at the country's airports and border checkpoints, a little-publicized study says.
Commissioned by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, the study concluded that between 2.95 million and 5.45 million illegal aliens cross undetected every year into the country through guarded ports of entry with about one in every nine illegal aliens being detained.
The total does not include an estimated 3 million to 5 million illegal aliens who annually cross into the United States through unguarded areas along the border.
"A fair number of people are crossing into the United States each year, much higher than anyone expected," said Palmer Morrel-Samuels, a former University of Michigan research psychologist who conducted the four-month study for the INS. "The problem is dramatic and will continue, since the priority on stopping illegal immigration has been low.
"The solution will require a fair amount of time and resources," he said, adding that the study also put to rest a common perception that terrorists sneak into the United States through unguarded border areas with only what they can carry.
"This study suggests they did neither," he said. "It suggests they came into the country carrying all the bags they wanted and presented documents to INS inspectors, who looked them over for about a minute and then said, 'Welcome to the United States.'"
The study said INS inspectors typically spent "a minute or two" examining passports, visas or border-crossing cards before granting admission to a noncitizen traveler during an initial review process. It said random backup checks by the agency to evaluate the inspectors' accuracy showed that the inspectors had a "very low" rate of success.
Mr. Morrel-Samuels said the study involved a check of individuals who already had been approved by INS inspectors for entry. He said they had presented passports or border-crossing cards and had been welcomed into the United States. After the individuals presented their documentation, Mr. Morrel-Samuels and others who worked with him asked for a "secondary, far-more-rigorous interview that lasted 20 to 30 minutes."
Although the study made no specific recommendations, Mr. Morrel-Samuels said INS personnel have to be moved from inspection lanes to desks where they can have immediate access to computers with databases to check those people seeking to enter the United States. He said his secondary inspections found several people with forged documents and criminal records.
"Today's problems and today's solutions call for more modern methods," he said. "The decision to allow someone entry into the United States should not be a judgment made in a minute or two and based largely on intuition."
While the study concluded that a relatively small percent of travelers were improperly granted entry at each of the ports of entry, it said that when compared with the "actual number of travelers, rather than the proportion, the picture is more sobering."
It said the INS "missed several million inadmissible travelers" because of existing screening procedures and, as a result, between 2.95 million and 5.45 million illegal aliens who should have been denied entry were allowed into the United States.
INS spokesman Russ Bergeron referred inquiries about the study to other agency officials, who did not return calls for comment. He said only that the lengthy study concluded that if the INS had more time to spend with those people trying to enter the United States, more illegal aliens could be identified.
Mr. Bergeron said the study had been shared with some news outlets, although he did not elaborate.
But Mr. Morrel-Samuels, president of Employee Motivation & Performance Assessment Inc., said the study found its way only into an obscure trade journal and was never released to other news outlets despite several requests he made of the agency to do so. He said, however, that the INS should not have been "embarrassed" by the findings, because "immigration control has never been a high priority and INS has never had the necessary resources to do the job."
David Ray, spokesman for the Federation of American Immigration Reform, said the group obtained a copy of the study after being told by Mr. Morrel-Samuels of its "shocking findings." He said the INS had refused to make the document public.
"INS sought to hush the study because the agency didn't want the public to know how vulnerable we are," Mr. Ray said. "The report highlights the need for strong entry controls and real interior enforcement so that illegal aliens in the United States can be found and deported.
"The study shows that millions of illegal aliens are walking through our front door every year, whether at a port of entry or illegally jumping a fence," he said.
More than 500 million travelers enter the United States yearly at the country's established ports of entry after a brief interview with an INS inspector, the study said. It found that 47 of every 5,614 travelers were erroneously granted entry and that the INS intercepted between 9.3 percent and 16 percent of those attempting illegal entry.
"Research suggests that illegal immigrants constitute a surprisingly large portion of the current U.S. population, a trend with important political, legal, clinical, cultural and occupational ramifications," the study said. "But despite considerable interest, no one has a precise measurement of how many illegal immigrants enter the United States annually by evading detection at an airport or traffic checkpoint."
The study included random checks at 20 ports of entry. High-volume ports were sampled five times a day, low-volume ports once a day, and intermediate-volume ports were sampled three times a day. Every inspection lane at every minute of every hour when the port of entry had sufficient staff and a sufficient volume of travelers was included in the sampling frame, it said.
"Although there is much the current work cannot tell us, there is a good deal it does allow us to specify with a fair degree of precision," the study said, adding that the information collected showed that "enhanced vigilance" at the country's established ports of entry was associated with "better training, stronger organizational commitment and higher levels of employee motivation."

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