- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 23, 2002

Congressional investigators have found that immigration fraud is now so extensive it "threatens the integrity of the legal immigration system."
In a little-noted study prepared for a House subcommittee on immigration released Feb. 15, the General Accounting Office found fraud to be "pervasive and significant."
The GAO said immigration fraud "will increase as smugglers and other criminal enterprises use fraud as another means of bringing illegal aliens, including criminal aliens, into the country."
The GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, said Immigration and Naturalization Service officials say fraud is "rampant" and that they "believe that some aliens are using the benefit application process to enable them to carry out … crimes of violence, narcotics trafficking and terrorism" in this country.
The INS uses the term "benefits" to refer to such functions as allowing immigrants to become naturalized citizens, granting work permits to resident aliens and changing the visa status of visitors and would-be residents.
INS executives acknowledged that a serious problem exists but said the problem is overstated because the fraud estimates are "unscientific" and not based on "statistically valid samples."
The GAO countered that although the estimates provided by INS supervisors and managers were not based on "scientific studies," they reflect the experience of those who should know the "pervasiveness and significance of the problem."
Fraud occurs when otherwise ineligible aliens lie or engage in various schemes to make it seem that they are related to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident or are eligible to immigrate because they are especially needed workers.
Some aliens conduct sham marriages, or they might be listed by unscrupulous or fictitious employers as essential workers who qualify for special consideration under immigration law. Some aliens falsely say they are priests, ministers, monks or nuns who can enter the country under "religious worker" provisions.
Ineligible aliens seeking to immigrate sometimes pay criminal groups and smugglers large fees to arrange mock marriages for them and provide wedding party pictures and phony documentation.
In most instances, the fraudulent claims are backed by counterfeit documentation.
The GAO says the INS allows the fraud to flourish by stressing that applications must be processed quickly.
In some districts, "adjudicators," who decide whether a benefit will be granted, are ordered to spend no more than 15 minutes on an application. This effectively discourages checking for fraud, the study says.
The GAO found that 90 percent of 5,000 petitions for workers sought by foreign companies "particularly in the Los Angeles area" were fraudulent.
"An official in the [INS] operations branch stated that a follow-up analysis of about 1,500 petitions found only one … that was not fraudulent," the GAO said.
The GAO also found that of 22,000 applications submitted for aliens by an immigration consulting firm, some 5,500 were fraudulent and 4,400 were suspected of being frauds.
One INS official, according to the report, said adjudication officials were so overworked and pressured that they were paid overtime to work at home, where they lack access to the databases used for detecting fraud.
The result of such practices, the GAO concludes, is that "there is no assurance that INS reviews are adequate for detecting noncompliance or abuse."


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