- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Green cards are the Holy Grail of U.S. immigration, but the federal agency responsible for doling them out regularly botches the process, issuing duplicates or triplicates to some immigrants or sending out 10-year permits to people who qualify only for two-year cards, an internal audit shows.

Meanwhile, more than 200,000 immigrants filed reports that their cards were never delivered in recent years, the Homeland Security inspector general said in a report released Monday.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency that handles legal immigration, blamed computer errors, saying its systems spit out inaccurate green cards in 1 out of every 200 cases, investigators said.

Given the total of 2 million green cards mailed in 2015, that means thousands of bogus or inaccurate cards were sent out each year.

“In the wrong hands, Green Cards may enable terrorists, criminals, and illegal aliens to remain in the United States and access immigrant benefits,” the inspector general’s report said.

The errors are also costly. Auditors said the government spent $1.5 million in 2015 responding to card-related inquiries from customers.

The report follows an investigation earlier this year that USCIS approved green cards for hundreds of applicants who had been ordered deported.

USCIS missed the red flags because Homeland Security’s fingerprint files aren’t all electronic and the agency didn’t go back to check the applicants against old paper files that would have exposed the deportation orders.

USCIS said its faulty databases resulted in the erroneous green cards.

In one extreme case this year, a customer was sent five duplicate green cards in the same month. Hundreds of people were sent two green cards each.

In other instances, green cards were mailed with inaccurate information, including wrong fingerprints or wrong photos.

“This is unacceptable,” said House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael T. McCaul, Texas Republican. “This is yet another wake-up call that it’s time for sweeping reform across the department.”

USCIS Director Leon Rodriguez, in his official response to the report, said deliveries of cards to the wrong address were usually the fault of the U.S. Postal Service. He said his agents use the last known addresses on file.

He said the number of erroneous cards is “a very small percentage” of the total issued and that those who received cards with inaccurate information were still in the U.S. legally.

“While there may have been errors with the data on a card or duplicate cards issued, it is not precise to indicate that USCIS inappropriately issued Green Cards,” Mr. Rodriguez said in a response letter to Inspector General John Roth.

Mr. Rodriguez also said 2016 was a much better year for his agency, showing a “precipitous drop” in problems.

He also said green cards are tamper-resistant and tough to misuse because they include photos. Criminals or terrorists hoping to exploit the cards would have to look like the person whose card fell into their hands, Mr. Rodriguez said.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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