United States General Accounting Office Washington, DC 20548 April 21, 2003 The Honorable Ted Stevens Chairman The Honorable Robert C. Byrd Ranking Member Committee on Appropriations United States Senate The Honorable Orrin G. Hatch Chairman The Honorable Patrick J. Leahy Ranking Member Committee on the Judiciary United States Senate The Honorable C.W. Bill Young Chairman The Honorable David R. Obey Ranking Member Committee on Appropriations House of Representatives The Honorable F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr. Chairman The Honorable John Conyers, Jr. Ranking Member Committee on the Judiciary House of Representatives Subject: Immigration Benefits: Ninth Report Required by the Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act of 1998 This report responds to certain requirements of the Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act (HRIFA) of 19981 that authorized certain Haitian nationals and their dependents to apply to adjust their status to legal permanent residence. Section 902(k) of the act requires the Comptroller 1 P.L. 105-277, 112 Stat. 2681-538. Page 1 GAO-03-681R Immigration Benefits General to report every 6 months on the number of Haitian nationals who have applied and been approved to adjust their status to legal permanent residence. The reports are to contain a breakdown of the number of Haitians who applied and the number who were approved as asylum applicants, parolees, children without parents, orphaned children, or abandoned children; or as the eligible dependents of these applicants, including spouses, children, and unmarried sons or daughters. Reports are to be provided until all applications have been finally adjudicated. This is our ninth report.2 Through March 31, 2003, the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Results in Brief Services (BCIS), formerly part of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), had received a total of 37,295 HRIFA applications and had approved 9,555 of these applications.3 The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) had 665 applications filed and had approved 183 of them. Details on the categories of the applicants and approvals are provided in this report. Haitian applicants are to send their applications to BCIS’s Nebraska Background Service Center in Lincoln, Nebraska. A contractor at the service center is responsible for processing the applications up to the point of their adjudication by BCIS examiners. An application may be adjudicated at the 2 The previous reports were (1) U.S. General Accounting Office, Immigration Benefits: Applications for Adjustment of Status Under the Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act of 1998, GAO/GGD-99-92R (Washington, D.C.: Apr. 21, 1999); (2) Immigration Benefits: Second Report Required by the Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act of 1998, GAO/GGD-00-25R (Washington, D.C.: Oct. 19, 1999); (3) Immigration Benefits: Third Report Required by the Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act of 1998, GAO/GGD-00-122R (Washington, D.C.: Apr. 14, 2000); (4) Immigration Benefits: Fourth Report Required by the Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act of 1998, GAO-01-118R (Washington, D.C.: Oct. 20, 2000); (5) Immigration Benefits: Fifth Report Required by the Haitian Immigration Fairness Act of 1998, GAO-01-651R (Washington, D.C.: Apr. 20, 2001); (6) Immigration Benefits: Sixth Report Required by the Haitian Immigration Fairness Act of 1998, GAO-02-114R (Washington, D.C.: Oct. 22, 2001); (7) Immigration Benefits: Seventh Report Required by the Haitian Immigration Fairness Act of 1998, GAO-02-600R (Washington, D.C.: Apr. 18, 2002); (8) Immigration Benefits: Eighth Report Required by the Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act of 1998, GAO-03-240R (Washington, D.C.: Oct. 22, 2002). 3 On March 1, 2003, INS was transferred from the Department of Justice to the Department of Homeland Security. Within Homeland Security, the adjudication of HRIFA benefits is the responsibility of BCIS. Page 2 GAO-03-681R Immigration Benefits service center or in a BCIS district with jurisdiction over the area where the alien applicant resides. Generally, applications that are complete and evidentially sufficient can be adjudicated at the service center, according to BCIS officials. If an interview is required or other issues need to be resolved, the application is to be forwarded to the appropriate BCIS district where the applicant can be interviewed and the application adjudicated. Data on Haitian applicants are to be entered in BCIS’s Computer Linked Application Information System (CLAIMS). Haitian nationals who are eligible for HRIFA should file their applications with EOIR rather than BCIS if they have (1) a proceeding pending before the Immigration Court or the Board of Immigration Appeals or (2) a pending motion to reopen or reconsider filed on or before May 12, 1999. Thus, Haitian nationals who are in deportation, exclusion, or removal proceedings, and whose cases have not been administratively closed, are to file their HRIFA application with EOIR, not BCIS.4 Data on Haitian applicants are to be entered in EOIR’s case-tracking system, the Automated Nationwide System for Immigration Review (ANSIR). The deadline for principal applicants filing an application for adjustment of status under HRIFA was March 31, 2000. Dependents of principal applicants have no application deadline.5 Through March 31, 2003, BCIS data showed that it had received HRIFA Applications 37,295 HRIFA applications at its Nebraska Service Center, all of which had Received and been entered into CLAIMS. The categories and numbers of these applicants are shown in table 1. Through March 31, 2003, BCIS had Approved by BCIS approved 9,555 applications for adjustment of status under HRIFA. 4 EOIR was not transferred to Homeland Security and remains part of the Department of Justice. 5 The Legal Immigration and Family Equity Act (title XI of P.L. 106-553, as amended by title XV of P.L. 106-554) went into effect on December 21, 2000. This act amended HRIFA to waive certain grounds of inadmissibility for aliens applying for relief under HRIFA. Interim regulations implementing these changes to HRIFA went into effect on May 31, 2001. Page 3 GAO-03-681R Immigration Benefits Table 1: HRIFA Applications and Categories of Applications Received and Approved by BCIS, through March 31, 2003 Number of Number of Principal or applications in applications dependent Category of applicant CLAIMS approved Principal Asylum 17,318 5,320 Principal Parolee 8,898 2,271 Principal Child without parents 1,228 92 Principal Orphaned child 240 18 Principal Abandoned child 480 15 Dependent Spouse 3,317 624 Dependent Child 5,485 1,157 Dependent Unmarried son or 329 58 daughter Total 37,295 9,555 Source: BCIS data. Through March 31, 2003, EOIR data from ANSIR showed that 665 HRIFA HRIFA Applications applications had been filed with EOIR, of which 183 had been approved Filed with and for adjustment of status. Table 2 provides information on the categories and numbers of HRIFA applicants and approvals. Approved by EOIR Table 2: HRIFA Applications and Categories of Applications Filed with and Approved by EOIR, through March 31, 2003 Number of Number of Principal or applications in applications dependent Category of applicant ANSIR approved Principal Asylum 463 104 Principal Parolee 106 34 Principal Child without parents 34 19 Principal Orphaned 5 4 Principal Abandoned child 3 3 Dependent Spouse 34 11 Dependent Child 15 5 Dependent Unmarried son or 5 3 daughter Total 665 183 Source: EOIR data. Our objectives for this report were to determine (1) the number and Objectives, Scope, categories of applicants who filed applications with BCIS or EOIR and and Methodology (2) the number and categories of applicants whose applications were Page 4 GAO-03-681R Immigration Benefits approved by BCIS or EOIR. To attain these objectives, we relied on BCIS and EOIR to provide us with data on applicants and the number of approvals. We did not independently verify the data provided by BCIS or EOIR. We conducted our work between March and April 2003, in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. We provided the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security with a draft of this report for comment and received their informal comments on April 16, 2003. BCIS and EOIR had no comments on the report. We are providing copies of this report to the Attorney General and the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security and will make copies available to others upon request. If you have any questions about this report, please contact me at (202) 512-8777. The key contributor to this assignment was Jay Jennings. Laurie E. Ekstrand Director, Homeland Security and Justice Issues (440196) Page 5 GAO-03-681R Immigration Benefits This is a work of the U.S. government and is not subject to copyright protection in the United States. It may be reproduced and distributed in its entirety without further permission from GAO. However, because this work may contain copyrighted images or other material, permission from the copyright holder may be necessary if you wish to reproduce this material separately. The General Accounting Office, the audit, evaluation and investigative arm of GAO’s Mission Congress, exists to support Congress in meeting its constitutional responsibilities and to help improve the performance and accountability of the federal government for the American people. GAO examines the use of public funds; evaluates federal programs and policies; and provides analyses, recommendations, and other assistance to help Congress make informed oversight, policy, and funding decisions. GAO’s commitment to good government is reflected in its core values of accountability, integrity, and reliability. The fastest and easiest way to obtain copies of GAO documents at no cost is Obtaining Copies of through the Internet. GAO’s Web site (www.gao.gov) contains abstracts and full- GAO Reports and text files of current reports and testimony and an expanding archive of older products. The Web site features a search engine to help you locate documents Testimony using key words and phrases. You can print these documents in their entirety, including charts and other graphics. Each day, GAO issues a list of newly released reports, testimony, and correspondence. GAO posts this list, known as “Today’s Reports,” on its Web site daily. The list contains links to the full-text document files. To have GAO e-mail this list to you every afternoon, go to www.gao.gov and select “Subscribe to daily E-mail alert for newly released products” under the GAO Reports heading. Order by Mail or Phone The first copy of each printed report is free. Additional copies are $2 each. A check or money order should be made out to the Superintendent of Documents. GAO also accepts VISA and Mastercard. Orders for 100 or more copies mailed to a single address are discounted 25 percent. Orders should be sent to: U.S. General Accounting Office 441 G Street NW, Room LM Washington, D.C. 20548 To order by Phone: Voice: (202) 512-6000 TDD: (202) 512-2537 Fax: (202) 512-6061 Contact: To Report Fraud, Web site: www.gao.gov/fraudnet/fraudnet.htm Waste, and Abuse in E-mail: email@example.com Federal Programs Automated answering system: (800) 424-5454 or (202) 512-7470 Jeff Nelligan, managing director, NelliganJ@gao.gov (202) 512-4800 Public Affairs U.S. General Accounting Office, 441 G Street NW, Room 7149 Washington, D.C. 20548
Immigration Benefits: Ninth Report Required by the Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act of 1998
Published by the Government Accountability Office on 2003-04-21.
Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)