oversight

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)

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
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