Immigration Services: INS Resources and Services in the Miami District

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1990-08-06.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

      6           United   States   General     Accounting    Office             Lb

                  Report to Congressional Requesters

7 Aug&d199@
.I                IMMIGRATION
                  INS Resourcesand
                  Zkrvices in the Miami

                                                   be released outside the
                                                  ce unless specitically
                                              ce of Cmgm3siona.I
                    United States
                    General Accounting  Office
                    Washington, D.C. 20548

                    General Government       Division


                     August 6,199O

                     The Honorable Tom Lewis
                     House of Representatives

                     The Honorable Bill McCollum
                     House of Representatives

                     In your November 8. 1989, letter, you asked us to review certain aspects
                     of Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) operations in its Miami
                     District. As agreed with your offices, we are providing information on
                     (1) authorized and actual staffing levels for the Miami District for the 4-
                     year period ending in December 1989, (2) its processing times for aliens’
                     applications by selected application types as of September 1989, and (3)
                     the Miami District budget for fiscal year 1990. For perspective, we also
                     include information on the seven other districts in the Southern Region.

                     We reviewed INS staffing, application processing, and budget data for
                     the Miami District and the Southern Region. According to IKS officials,
                     the data may contain some inaccuracies but are adequate for inter-unit
                     comparison. We did not verify the data INS provided. We interviewed INS
                     officials in the Miami District, Southern Region, and INS Headquarters.
                     We also reviewed a February 1990 Department of Justice Inspector Gen-
                     eral report. Our review was done between December 1989 and June
                      1990. We discussed the facts presented in this report with INS officials,
                     who generally agreed with them. A detailed objective, scope, and meth-
                     odology section is contained in appendix I.

                     Our analysis of   INS   records showed the following:
Results in Brief
                   . During the period December 1985 to December 1989, none of the district
                     offices within the Southern Region, including the Miami District, were
                     staffed to their authorized levels because of funding limitations. How-
                     ever, the Miami District has had a smaller share of its authorized posi-
                     tions filled than the other seven regional districts. Further, the Miami
                     District has used more temporary staff than the other districts.
                   . As of September 1989, the Miami District generally took twice as long as
                     the other districts within the region to process alien applications, except
                     for two other districts. However, while those districts had comparable
                     processing times, they had fewer total applications than the Miami Dis-
                     trict. The Miami District’s longer processing times thus affected more
                     aliens than other districts with similar processing times. To reduce the
                     Miami District application backlog and processing times, INS created a

                     Page 1                                          GAO/GGD9@98   Immigration   Services

                                           had 78 percent of their positions staffed over the last 4 years while the
                                           Miami District had about 70 percent. In addition, the Miami District has
                                           had more temporary staff than the other districts.

Figure 1: The Miami District Has Had
Fewer of Its Authorized Positions Filled
                                           100      Percan, of Authorized Positions Fflled







                                             lT!l%                   9/66                  g/67   9m9             g/a9              lZ69

                                                     -         Miami District
                                                     - - - -   Average of Other Disbfcts

Miami District’s Use of                    Miami also has a larger percentage of its workforce filled by temporary
Temporary Employees                        staff than the other districts, as shown in figure 2. About 23 percent of
                                           Miami’s employees are temporaries, while other districts have about 10
                                           percent temporary staff. According to regional officials, the Miami Dis-
                                           trict often needed to hire staff quickly, and using temporary employees
                                           allowed Miami to fill vacancies faster. But according to a Miami District
                                           official, this practice results in higher turnover rates since most
                                           employees want permanent jobs with accompanying benefits and
                                           security. He further stated it would be better to recruit and hire a quali-
                                           fied permanent employee than to recruit several temporary employees
                                           for the same position.

                                           Page 3                                                  GAO/GGD90-98   Immigration   Services

                                       and so fewer aliens were affected. As shown in figure 3, the Miami Dis-
                                       trict had to process about half of the permanent residency and naturali-
                                       zation applications and almost all the asylum applications in the
                                       Southern Region as of September 1989.

Fiaure 3: The Miami District Has the
Major Share of the Region’s Pending
Applications                           Percent of Pending Workload 85 of September 1889




                                         Types of Applications

                                               I       Average of Other Dismcts
                                                       Miami D~stun

Al3plicant Waiting Times               As of September 1989, residency applicants waited about 10 months in
                                       Miami, with similar times in Dallas and Houston, but much less in other
                                       districts (see fig. 4). IIowever, almost 7,000 applications were pending in
                                       the Miami District as compared to about 2,800 in the Houston District
                                       and 2,400 in the Dallas District. With respect to naturalization applica-
                                       tions, the Miami and Dallas Districts took about a year, while the other
                                       six districts took about 4 months as of September 1989 (see fig. 5). The
                                       Miami District had about 22,500 pending applications, or about 3 times


Waiting Times for Naturalization,   as of
                                            13   Waiting Times In Months
September 1989

Application Workload                        Through September 1989, the Miami District had about kept pace with
                                            new residency, naturalization, and political asylum applications. How-
                                            ever, the staff had not been able to significantly reduce large pending
                                            workloads.” According to INS, a workload backlog exists when applica-
                                            tions have been pending for more than 4 months.

                                            As shown in figure 6, the Miami District’s residency application receipt
                                            rate has been relatively stable, and, for the most part, staff have been
                                            able to process about as many applications as they received. The peak in
                                            processing many residency applications was accomplished through the
                                            use of a task force to process the sharp increase in applications in early

                                            “We did not compare filled positions to pending workload or processing times because data for such a
                                            comparison were not readily available.

                                            Page 7

Figure 7: Miami District Receipts,
Clearings, and Pending Workload      for
Naturalization Applications                300     Hundreds of Applications



                                                    -       Applications Received
                                                    --mm    Applications Cleared
                                                    -       Applications Pending

                                           Page9                                    GAO/GGD90-98 Immigration Services

                                         it had not completed its work as of March 1990, the last date for which
                                         data are available.

                                         According to Southern Region officials, all of the Southern Region dis-
Miami District Budget                    tricts had their funding allocations reduced in fiscal year 1989 to
                                         finance unanticipated operations in southern Texas. These expenditures
                                         were caused by a sudden and unexpected influx of Central Americans
                                         seeking political asylum. Additionally, hiring more Border Patrol agents
                                         late in fiscal year 1988 contributed to increased payroll costs in fiscal
                                         year 1989 that further exacerbated the situation.

                                         The region allocates funds to each district for their discretionary-type
                                         expenses (e.g., detention, supplies, travel, vehicle maintenance) and
                                         pays for certain recurring district expenses (e.g., rent, utilities). As
                                         shown in table 1, the Miami District had the largest total expenditures
                                         for fiscal year 1989 and largest budget for fiscal year 1990.”
Table 1: Fiscal Year 1989 Expenditures
and Fiscal Year 1990 Budget Amounts      Dollars in millions
                                                                                     Total fiscal year               Total fiscal year
                                                                                    1989 expenditures                  1990 budget
                                         Districts                                  Amount       Percent            Amount       Percent
                                         Atlanta                                        $7 7             0              $7 0             7
                                         Dallas                                         109            12               10.0           12
                                         El Paso                                        10.9           12               10.9           12
                                         Harhgen                                          9.2          10               10.6           11
                                         Houston                                        13.0           14               12.2           13
                                         Mraml                                          22.9           24               22.2           24
                                         New Orleans                                      6.3            7                6.5            7
                                         San Antonlo                                    13.2           14               132            14
                                         Totals                                       $94.1           101a            $93.4           100
                                         ‘Exceeds 100 percent due to roundlng

                                         In fiscal year 1989, the Miami District requested approximately $3.2
                                         million for discretionary purposes. The region approved $1 million of
                                         the $3.2 million for the discretionary budget. The district received allo-
                                         cations totaling $852,000 in quarterly installments of $302,000,

                                         ‘Prior years’ expenditures are available by program but not by district.

                                         Page 11
Page 13   GAO/GGD80-98 lmmi@ation Setices
Appendix I
Objectives, slope,   and Methodology

with the facts as presented. Their views were incorporated where

Page 16                                    GAO/GGDtlI%98   hm@atlm   Services
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Major Contributors to This Report

                        James M. Blume, Assistant Director,
General Government        Administration of .Justice Issues
Division, Washington,   C. Jay Jennings, Senior Evaluator
                        Gordon Agress, Staff Evaluator

                        Mario L. Artesiano, Senior Evaluator
Atlanta Regional        Jose A. Ramos, Staff Evaluator
Office                  Maria Storts, Staff Evaluator

(183572)                Page 16                                GAO/GGD99-98   Immigration   Setices
Appendix I

Objectives, Scope, and Methodology

               Our objective was to provide information on (1) authorized and actual
               staffing levels, (2) the processing times for aliens’ applications by
               selected types, and (3) the Miami District budget. For perspective, we
               also included information on the seven other districts in the Southern

                Most of our work was done at the Miami District office. We also visited
                the District’s suboffices in Tampa and Jacksonville and INS' Southern
                Region in Dallas, Texas, which had direct financial, personnel, and oper-
                ational oversight, over the District. We contacted Miami Border Patrol
                sector officials at several Florida locations and officials in INS Headquar-
                ters in Washington, D.C. We reviewed Justice’s Office of Inspector Gen-
                eral’s February 1990 report dealing with INS' Miami District budget and

                To determine the staffing levels in the Miami District, we reviewed INS
                records for authorized, funded, and staffed positions from December
                1985 through December 1989; interviewed appropriate INS officials; and
                analyzed the Miami District’s share of Southern Region staff resources.
                While averaging can mask individual district differences, such masking
                did not occur in our analysis.

                To determine processing times for certain applications, we analyzed
                Miami District workloads and computed processing times for residency,
                political asylum, and naturalization applications for all Southern Region
                district offices from October 1, 1986, to March 3 1, 1990. We selected
                these workloads because they are a significant portion of the work done
                by the Miami District and are also common to other districts, except for
                asylum, for which the Miami District processes almost all applications.
                These workloads are also more labor-intensive, normally requiring an
                applicant intervicu

                To analyze the Miami District budget, we reviewed budget requests,
                approved budgets. and increases and decreases to fiscal year 1989 allo-
                cations. Prior to fiscal year 1989, INS' accounting system in the Southern
                Region did not have budget information, such as discretionary funding,
                by district. We did not verify INS computer-generated personnel and
                workload data to source documents. Although INS workload data may
                contain some inaccuracies, according to INS officials, the data are the
                best available and are adequate for inter-unit comparison.

                Our work was done between December 1989 and June 1990. We dis-
                cussed our report with appropriate INS officials, who generally agreed

                Page 14                                       GAO/GGD90-98   Immigration   Services

$308,000, $186,000, and $56,000, which was less than its approved dis-
cretionary budget. As operating needs increased, Miami District man-
agers asked for additional funds for expenses of a minor nature, such as
photocopying and office supplies, vehicle repairs, and printing.

According to Southern Region officials, all the districts in the region
received budget reductions. Southern Region officials stated that they
tried to avoid disrupting operations. However, according to Miami Dis-
trict managers, the budget reductions and uncertain budget environment
limited operations. For example, to reduce travel costs, agents could
work only near their immediate duty stations. Further, maintenance on
vehicles was postponed and alien apprehension and removal was
affected by the reduced funding.

The Miami District funding continued to fluctuate during the fiscal year.
The Southern Region provided the Miami District funding in addition to
its quarterly allocation to pay for travel costs, enforcement activities,
detention costs from local detention facilities, and other expenses. By
year’s end, the Southern Region reported that the Miami District had
actually spent $1.6 million in fiscal year 1989. The Southern Region has
budgeted $1.7 million for Miami’s fiscal year 1990 discretionary

As arranged with your offices, unless you publicly announce the con-
tents of this report earlier, we plan no further distribution until 30 days
from the date of issuance. At that time, we will send copies to interested
parties and make copies available to others upon request.

The major contributors to this report are listed in appendix II. If there
are any questions concerning the contents of this report, please call me
at (202) 275-8389.

Lowell Dodge             /
Director, Administration
  of Justice Issues

Page 12                                      GAO/GGD40-98 Immiiation   Services

Figure 8: Miami District Receipts,
Clearings, and Pending Workload for
                                      100   Thwsands    of Applications
Political Asylum Applications








                                             -         Applications Received
                                             - - - -   Applications Cleared
                                             B         Applications Pending

Task Force Established to             To reduce the longer processing times and growing backlog, INS estab-
Reduce Processing Times               lished a task force in November 1989 consisting of staff from other dis-
                                      tricts nationwide to expedite application processing in the Miami
                                      District. The effort helped to reduce waiting times and pending
                                      workloads. The task force completed processing applications for resi-
                                      dency in January 1990 and naturalization in February 1990. It com-
                                      pleted its processing of asylum applications in May 1990. From
                                      September 1989 to March 1990, the waiting time for residency applica-
                                      tions decreased from 10 to 6 months. For naturalization applications,
                                      applicant waiting times decreased from 12 to 9 months.

                                      The task force dramatically reduced the district’s number of pending
                                      residency applications from 6,998 as of September 1989 to 3,858 in
                                      March 1990. The naturalization backlog was reduced to 17,816 as of
                                      March 1990 from 22,533 as of September 1989. The number of asylum
                                      applications increased from 29,130 to 32,149 during the same period;
                                      however, the task force results are not reflected in these figures because

                                       Page 10                                    GAO/GGD90-98   Imm@ation   Services

Figure 6: Miami District Receipts,
Clearings, and Pending Workload      for
                                           100   Hundreds of Appllcalions
Residency Applications

                                                 -        Applications Received
                                                 --I.     Applications Cleared
                                                 m        Applications Pending

                                           As shown in figure i, the naturalization pending workload has increased
                                           and remained steady since June 1988. As shown in figure 8, Miami Dis-
                                           trict staff have processed about as many asylum applications as
                                           received. The sharp reduction in the pending workload was due to
                                           clearing many Cuban political asylum applications under the Cuban Ref-
                                           ugee Adjustment Act.

                                            Page 8                                    GAO/GGD99-98   Immigration   Services

                                     the number (7,600) in the Dallas District. As of September 1989, the
                                     processing time in Miami for asylum applications was about 14 months.”

Figure 4: Comparison of Applicant
Waiting Times for Residency, as of
                                     13   Waiting Times in Months
September 1999

                                      0 r-i

                                      “To calculate the waiting times we divided the pending applications as of September 1989 (e.g., 6,998
                                      residency applications) by the average monthly number of applications processed for the year (e.g.,
                                      690). This calculation resulted in an average waiting time (e.g., 10 months). This approach did not
                                      consider new applicatmns

                                      Page 6                                                       GAO/GGD-90-98     Immigration   Sewices

Figure 2: The Miami District Has More
Temporary Employees
                                        30      Percent of Podtlons Filled by Temporary Employees



                                         la95                   9/9s                8187                             9.m

                                                -        Miami District
                                                -I L-    Averageof OtherDistricts

                                        Southern Regional officials stated that Miami’s staffing situation is
                                        related to the low salaries paid to clerical staff and detention officers.
                                        While the regional officials’ views may have merit, this explanation does
                                        not address the lack of funding for authorized positions. In December
                                        1989, the region funded 69 percent of Miami’s authorized positions. In
                                        other districts, the region funded an average of 78 percent of the
                                        authorized positions. Funds for staffing would not be affected by local
                                        labor market conditions; they are a regional resource allocation

                                         As of September 1989, aliens in the Miami District had to wait about a
Application Processing                   year to have their residency and naturalization applications processed.
                                         Miami processing times were generally twice as long as most of the other
                                         Southern Region districts. While some other Southern Region districts
                                         also had long processing times, they had fewer applications than Miami,

                                         ‘A February 1990 Department of Justice Inspector General review said that INS does not have an
                                         adequate   re?aurce allocation system The study did not address the adequacy of overall staffing
                                         levels at the Miami Distnct because such an analysis would have had to include an INS-wide rvalna-
                                         tion of the agency’s resource allocation processes.

                                         Page 4                                                      GAO/GGDW-98       Immigration Services

                             task force in November 1989. As a result, applicant waiting times were
                             decreased. For example, naturalization applicants’ waiting time was
                             reduced from 12 to 9 months.
                         l   The Southern Region reduced the fiscal year 1989 budgets for all of its
                             district offices. It did this to finance the unanticipated operations in
                             southern Texas caused by the sudden and unexpected influx of aliens
                             seeking asylum. According to regional officials, budget reductions were
                             equally distributed among its districts.

                             On the basis of IP*S’fiscal year 1989 appropriations, INS Headquarters
Background                   provided funds and staffing levels to each of its four regions, which
                             then allocated these resources among the districts in their regions. The
                             Southern Region authorized staffing levels for each of its eight districts
                             and provided funds to fill the positions; the region also allocated funds
                             for each district’s discretionary expenses (e.g., travel) and funded recur-
                             ring expenses (e.g., rent and utilities) for the districts out of its budget.’

                             INS'  Southern Region has eight district offices, five of which are located
                             in Texas, and one each in New Orleans, Atlanta, and Miami. The Miami
                             District is responsible for INS' Florida operations. It has the largest dis-
                             trict budget for the region and processed more applications than any of
                             the other Southern Region districts. These applications consist of
                             requests from aliens for U.S. citizenship, asylum, or change of status
                             (e.g., from “visitor” to permanent resident alien). Within the Miami Dis-
                             trict, applications are processed at the Miami and West Palm Beach
                             offices and the Jacksonville and Tampa sub-offices.

                             INS Headquarters allocates authorized and funded positions (i.e., posi-
Miami District’s Share       tions for which funds are available to hire staff) to its four regions. In
of Region’s Staff            recent years, INS has not had resources to actually fund all authorized
                             positions; as a result, INS has more authorized positions than people on
                             the job.

                             The Southern Region allocates authorized and funded positions among
                             its districts. The region also decides the number of funded positions that
                             each district can fill. As with the other regions, the Southern Region dis-
                             tricts are staffed below authorized levels. However, the Miami District
                             has consistently had fewer authorized positions filled than the other
                             Southern Region districts. As shown in figure 1, the other districts have

                              ‘As of .January 1. 1990, INS lleadquarters began allocating staffing to the dwtricts.

                             page2                                                          GAO/GGD-W-98 Immigration Services