SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- The various federal agencies that deal with immigration and border security issues are still not on the same page even more than a decade after the 9/11 attacks, according to a new report unveiled this week.
The Department of Homeland Security’s internal watchdog, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), said the country is more secure than before 9/11.
But the report also concluded that agencies such as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP, which includes the Border Patrol) still have significant problems linking databases and maintaining efficient lines of communication.
“Progress has been made, but there are some issues that stand between us and more success,” said Douglas Ellis, lead investigator on the report for OIG.
“Some have to do with our data systems, most of which are old and don’t connect well to each other or in some cases don’t connect at all with each other,” Ellis noted.
Other problems concern infrastructure. These agencies within DHS are physically based far from each other in Washington, D.C.
In other words, it’s not just like someone from ICE can just walk down the hall to meet with CBP.
Officials at DHS who reviewed the OIG report agreed with most of the recommendations to improve the system.
But they also took some exceptions, such as not agreeing to permanently shut down a program — the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) — created in 2002 which called for immigrants, primarily from Middle Eastern countries, to report and register with the government.
The program was actually discontinued years ago, but kept on the books. Homeland Security wants to maintain it alive in case it needs to be brought back, officials said in their response to the OIG report.
The 9/11 attacks prompted a massive restructuring of the federal immigration system.
The former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) was closed down and most immigration matters were transferred to DHS, which began operating in March 2003.
Another federal agency, the Department of Justice, retained some immigration functions, such as overseeing the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) — the immigration court system.