Judicial Watch announced today that documents obtained recently through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request show that the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) abandoned required background checks late last year, adopting, instead, costly “lean and lite” procedures in effort to keep up with the flood of amnesty applications spurred by President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) directive, which grants illegal aliens a two-year deferment from deportation.
Acting on a tip from a whistleblower at a federal law enforcement agency, Judicial Watch filed a FOIA request with DHS, for “all communications, memoranda, emails, policy guidance, directives, initiatives, and any other correspondence respecting the scope and extent of background checks to be performed (or not) on aliens applying to the Obama administration’s DACA program.” The FOIA was filed on October 26, 2012. The Immigration and National Security Act (INA) mandates a “coordinated, uniform, and efficient,” system of background checks. Instead, the FOIA documents reveal a costly, haphazard process, with only cursory review for the backgrounds of illegal aliens seeking “deferred status.” Document highlights include:
- In a series of agency memos beginning in September 14, 2012, field offices were told to expect the National Benefits Center (which collects all DACA applications) to conduct only “lean & lite” background checks on illegal alien applicants, and that, henceforth, “NBC will not perform full TECS checks or any evidence review on these cases before we ship to the field.” An October 14 memo reiterated that under the new “lean and lite” policy, “Hits will be sent to the field without resolution.” On October 25, the St. Paul Field Director conceded to staffers that the new “lean & lite” procedures were for an indefinite period of time, saying, “I just can’t tell you when things will revert back to the way they used to be.”
- An email chain from September 5 and through November 14 indicates managerial pressure not to turn any illegal alien applicant away for lack of ID, including the explicit directive in an October 3 memo, “Biometric processing should not be refused solely because an applicant does not present an acceptable ID.” In an October 1 memo further restricting independent action by agency personnel, they were instructed, “Every two weeks field offices will report the number of DACA requestors who appear for biometrics collection at an ASC during the previous two week period, but were turned away without fingerprints or photographs being taken. Field offices will also need to provide the reason why the DACA requestor was turned away by the ASC ISO.”
- The documents suggest added taxpayer costs for the new deportation deferral program. On June 28, 2012, all Regional Service Managers were informed that they were to “come up with the number of guards that would be required and a dollar amount” in order to meet the new DACA processing requirements. On July 31, 2012, the agency announced, “In support of the President’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative, USCIS is procuring 40 additional biometrics workstations.”
- On November 9, 2012, just three days after Obama was reelected, in an “!!! IMPORTANT DACA MESSAGE!!! The agency was directed to: “Please put all DACA work on hold until further notice.” There are no later-dated documents in the production to indicate how or when USCIS resumed DACA background checks or application processing.
The documents also reveal that, contrary to DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano’s claim that DACA applied only to minors who came to this country illegally “through no fault of their own,” the directive actually created a new avenue of chain migration, whereby immediate relatives of DACA requesters could be approved for amnesty. As a result, according to a June 18, 2012, agency memo from District 15 Director, David Douglas, “some of the districts closer to the U.S./Mexico border have been inundated.”
“The Obama administration seems to be throwing public safety and national security out the door in implementing its illicit and unilateral amnesty program for illegal aliens. The costs and security lapses of this program show that this administration can’t be trusted to implement any of the new security measures in the amnesty bill in the Senate,” stated Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton. “These documents show a crisis in law enforcement and national security caused by President Obama’s unilateral decision to grant amnesty to hundreds of thousands illegal aliens.”