The Immigration and Naturalization Service is riddled with mismanagement, an internal Justice Department audit contends, citing missing documents, massive backlogs of cases and failure to conduct background checks on applicants for citizenship.
The audit--ordered by Atty. Gen. Dick Thornburgh, conducted by the department's management division and disclosed Thursday--shows that INS officials were unable to find more than 23,000 certificates of citizenship and naturalization that, if stolen, could be sold for as much as $115 million.
Didn't Correct Problem
Even after the problem was pointed out to the INS officials, they did not take steps to correct it or ensure that it would be prevented in the future, the audit said.
Auditors found huge backlogs in the adjudication of cases and asserted that the logjam grew from 325,000 at the beginning of fiscal 1987 to 408,000 by the end of last year. The report added that, during that period, the number of applications rose by only 5,000.
The scathing audit was issued just two years after the INS began implementing the landmark 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, which included a legalization program for immigrants who had been in the country illegally since before 1982.
The report, with its detailed findings, suggests that the agency is unequipped to handle its mission.
Some of the findings echoed criticism voiced by immigrant rights activists in Southern California, where the bulk of the illegal aliens were legalized.
In the two-year period, INS critics constantly assailed the agency as insensitive and inefficient, and the report, which was completed in mid-February, will certainly renew the criticism and spur new charges.
The report is also likely to severely damage the chances that INS Commissioner Alan C. Nelson will retain his position.
Nelson, who has seen the report, reacted angrily to it, calling it "an accumulation of a lot of picky stuff." In an interview Thursday night, he said: "It should have said that this does not represent the overall performance of the agency."
In addressing the contention that the agency had mishandled the massive legalization program, Nelson said: "Of course, you'd make some mistakes on some, but you'd expect that when you legalize 3 million people."