IG: DHS Officers Use as Many as 17 Different Systems to Verify Identity of Foreign Nationals

By Melanie Arter | September 11, 2012 | 12:22 PM EDT

Illegal immigrants in Nogales, Arizona wait to be deported to Mexico. (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) Acting Inspector General for the Homeland Security Department, Charles Edwards testified before Congress Tuesday that “DHS officers at any of the 327 air, sea, or land border ports of entry have to access as many as 17 different DHS systems to verify the identity of foreign nationals and make admission decisions.”

“Some components have made progress in streamlining their systems. However, mobile devices such as use by some CBP officers and border patrol agents continue to lack adequate bandwidth and technology. This can hinder officers in the field attempting to fingerprint aliens or accessing law enforcement and immigrant databases,” Edwards said.

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“In addition, longstanding mission overlap and inadequate information-sharing between CBP and ICE agents at the northern border have sometimes led to duplication of effort and concerns over officer safety,” Edwards told the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security.

“This process is labor-intensive, and the inefficiency of using multiple data systems hinders border security officers in their efforts to verify or eliminate links to possible terrorism or other derogatory information,” Edwards said in prepared remarks.

“While CBP and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have developed more streamlined software to conduct immigration inspections, apprehension, and enforcement, DHS officers with more complex border security caseloads still face challenges in data systems,” he added.

Edwards noted that “some ports of entry, land, and maritime border operations had unmet infrastructure needs.”

“For example,” he said, “at some land border ports of entry, limited direct access to law enforcement, intelligence, and immigration databases and high-speed Internet connections had a negative effect on the operations of these locations.”

“Some CBP Officers who conduct outbound screening – and most Border Patrol Agents in the field – use only mobile devices that lack the bandwidth and access to multiple databases that desktop terminals provide,” Edwards added.