Despite measures aimed at correcting a flawed citizenship process, the Immigration and Naturalization Service has failed to straighten out sloppy procedures and still may be granting citizenship to criminals, according to an independent audit released Friday.
The report, commissioned by the Justice Department and conducted by the KPMG Peat Marwick Co., was the latest blow to a controversial program, called Citizenship USA, that has come under concerted political attack from Republicans for naturalizing 180,000 immigrants last year without proper criminal background checks.
The firm’s 140-page report appeared to belie repeated assurances from top administration officials that problems in processing a record 1.3 million citizenship applications had been identified and resolved.
The continuing problems have opened the INS to charges it has mismanaged one of its central functions and cast a cloud of suspicion over thousands of new Americans.
The problems also have shown that the agency continues to be overwhelmed by the record applications and have led to congressional grilling of Attorney General Janet Reno and other top Justice Department officials at two hearings last month.
At those hearings, officials assured Congress that changes to the system had been made. But Peat Marwick found that only one of 23 regional and district INS offices surveyed was in in full compliance with new regulations designed to solve the politically explosive problem. Of the rest of the offices, seven were found to be in “marginal compliance,” and 15, including three of the four regional INS service centers, were judged “noncompliant.”
Because of persisting problems in checking fingerprints of citizenship applicants against FBI criminal history records, the report said, “we cannot provide assurance that INS is not continuing to incorrectly naturalize aliens with disqualifying conditions.”
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