Claims of Corrupt Immigration Contractors Remain Unresolved

(ESPAÑOL) Dozens of cases of possible wrongdoing by immigration contractors have sat idle for two years because internal investigators say they have been denied the authority to look into the allegations, interviews and documents show.

Internal agency documents show nearly 70 uninvestigated cases of alleged wrongdoing involving contract employees, including accusations that these workers were involved in bribery schemes, distribution of child pornography on agency computers and illegal use of government law enforcement databases.

John Roth, the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general, said the inability of the internal investigations division at Citizenship and Immigration Services to investigate potential wrongdoing by contractors is a problem.

“The root cause is a failure of leadership to address the issue,” said Mr. Roth, whose independent office investigates cases that are referred to it, but only a small fraction of the overall number. “If they are right about not having the authority to investigate contractors, then they should seek a statutory fix.”

Contract workers make up almost half of the immigration agency’s work force of nearly 20,000 people, yet are subject to limited oversight. These workers handle tasks like conducting criminal and national security background checks and taking fingerprints, and have access to sensitive government databases.

The inspector general’s office says it gets about 16,000 complaints a year from all agencies at the Department of Homeland Security, but has only 200 investigators. As a result, the majority of cases against contractors are never investigated, agents at the immigration agency say.

Investigators at the immigration office can refer complaints about contract workers to the agency’s contracting office, but the inspector general said that was inadequate.

“Simply referring the allegations to the contracting office did not fully address the allegations, nor did it prevent potentially harmful individuals from obtaining employment on different contracts,” the inspector general said in a report released in June.