Immigration adjudication reform: the case for automation
Sanford, Abigail J.
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A bill that has passed the United States Senate, S. 744, proposes a Lawful Prospective Immigrant (LPI) status and a path to Citizenship for an estimated 11–12 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is the agency that would be responsible for processing applications for LPI status or other immigration benefits authorized by immigration reform legislation or administrative relief programs introduced by the White House. Current agency receipts of applications for immigration benefits range between 6 and 7 million per year. Depending on the eligibility criteria for new immigration benefits, agency receipts could triple. The operational impact of these legislative or executive actions on USCIS could bear significant national security risks. This study evaluates whether the implementation of automated tools would mitigate external operational impacts on USCIS. Two existing automated systems are studied. The Secure Flight system, operated by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), and the Automated Continuous Evaluation System (ACES) as utilized in the Joint Reform Effort (JRE) were selected for their complexity, maturity, and similarity to immigration adjudications. This analysis demonstrates that automated tools can improve the quality of immigration adjudications by supporting a comprehensive assessment, including accuracy, timeliness, completeness and validity. Further, automation would improve the agency’s operational responsiveness when external factors such as policy changes affect workloads. These factors thereby improve national security by supporting the agency’s mission to uphold the integrity of the immigration system and to prevent and intercept illicit actors from entering or remaining in the United States.
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