Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Handing Out Voter Registration Cards At the Border

How would you do that? Don't laugh, they've done it before

You hear it at every conservative rally and meet the candidates night.

"My opponent believes in handing out voter registration cards at the border."

But it's not such an exaggeration, after all.

Most people don't remember the Citizenship USA Program.
That's because most people lived through it and never heard
a word about it.

Making new American citizens through an expedited process
actually became an industrial exercise openly referred to as
"production" during the Clinton Administration.

A eye-opening report from the Office of the Inspector
General lays the whole affair as bare as a cue ball.

A major initiative of Immigration and Naturalization Service
in 1996, according to the IG report, "production pressures
that characterized the program late in the fiscal year" led
to practices that "negatively affected" the quality of
naturalization adjudications.

And that's putting it mildly - or, should we say,

When newly appointed INS Commissioner Doris Meissner came to
her post in 1993, she had a portfolio to promote a major
naturalization initiative for 1995.

But a funny thing happened in 1994, when more than a half
million permanent alien residents applied for
naturalization. At the end of the year, the pending files
numbered 300,000.

Many believe that community based organizations encouraged
permanent resident aliens to put in their papers - all at
the same time.

The Commissioner had failed to take any of this into
consideration, and so the reduction of the backlog became a
top priority and "committed INS to 'fast track
reengineering' of the naturalization process in order to
improve productivtiy.

Suddenly, naturalization adjudications took on the same
status as widgets on a widget production line at the widget


"By that time, however, for each month INS spent developing
a backlong reduction effort the backlog grew further out of
control," the report states.

With the additional money generated by the new and increased
number of applications, "INS decided to tackle the
naturalization backlog by increasing its workforce."

Problem. It takes months and months to get Congressional
approval to redirect money from one fund to another. But no

In August 1995, "INS announced the launch of a major backlog
reduction effort that it said would result in the
naturalization of more than one million new citizens by the
following summer...In order to achieve the program's
ambitious goal, production - that is, increasing the number
of completed naturalization cases - became paramount."

By this time, the service had received 900,000 applications
and the backlog numbered 700,000 cases. But there was more.
An additional 300,000 cases had not yet been "data-entered."

That figure began to be known not as the backlog, but the

All this business of throwing numbers around and seeing if
they stick to the wall would be impressive enough if it were
not for the fact that no one really has a firm grip on
exactly how many, what kind and when the applications were

There are some fatal flaws in the records made with the
Performan Analysis System, a database used by INS since

According to the IG, "although PAS data is the only
available automated collection of such information, and
although it us useful for showing trends, it is not

There are errors in arithmetic, omissions of data and
incorrect posting.

"We concluded that PAS data did not provide INS with an
adequate basis for sound decisions and we consider the
accuracy of any reports based on them to be questionable."

So, no one really knows.

We do know that the Commissioner had made a decision that
the U.S. had been "too passive" in it promotion of
naturalization of new citizens.

The bottom line is this. By the time 1996 rolled around, the
system was out of control. Agents abandoned any pretense of
doing background checks for criminal records, making
fingerprints, or anything else. The goal became one of
schlepping the paperwork from pillar to post and sending the
new citizens out the door at the other end of the factory.

Commissioner Meissner had decided to "fast track" the
reengineering of the entire adjudication process.

That's when they took on a private contractor, PRC, Inc. In
30 days, they issued their report after studying the problem
for 30 days, "Results in 30 Days; Reengineering the
Naturalization Process."

Predictably, the report was not useful. The organization
interviewed staff and simply sold their ideas back to them.
There was no concrete plan to solve the problem.

Not to worry. Everyone was encouraged to "think outside the

They got pretty far outside the box. FBI reports of
criminal background were arriving long after newly sworn in
naturalized citizen had walked out the door.

On March 1, 1996, Headquarters issued a memorandum to the
Field that specifically instructed that all applications for
naturalization received by the end of that month had to be
completed - either denied or approved and the applicant
sworn in - by September 30, 1996.

The new goal was this - the naturalization of one million
people by September 30, 1996. In fact, one White House
official drafted an e-mail that was intercepted to
Congressional investigators that flatly stated that the
number goal was to naturalize new citizens because it was
believed they would support the Clinton-Gore ticket in the
November election.

The IG's number one finding: "CUSA was developed to reduce
the backlog in naturalization applications and was not
designed to maximize the number of persons who would be
eligible to vote in the November 1996 election."

The number two finding: "Having set the CUSA goal, INS made
the timely completion of naturalization cases-or production-
the guiding principle and pursued this principle at the
expense of accuracy in the determination of eligibility for

The end result was this.

Two years later INS identified 1,109,059 persons who had
naturalized during CUSA, 59,192 more than originally

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