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White House blames IT systems for immigration data problems

Patrick Thibodeau | Sept. 29, 2014
Critics say crucial information is often unusable or unavailable.

USCIS has 18,000 employees and contractors and operates on a $3.4 billion budget. It employs more than 2,100 workers in technology, but only 420 are federal employees. The remainder are contractors.

An Inspector General report in July on USCIS's IT system pointed to problems. The agency is moving from paper to electronic systems, but the report said that the USCIS Electronic Immigration System (ELIS) was too complicated.

It took 100 to 150 clicks to complete a process, the Inspector General reported. "Instead of improved efficiency, time studies conducted by service centers show that adjudicating on paper is at least two times faster than adjudicating in ELIS."

In response to questions about its IT systems plans, a USCIS spokesman said the agency "has begun moving from paper to electronic processing and will continue adding product lines to [ELIS]. The additional support from the U.S. Digital Services team as it upgrades ELIS is an effective partnership."

In August, the White House announced the creation of a Digital Services team "made up of our country's brightest digital talent" to work with federal agencies. Its creation results from lessons learned after the problematic rollout of last year.


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