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DHS IG critiques Visa Security Program

The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General has released a new, detailed report looking at the Visa Security Program, run by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).  

The objectives of this program are clearly worthwhile, especially in light of the growing threat of foreign fighters in Iraq and Syria attempting to travel to the United States to carry out attacks. But the report raises serious unanswered questions about the effectiveness of the program. The key finding from the report:

ICE is required to develop measures that accurately assess performance. However, current performance measures for the VSP do not accurately measure effectiveness. In addition, ICE did not take appropriate actions to ensure that (1) data needed to assess program performance is collected and reported, (2) appropriate advice and training is provided to consular officers, and (3) the amount of time needed for VSU‐related activities at each post is tracked and used in determining staffing and funding needs. As a result, ICE is unable to ensure that the VSP is operating as intended.

ICE concurs with all of the recommendations in the report, so hopefully this will provide the basis for ongoing assessment of the program’s performance. In particular, it may be beneficial to examine this program (a) in light of the maturation of other terrorist travel programs in the last decade, and (b) whether additional VSP functions can be performed as effectively (and at a lower cost) in the United States instead of at U.S. embassies overseas.