Ex-workers claim US immigration applications not fully vetted - WNEM TV 5

Former workers claim US immigration applications not fully vetted

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LEE'S SUMMIT, MO (KCTV) -

Former workers that processed U.S. immigration applications and petitions at the National Benefits Center say the government contractor at the site took shortcuts when vetting people applying to come into the country.

"My concerns were terrorists could now enter the country, and wouldn't be caught because the process wasn't being done right," said Cissy Gagliano, a former Serco supervisor at the Lee's Summit center.

Gagliano says one day, her employer, Serco, told the staff to not fully dig into the immigration files and only use a "smart search" or shortlist of official documents. Former workers tell KCTV5 News those files also had other non-official documents inside them that could be used to support the applicant's identity.

"We were all concerned because we knew what the government wanted, we were directed another way," Gagliano said.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigrations Services, which is part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, awarded Serco the estimated $190,555,374.86 contract back in 2009.

USCIS anticipated the Lee's Summit office would receive and process approximately 2.2 million applications and petitions annually.

A USCIS official said Serco is required to follow guidance published in USCIS' national operating procedures, which specifies that all documents in an applicant's file should be checked for aliases.

"Very hush, hush kind of thing, "said Ann, a former Serco subcontractor. "We weren't to tell anyone that worked directly for the government that we weren't any longer doing the entire procedure."

Ann, who asked that her fully identity not be revealed, worked as a clerk.

She said other clerks were told at a meeting that they had a time limit to look for any name "aliases" in the short list of official documents found in immigration files.

"There were tons of name changes that's where we would find a majority of them were in the extra things that weren't the official documents," Ann said.

"USCIS is committed to safeguarding the integrity of the immigration process," said USCIS press secretary Chris Bentley. "Whenever allegations of wrongdoing are raised, USCIS fully investigates those charges and takes corrective action as appropriate."

In March 2012, USCIS management learned that Serco contract employees at the National Benefits Center were not meeting requirements related to reviewing immigration cases.

USCIS also told KCTV5 news they "continue to closely monitor Serco's performance."

"Once Serco became aware of the issue in early 2012, we developed additional training and tools to ensure our people were following all required procedures and policies," said Alan Hill, Serco's senior vice president of corporate communications and government relations. "At all times, Serco's performance is monitored by USCIS."

"How can they (USCIS) really make a decision when they don't have all the information that they need," said former Serco clerk Tracy, who also asked that her full identity be revealed.

Tracy told KCTV5 News that she is bothered to this day that shortcuts taken at the Lee's Summit center shortchanged the immigration process by not providing the government all the information that may have been available in the entire file.

"You could miss some names that could actually be a threat, a threat to America itself," Tracy said.

USCIS told KCTV5 News that the checks conducted by Serco employees at the National Benefits Center are but one step in the screening process.

USCIS has yet to provide KCTV5 News with a timeframe or the amount of files that were involved in their 2012 investigation.

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