CNMI Data Kept From Federal Government

February 16, 2010

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a sixteen page report on CNMI immigration Border Control Databases to U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Chair of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. The report emphasizes the fact that the federal government has no direct access to the LIDS data system that was paid for with a $1.5 million federal grant form the Department of Interior's Office of Insular Affairs.

The CNMI Department of Labor has released little data that they have collected from their LIDS system, which is the revised LIIDS system. (See these posts for more information on the CNMI DOL's refusal to share essential data and campaign to maintain the broken local system: Fitial Administration Grasping to Retain Broken Local System, More On CNMI Statistics and Data, DOL's 10th Interim Report: Hidden Data and Statistics, Questions About the CNMI Department of Labor, and Hidden Data)

The GAO report indicates that the federal government sent a letter to the governor requesting information on the LIDS system and the Border Management System (BMS) (Emphasis added):
The LIDS and BMS databases have remained in the CNMI’s control during the CNMI’s transition to U.S. immigration law, and as of January 2010, the U.S. government’s direct access to information in these databases had not yet been established.
On July 1, 2008, a senior DHS official sent a letter to the Governor of the CNMI requesting a broad range of documents that included information on the current CNMI system for recording and documenting the entry, exit, work authorization, and authorized conditions of individuals staying in the CNMI. DHS also requested any repositories of fingerprints, photographs, or other biometric information included in the system.
On August 19, 2008, the office of the Governor of the CNMI responded to the letter by providing an overview of the BMS system, describing the security of the system, the data input and output, and the immigration system’s history in the Commonwealth. The document notes that BMS collects photographs through passport readers but states that the CNMI does not maintain any repositories of fingerprints or other biometric information to share with DHS.
In September 2009 the CNMI government suggested that data would be shared for a fee. Perhaps they forgot that the system was paid for by the federal government. From the report: (emphasis added)
On September 15, 2009, the CNMI government issued a draft protocol for implementing U.S. immigration law that, among other things, proposes to allow the U.S. government restricted access to information contained in LIDS and BMS, for a fee and in exchange for comparable information. Specifically, the CNMI protocol envisions the following:
•DHS and the CNMI will engage in a two-way data exchange, with DHS providing flight entry data and the CNMI providing information from its immigration records (LIDS and BMS).
•The CNMI will provide access to CNMI immigration records that DHS formally requests via an appropriate document and within a reasonable time frame.
•The CNMI will consider privacy protections in making information available to the U.S. government.
•The CNMI expects to recover the cost of generating and producing any information requested by DHS.
As of January 2010, the U.S. government had no direct access to LIDS and BMS and had no arrangements in place to obtain direct access, according to U.S. officials.9 The CNMI government has provided DHS access to the information stored in LIDS and BMS on a case-by-case basis.
CNMI has assigned one point of contact to respond to all DHS data inquiries, such as inquiries for verification of an individual’s immigration status. Since the United States assumed control of immigration and border security in the CNMI on November 28, 2009, the CNMI government has continued to maintain and update LIDS and BMS.
CNMI Customs officers now collect information to update BMS with data on entries and departures from Commonwealth airports and seaports. Computers and passport readers, previously used by CNMI immigration, have been installed at airport customs inspection stations, and data from customs declaration forms are used to update the system.
The report states that the current system and the fact that the CNMI government provides one point of contact for information could compromise security and investigations. From the report:
ICE stated in its technical comments relying on one CNMI point of contact to verify immigration status for individuals subject to department investigations is insufficient and could compromise security for ongoing operations. ICE noted that because DHS operates 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, the CNMI point of contact cannot be responsive to all of the department’s needs. ICE officials said that it is imperative for the department to have direct access to the CNMI data systems in order to perform the department’s mission with maximum efficiency.

USCIS suggested in its technical comments that pertinent CNMI immigration information should be integrated into their existing systems: the Computer Linked Application Information Management System (CLAIMS 3 and 4)10 and the U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology (US-VISIT).11 In the interim, LIDS and BMS databases should be installed as stand-alone systems in Honolulu, Guam, and Saipan for USCIS adjudications access. Staff from USCIS’s California Service Center should also have access to, and be trained in the use of, LIDS and BMS.
The CNMI government needs to turn over all records to the federal government and release control of LIDS and BMS to appropriate federal agencies.

Read more at the Marianas Variety in an article by Gemma Casas.


The Saipan Blogger said...

The governor is just pushing buttons to see what he can get away with.

Saipan Writer said...

What does the GAO report mean when it says the GOVERNOR paid for the replacement LIDS system? Did he use his own personal funds?

We had a system that cost more than a million dollars and replaced it with... ?

Oh do we look so very bad.

Wendy said...

Hi Jane:

I saw that too. I think that the upgrade was paid with funds from the governor's account - the magical governor's account that pays for things like $50,000 a month for attorneys to sue the federal government. When you read the protocol and the suggestions by Willens for revision of laws to conform to PL 110-229 you can clearly see that the administration wants to maintain the broken CNMI labor system. They even have immigration-related duties placed under the DOL. DOL has NO authority to make people pay to register with them or to issue ID cards or papers. That is an immigration duty. They need to back off or the feds need to make them back off.

You think your back is sore now? said...

PL 110-229 is clear:

"The Government of the Commonwealth shall provide to the Secretary all Commonwealth immigration records or other information that the Secretary deems necessary to assist the implementation of this paragraph or other provisions of the
Consolidated Natural Resources Act...."

The Feds should take them to court for violating federal law.

Anonymous said...

Do you have any confidence in the accuracy of the information in these databases? I don't. Therefore, the last thing I would want them used for is for such things as "USCIS adjudication access" -- i.e., determining whether or not someone gets deported.

Taking the product of years of chaotic CNMI record-keeping, and plugging it into intransigent, bureaucratic, fed-think CIS and ICE decision-making processes would result in the worst of both worlds.

These databases should be destroyed before putting them into federal hands.

Saipan Writer said...

Anon, 6:01 AM.

That was my first reaction. The Feds would be ill-advised to rely on the CNMI immigration data base(s). They will spend an awful lot of time (wasted time?) trying to sort through the CNMI information.

Still, it might prove helpful or useful to them in some way.

As for the CNRA's provision, I think that the CNMI may (MAY) be within its rights to ask for compensation for the data, which is property, which may in fact be owned by the CNMI. I haven't researched this issue and don't know the terms of US grants and funding, whether there are reservations of interests, etc.

Although the US paid for the bulk of the LIIDS system, it may have done so as a grant to the CNMI. And the result may be that even the LIIDS system, as well as the LIDS system, and all the data that is part of it, belongs to the CNMI as a matter of property law.

But the actual demands of the CNMI are shameful and clearly indicate recalcitrance in holding on to immigration and hostility to cooperation.

Saipan Writer said...

I actually came by your site to see if you have the Munson decision yet. I want to read it and you are such a great resource!

Wendy said...

Hi Jane

It's posted now!

Go ahead, make my day said...

The CNMI should have every incentive to provide the LIIDS and other data to DHS. DHS needs the data to implement the transition. Without the data, DHS will have to take more restrictive stances on such things as employers' access to foreign workers, continued presence for long term business entry permit holders, advance parole applications, etc. If DHS doesn't have the CNMI's data, it will take them longer to verify the status of prospective workers, investors and IR's. And, of course, the fees DHS charges employers and aliens will have to be increased to cover the increased expense to DHS of verifying everyone's status. Of course, this wouldn't be the first time, or even the hundredth time, this administration has shot itself in the foot posturing as the tough guy with the feds.

Anonymous said...

Or maybe the US will say, "Forget this, let's give everyone parole or status because we can''t even begin to sort this out without cooperation."

Anonymous said...

To Anon above,

Hope you have a gift of tounge, pray it happens!

MrCoffee said...

Snicker, snicker...

Anonymous said...

The CNMI won't mind. They'll all move to Guam anyway.