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.
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.