Legal or illegal alien, which is it?

It seems like the government does not know what it’s doing with immigration reform. Perhaps that is not an unusual observation.

Just recently, the Inspector General for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) revealed that the government computer program that tracks immigrants’ status mistakenly okays one-in-eight of all immigrants plugged into the system for public benefits and to work in secure areas. That might not sound like a big deal. However, the one person out of every eight who is given the green light has a deportation order against them. That’s another story altogether.

Given the acronym used for this program, SAVE, it seems rather ironic, on many levels, that the government cannot get it right. Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements is supposed to ascertain the status of applicants to make sure only those with legal immigration status are approved. Licensing bureaus, agencies that issue benefits, the state and even the federal government relies on SAVE for this reason. Perhaps more time spent on developing reliable software would be a good idea, rather than thinking up cute nicknames.

It appears that roughly only 88 percent of those given the ok by the program actually have legal immigration status when their names are run. That means the other 12 percent are lawful, but have deportation orders out on them. The reason for this monumental mess up? It appears that the databases in use by SAVE are not updated when an alien is ordered deported. They are updated when they actually leave the country, and this delay is thanks to the appeal process for such orders.

On the whole, many of those ordered deported may not have serious criminal records. However, the report details several instances where an alien that was ordered deported was approved, despite having committed multiple, serious crimes. In one case, a man convicted for homicide applied for student aid when released from jail. The SAVE program deemed him a legal permanent resident, that could apply for public benefits. Things could, and did get even more embarrassing when other instances of criminals being approved were exposed.

The long and short of this situation is that ICE and USCIS need to get together on the same song sheet.

Sally Odell — Rifkin & Fox-Isicoff, PA is an immigration lawyer in Miami with immigration law offices in Orlando and Miami Florida. To learn more, visit