Pretending to Fix what you don’t want to Fix? The US Immigration System

The Washington Post has one of the most scandalous stories of government inefficiency and ineptitude that I’ve read in a while (and that’s saying something).  Apparently, ten years ago government officials made the wise decision to digitize the immigration system.  The project as supposed to cost a half a billion dollars and take 8 years.  Instead, it is two years overdue and is scheduled to take another 4 years and cost $3.1 billion.  And what do we have to show for all this time and money?  Almost nothing.  Seriously.

The Post reports that of the 95 forms that are supposed to be digitized, the crack technology group on this project has managed to make only one electronic.  One!  That is one expensive form, given that they’ve already spent $1 billion of the $.5 billion in their budget (that is one soft budget constraint!).

And what is this one important document that they’ve digitized?

“The sole form now available for electronic filing is an application for renewing or replacing a lost “green card” — the document given to legal permanent residents.”

And does this system work well for at least this one form?  We want to make sure we get our $1 billion worth.

“Government documents show that scores of immigrants who applied online waited up to a year or never received their new cards, disrupting their plans to work, attend school and travel.”

At first this made me think of the old Soviet joke that “we pretend to work and they pretend to pay us.”  But then I remembered the billion dollars!

I think Adriana Maestas summed up the situation best in one of the best tweets I’ve seen on our immigration system.

Screenshot 2015-11-10 08.46.33

It does make you wonder.