Barriers to benefits for derivative asylees and refugees
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BARRIERS to BENEFITS for DERIVATIVE ASYLEES and REFUGEES:. Inaccurate and Incomplete Information in the DHS SAVE System Prevents Issuance of Benefits for which They Are Statutorily Eligible Presentation at 1 st Annual Conference of the CIS Ombudsman’s Office 10/20/2011

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Inaccurate and Incomplete Information in the DHS SAVE System Prevents Issuance of Benefits for which They Are Statutorily Eligible

Presentation at 1st Annual Conference of the

CIS Ombudsman’s Office


by Patricia Hatch, former Program Manager

Maryland Office for Refugees and Asylees

What is the SAVE System?

  • Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements

  • Not a database, but “fed” by multiple DHS/CIS databases

  • The single gateway for eligibility determination for non-citizens utilized by

    • Social Security Administration

    • Local Departments of Social Services

    • State Motor Vehicle offices

    • And many more state and local agencies


  • “Nightly feeds” that are supposed to populate SAVE from other DHS databases do not seem to happen reliably; especially (but not only) feed from CBP contractor in London, KY.

    • What is supposed to trigger each feed?

    • As staff and contractors change, are they informed of the mechanism and importance of the feed?

    • Whose job is it to monitor that the nightly feed has occurred and is complete?

      • At CBP contractor Affiliated Computer Services?

      • At Nebraska Service Center?

      • At SAVE?

Availability of Derivative Refugee/Asylee Data in SAVE is dependent on these “nightly feeds” from databases, which seem to be happening only sporadically

Usually 2 weeks after beneficiary arrival, ACS data-enters info on the I-94 card(arrival data, POE, beneficiary name, DOB, COA, and duration of admission into TECS (SQ94)

Nightly feed from


The SAVE Program queries information provided by appropriate database including TECS and CIS, to verify the benefits applicants immigration status depending on the document provided

NSC also updates CIS with information from the CBP admission stamp, including POE, COA, DOE and any aliases or other bio-data changes noted by CBP

Nightly feed from


Are there individuals at US CIS whose job it is to ensure that these feeds occur regularly and completely? If not, what other categories of immigrants are dependent on such unmonitored feeds?

SAVE Challenges, continued

  • If a SAVE user trying to verify refugee or asylee status indicates “I-94” – the key document that all refugees and asylees have – SAVE does not allow them to check by Alien number (the primary identifier for refugees and asylees)

    • Instead it asks for the I-94 card number, information that is rarely captured for refugees and asylees

    • Result is a high probability of match failure at first and second SAVE levels

Selecting “Other” rather than “I-94” will greatly increase the chance of a match at Level 1 for refugees and asylees.

Front of Form I-94

Front of I-94

  • ONLY proof of status most refugees have upon arrival

  • Contains demographic information:

    • Name

    • Date of birth

    • Country of origin

    • Date of Entry to the U.S.

    • Alien Number (on BACK)

  • Status stamp in upper right corner

Oct. 13, 2010

Status Stamp

I-94 Card Number

Date of Entry

Back of I-94

Back of I-94

  • The alien number is 8-9 digit number that follows the A, usually found on back of I-94

  • When doing SAVE search, choosing “other” document rather than “I-94” will allow search by A number

  • Increases chance of verification at Level 1

  • Most SAVE users do not know this

  • SAVE should make it possible to search by A# when “I-94” is selected as document

A 12345678

Alien Number

SAVE Challenges, continued

  • Once an agency has queried SAVE at the third level for an individual and has confirmed the legal status, no updates are made so that future queries can be successful at first level

    • Resulting repeated delays at each subsequent agency leads to needless frustration, unjustified denial of benefits, often homelessness for client

    • Fact that SAVE is not updated once a third level verification has been completed once, results in wasted $$$ at each subsequent user agency that searches for status verification of same individual (Each will need to pay for third level verification)

SSA does not receive SAVE verification timely ; case “times-out” in SSA system

Refugee goes to Social Services; applies for Refugee Cash Assistance, Medicaid, Food Stamps

SAVE verification does not arrive timely; Social Services denies benefits; refugee may now be homeless

Applies for social security card

SAVE level 2 verification fails; level 3 verification mailed

SAVE level 2 verification fails; level 3 verification request mailed

DSS worker mails level 3 verification request

Refugee re-applies for

S.S. card

SSA receives verification; issues SS card to refugee

Refugee applies for State I.D. at DMV

Refugee homeless, without benefits or state ID

Month 1

Month 2

Month 3

Month 4

Month 5

Month 6

Month 7

Month 8

At SSA, SAVE level 1 verification fails

Level 1 verification fails; level 2 verification fails 4 days later


level 1 verification fails



SAVE level 1 verification fails;

level 2 fails 4 days later. Refugee denied state I.D.. Told must go to DHS and fix problem

Refugee inquires status of SS card;

is told “no record of applying ;”

instructed to re-apply

Effect on Derivative Refugees and Asylees of SAVE Delays and Lack of Updates after Previous Verification

Recommendations to reduce SAVE challenges

  • SAVE status verification staff should be asked to track categories of legally present persons who were verifiable only at level 3

  • CIS should review that data frequently to determine why status of these categories of individuals was not available at level 1 or 2; what mechanism failed

  • “Nightly feeds” need to be monitored at both ends; need to know what triggers each feed and who monitors feed completion daily

  • When staff or contractor transitions occur, importance of the nightly feeds to SAVE should be stressed and “trigger” mechanism reviewed

  • After one Level 3 verification on an individual, SAVE should be updated so that subsequent agencies can verify at level 1

  • Increase collaboration with user agencies in developing trainings for status verifiers; frequent end users are experts on the challenges of SAVE

  • Provide more realistic options for LEP individuals to have erroneous info in SAVE corrected or missing info added; FOIAs and the like are totally unrealistic for individuals who speak little or no English, may not be literate, have no access to computers and noone to assist them

  • Verification responses should

    • differentiate between refugees and asylees

    • Report date of asylum grant rather than “date of entry” for

      non-derivative asylees

    • Report refugee or asylee “history” of LPRs

    • Report country of origin of parolees (esp Cubans/Haitians)

Presenter Contact info:

Questions or insights? Please contact:

Patricia Hatch

(410) 997-2986; (443) 604-5394

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