DHS Offers Innovation Contracts, But Not in Immigration Enforcement Policy

By David North on December 28, 2021

The Department of Homeland Security has issued a request for proposals from contractors that gives us a sense of what DHS is worried about.

And it shows that high-tech concerns, some so high-tech that they are hard to understand, outweigh policy considerations by a ratio of ten to one.

I am not knocking the RFP. It would be good, for example, to pick the last item on the list of 11 topics, to know more about “reportable animal diseases, particularly those with zoonotic propensity”; such diseases are those that can move from animals to humans like Ebola and perhaps Covid-19.

But a department in charge of immigration law enforcement should also be curious about ways that innovation, both technical and procedural, can be deployed to reduce, for example, the number of illegal aliens in the country.

Here’s the shopping list announced by the government last week; it wants proposals in the following fields:

  • DHS221-001 - Automated Artificial Intelligence (AI) Distress Alerts and Monitoring
  • DHS221-002 - Rapidly deployable countermeasures at protected perimeters and structures
  • DHS221-003 - Non-Invasive and Real-time Detection of Counterfeit Microelectronics
  • DHS221-004 - Broadband Push-to-Talk Interoperability Platform
  • DHS221-005 - A Step Towards Agent Agnostic Detection of Biological Hazards
  • DHS221-006 - Streamlined Airport Checkpoint Screening for Limited Mobility Passengers
  • DHS221-007 - Mass Fatality Tracking System (MFTS)
  • DHS221-008 - Next Generation High-Performance, Low Cost, Semiconductor-Based Spectroscopic Personal Radiation Detectors (SPRDs)
  • DHS221-009 - Field Forward Detection Platform for High Consequence Toxins
  • DHS221-010 - Person Worn Detector for Aerosolized Chemical Threat
  • DHS221-011 - From Port-Side to Pen-Side: Low-Cost Detection/Diagnostics for High-Consequence Transboundary or Nationally Reportable Animal Diseases, Particularly Those with Zoonotic Propensity

Of these 11, only one seems to deal with a serious, but low-tech problem, that is 006, “Streamlined Airport Checkpoint Screening for Limited Mobility Passengers.”

In my dreams, I could see DHS funding studies of such matters as the following:

  • What strategies should field enforcement personnel and prosecutors use that will lead to the most prison sentences for employers of illegal aliens?
  • What are the profiles of the aliens (and their citizen spouses) in marriage fraud cases in which both agree to a pretend marriage so that the citizen gets money and the alien gets a green card? Are there patterns in terms of justice of the peace marriages vs. those in a church, or the clothes worn by the aliens (seen in photos of the wedding, often on file), or the nation of origin of the alien?
  • We are not the only immigrant-receiving nation in the world. What enforcement techniques are used in other prosperous countries to limit immigration fraud and illegal aliens generally?        
  • What are the best methods for the U.S. field staff to infiltrate isolated H-2A (farm) and H-2B (non-farm) alien work forces that may be being exploited?
  • Are there clues that can be obtained, without field work, that would identify “pretend” employers of OPT workers from legit ones, a subject covered by my colleague Jon Feere. One such possibility would be to examine the address of the employer, using Zillow and other systems, to see the headquarters of the employer: Is it a house? Are there other patterns that could help identify such employers prior to field work.
  • What are the techniques used by other nations to purchase the refugee-blocking moves from third-party nations such as Turkey? Some may be worth copying, some not.

In real life, it is probably easier to admit to a lack of knowledge about high-tech solutions to problems, than to accept that the government has a blind eye about some policy matters, so my sense is that this kind of funding is rarely available.

Nostalgia. I do remember a brief period, long ago, when the old INS was under the Justice Department, and the attorney general was the late Elliot Richardson, that projects like the imagined ones were DOJ-funded. I ran a couple of them.

One of them was to design an experiment with the ports of entry: what difference would it make in terms of turn-backs of incoming aliens were the inspectors to be freed of time restraints, and were allowed to spend as much time as they felt necessary in the inspection of individual aliens? Such staffing patterns, we learned, would more than double the number of detected illicit entries. The inspectors doing this work also found out that by far most common reason for denying entry was not a high-tech one at all, it was that the inspectors found that the aliens were lying. Under a subsequent AG and a new INS commissioner, all of this was ignored.