Is DHS About to Blunder? A Cost-Beneft Analysis of Abandoning Form I-94

Claiming that abandoning Form I-94 will save $17 million dollars to the agency, the Department of Homeland Security, together with its sister government agencies, are planning to dismantle the Form I-94 record of admission as we know it today.  (Form I-94 is the little white card that is stapled into a foreign national’s passport upon entry into the U.S. to evidence the status in which they are being admitted and the authorized duration of their stay.)

The I-94 not only serves to record the entry and departure of every foreign national, it also serves as important evidence of lawful immigration status in other applications. For example:

  • Employers for Form I-9 Verification
  • Social Security Administration for issuance of Social Security Cards (if applicable)
  • State DMV’s for issuance of driver’s license (if applicable)
  • Status Identification for Law Enforcement (Police, Airport Personnel, U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP), U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (CIS)

While eliminating the I-94 sounds good in theory, the cost savings may back fire in many ways. Questions that immediately jump out are - Who will populate the information to be captured once the I-94 is eliminated? How will the information be recorded in the foreign national’s passport? How would other government agencies be trained to understand the new methodology that would be used when DHS hasn’t yet figured out how to document the foreign national once the I-94 is eliminated?

From a safety perspective, the time that is used by the officer in reviewing the information on the I-94 together with the applicant allows that officer to question the applicant, view his body language and make other assessments regarding that individual. Will that be lost by automating the I-94 process? Is this going to put our nation at a greater risk? Is $17 million dollars that important in the overall scheme and budget of DHS?

History indicates that every time DHS has tried to streamline a process, the evil forces in the world figure out a way to take advantage and circumvent the process, leaving us exposed to a greater danger.