Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Will They Call It an EA-File?

Via Bender's Immigration Daily, we learn that the Washington Post is reporting that A-Files are going electronic:

The Bush administration has launched a major overhaul of the nation's immigration services agency, selecting an industry consortium led by IBM to reinvent how the government handles about 7 million applications each year for visas, citizenship and approval to work in the United States, officials announced yesterday.

* * *

The new system would allow government agencies, from the Border Patrol to the FBI to the Labor Department, to access immigration records faster and more accurately. In combination with initiatives to link digital fingerprint scans to unique identification numbers, it would create a lifelong digital record for applicants. It also would eliminate the need for time- and labor-intensive filing and refiling of paper forms, which are stored at 200 locations in 70 million manila file folders.

That last bit has to make you wonder just how reliable the filing system is, especially when the presence or absence of documents in an A-File is offered to establish an element of a criminal offense. Turns out lots of mistakes get made:
Government investigators have reported that the agency's pre-computer-age paper filing system incurs $100 million a year in archiving, storage, retrieval and shipping costs; has led to the loss or misplacement of more than 100,000 files; and has contributed to backlogs and delays for millions of cases.

And speaking of using A-File docs (or EA-File bits & bytes?) in lieu of live testimony at trial, the Supreme Court heard oral argument the other day in Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts, which presents a related question: "Whether a state forensic analyst’s laboratory report prepared for use in a criminal prosecution is 'testimonial' evidence subject to the demands of the Confrontation Clause as set forth in Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36 (2004)." For more on Melendez-Diaz, check out our post on the cert grant, the oral argument transcript, and SCOTUSblog's argument analysis.

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