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USCIS behind on evaluating immigrant integration grant programs

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Because of uncertainty over whether its grant program for immigrant integration efforts would continue to receive funding, U.S. Citizens and Immigration Services has delayed evaluations of the program since January 2011, according to a Dec. 16 report (.pdf) from the Government Accountability Office.

In January 2011, USCIS drafted a statement of work for a contractor to develop an evaluation plan to measure the grant program's impact, but did not complete the statement or award a contract because it didn't know whether the program would be funded in fiscal 2011. The fiscal 2011 law enacted in April 2011 did allow USCIS to fund the program, but USCIS did not proceed with its evaluation plan, GAO says.

In November 2011, USCIS said it planned to conduct an internal and external evaluation of the program in fiscal 2012 and 2013, contingent on appropriations, but it still lacks a timeline for when it will initiate and complete them.

The report says better plans will help ensure that the evaluations are execute--especially considering that USCIS planned evaluations for fiscal 2011 but abandoned the plans early in the process.

USCIS's Office of Citizenship has made grants to many governmental and nongovernmental organizations, such as public school systems and faith-based organizations, to promote immigrant integration. According to GAO, the goals include civics-focused English as a second language instruction, U.S. history and government instruction and assistance with preparation of citizenship applications.

From 2008 to 2011, citizenship office spent about $19.8 million, nearly half its funding, on grants intended to prepare immigrants for the naturalization process.

No federal agency coordinates immigrant integration efforts, and the report mentions that local government and nongovernmental officials told GAO that there is a lack of federal direction. In June 2010, the White House Domestic Policy Council formed a working group to better coordinate immigrant integration efforts across agencies, but has yet to complete its work.

For more:
- download the report, GAO-12-274 (.pdf)

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