The federal government's project to digitize paper immigration forms was scheduled to conclude two years ago, but is now expected to finish in 2019, $2.5 billion over budget, according to a report by the Washington Post.
The Office of Transformation Coordination was given nearly half a billion dollars in 2005 to convert 95 immigration application documents into electronic, downloadable forms.
A decade later, officials charged with overseeing the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' Electronic Immigration System have just one digitized form to show for the $3.1 billion endeavor.
"Aside from the incompetence associated with the expensive failure to bring the management of the immigration process into the 21st century, this waste of taxpayers' money demonstrates that the federal bureaucracy cannot manage to effectively carry out our existing immigration policies in the public interest," Ira Mehlman, media director for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, told the Washington Examiner.
Agency officials said poor planning from the beginning coupled with pressure from the Obama administration to finish the project in time for major executive actions on immigration contributed to the development of a system with hundreds of software glitches, the paper said.
Despite the hardships the program has experienced, the Department of Homeland Security (USCIS' parent) said it is on the path to successful implementation of the program. The earlier flawed program has been replaced with a new one that relies on cloud computing, a network of remote servers used to store and process the data.
The digital system would have been used by millions under the administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and delayed Deferred Action on Parents of Americans plans. The failed rollout means applying for immigration-related services will remain a delayed, paper-related process for the next few years.
"This episode provides further evidence of why the American public has no confidence in the way our immigration policies are currently being administered and even less confidence that the government has the political will or the ability to fix the problems," added Mehlman.