DHS Police Truck
Credit: André Gustavo Stumpf/Flickr

President Trump is expected to sign a new version of his executive order banning refugees and immigration from seven Muslim-majority nations sometime this week. Implementation of the order will largely fall to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), specifically US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). On Trump’s first attempt, DHS was taken completely by surprise and chaos ensued in airports around the country, including reports that some DHS officers defied federal court orders.

But events earlier today show DHS still might not be ready to carry out Trump’s sweeping immigration policies. Reuters reported that DHS employees in the DC-area, including some in USCIS, were sent home today after they were denied entry into their own computers. In a statement, a DHS official confirmed four U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) facilities in the Washington area were affected.

A source familiar with the situation told me that workers in the DC and Philadelphia areas, and possibly other areas in the East Coast, were also denied access to their computers.

This wasn’t the result of a hack. In order to access their network, DHS employees have to enter personal identify verification (PIV) cards as well as credentials. That information is then sent to a domain controller that verifies the data and then grants access to the network. The problem was the domain controller couldn’t be contacted because its certificate had expired, something that “could’ve been easily renewed in a matter of minutes and should have been done weeks ahead of time,” the source said. “It’s a recurring to-do that should not have caught anyone by surprise.” As a result, at least one entire building in a DC-area campus was cleared out today.

DHS has long suffered from low morale, regularly ranking at or near the bottom of the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey. And this isn’t the first IT problem DHS has recently faced. Almost exactly one year ago, DHS came under fierce congressional criticism for its failure to implement a new Human Resources IT system, 12 years after it was given the green light. “This is a poster child of inept management,” Scott Perry (R-Pa.) said then.

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

Joshua Alvarez

Joshua Alvarez is a contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal. He edits syndicated opinion columns at the Washington Post, and can be reached at joshuaalvarezmail@gmail.com.