SHARE
A Homeland Security Investigations agent on patrol. Photo: Terence Golden/DHS/Flickr. Public domain.

The Department of Homeland Security is poised to begin investigating immigrants who arrived to the United States on valid visas but stayed past their authorization’s expiry.

A report compiled by the Department shows that over 600,000 visitors overstayed tourist, work, business and student visas in 2017.

These violations, writes the Miami Herald, represent but a tiny portion of ‘the estimated 52.6 million non-immigrant admissions through air or sea ports of entry.’ Of those 52.6 million admissions, only 1.15 percent, representing 606,926 individuals, are suspect of illegal overstays.

No matter the Trump administration’s war on immigration, the Department of Homeland Security’s report marks the second straight year that over 600,000 visitors shirked their promise to eventually return home.

To combat illegal immigration and the growing problem of legal visitors staying longer than expected, the president is planning to implement more stringent controls. Trump has urged Congress to complete a biometric entry and exit tracking system. Fingerprints and iris scans would be collected, enabling officials to accurately track who’s came and gone.

A plan to beef-up technological capabilities at the border is still in the works. USA Today suggests that President Trump has been far more concerned with the viability of a physical barrier between the United States and Mexico—going so far as to threaten a government shutdown if Congress refuses to include $5 billion in funding in the federal budget.

Experts interviewed by USA Today say focusing on “the wall” is misguided. Unauthorized cross-border immigration as at an all-time low, with more migrants returning to their countries of origin than seeking illegal entry to the United States.

Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, says Trump’s obsession with a wall shows he’s “not serious about a sound immigration policy.” If he wanted to combat illegal immigration, Noorani says it’s best to improve port security and tweak existing policy.

“Instead, the president wants to spend tens of billions of dollars on a border wall that doesn’t solve any real problems, but makes for a chant at a rally,” he said.

While the Department of Homeland Security hasn’t contradicted President Trump, it does maintain the importance of identifying aliens who’ve overstayed their visas.

“Identifying aliens who overstay their authorized periods of stay is important for national security, public safety, immigration enforcement, and processing applications for immigration benefits,” the DHS says.

Data obtained and compiled by the Associated Press shows that legal-turned-illegal immigration is a growing problem. An estimated 40 percent of the 11 million undocumented aliens now residing in the United States arrived as tourists, students or workers.

The Miami Herald notes that the group responsible for the greatest number of overstays are Canadians, followed by Mexicans. Political crises and poverty have propelled a rise in visa violations from Venezuela nationals, along with Cubans and residents of other Central American countries.

Sources

Homeland Security: More than 600,000 foreigners overstayed U.S. visas in 2017

The U.S. government is targeting hundreds of thousands who have overstayed their visas

Join the Discussion