The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday concerns the increase in people coming to the United States legally and staying illegally. The United States has an enormous problem with illegal immigration, but a huge part of the problem is people coming to the U.S. legally and overstaying their visa.
David Inserra and Max Morrison at The Heritage Foundation discuss this problem and possible solutions in a recent article at The Daily Signal. They say that “visa overstays account for an estimated 40 percent of all illegal immigration in the United States.” They use figures from the Department of Homeland Security to show that “628,799 legal immigrants overstayed their visas in fiscal year 2016. Of that number, 544, 676 are still believed to be in the United States, meaning only 84,123 of those who initially overstayed ended up leaving the country.” They say that these numbers show the great need for the United States to implement “cost-effective solutions to curtail visa overstays and restore the integrity of our immigration system.”
This author agrees with Inserra and Morrison. They quote the Homeland Security report as defining an overstay “as a nonimmigrant who lawfully enters the U.S. but remains beyond their allotted period of admission, and for whom there is no record of departure.” They explain that specific groups tend to overstay their visas more than other groups with the worst offenders being students and exchange visitors.
The United States must do something and do it fast because the numbers of people overstaying their visas are increasing. Inserra and Morrison explain that the U.S. uses biometric and biographic entry requirements for any visitor that enters the nation by air or sea port. This information is “analyzed across intelligence and law enforcement databases to ensure they are not a threat.” The information collected by Customs and Border Protection officers includes name, country of origin, passport information, fingerprints and or facial and iris scans. The biographic information is used to “confirm an individual’s identity” when they leave.
This program is expensive and would require “vast changes” to all points of entry in the U.S. The technology is not used, however, for people who overstay their visas. Inserra and Morrison suggest that funding for this program be stopped and the funds be redirected “to hire new Immigration and Customs Enforcement prosecutors and agents.”
With increased numbers, ICE can locate overstayed visitors within the United States and remove them. Additionally, these extra funds can be used to supply and increase support for the 287(g) program that enlists the help of state and local authorities in enforcing federal immigration statutes.
Inserra and Morrison assert that visa overstay problem can be tamed if the United States pursues “cost-effective solutions.” Since the Homeland Security report states that the numbers of overstays are increasing, action must be taken now to correct the problem before it grows worse.