Playing hostess can be fun, but not when your guests don’t know when it’s time to say good-bye. Such is the case for millions of people who arrived legally on American shores and have overstayed their welcome.
While the body politic has been endlessly riding the illegal immigrant carousel, they’ve taken their eye off a horde of people who gain entry through visas but then refuse to leave. And there are quite a few of them – 606,926 in just the last year to be exact.
A recent Department of Homeland Security report shows that departures are not nearly as popular as arrivals. “Stop by and say hi” has turned into “I’m here, and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it.”
DHS reports that it uses “a multifaceted approach to enforce overstay violations, including improving entry and exit data collection and reporting, notifying visitors of an impending expiration of their authorized period of admission” and a heap of bureaucratic-speak that indicates that not much is being done about the problem.
Reports but Little Regarding Answers
If the U.S. is serious about immigration, this type of legal-to-illegal activity must be stopped. Currently, government officials email foreigners to let them know their time is just about up. They also notify Immigration and Customs agents. But even a bevy of ICE agents can’t track down this many people. These paltry procedures are about as useful as telling little Timmy that he’s a bad boy without ever allowing him to experience any punishment.
DHS has toyed with a biometric screening of those who enter the country on a visa with iris scanning. But they have yet to implement a workable system for the estimated 52 million people who come into this country each year. The fact is we already have a thorough entry system into the U.S. It’s the exit part of the equation we haven’t quite figured out yet. But it’s not for lack of spending. As of 2016, the U.S. coughed up $600 million on entry/exit systems that have yet to provide a practical solution.
Earlier this year the Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General reported that the IT operation for ICE is so screwed up that it sometimes takes 27 separate databases to identify people who have overstayed their visas. “Currently, Customs and Border Protection has four such exit systems in the pilot stage, including mobile fingerprint readers and facial scanners, but it still encounters significant infrastructure and staffing problems. DHS’ goal is to set up a full-fledged system at one airport by 2018,” according to the OIG.
In the report’s conclusion, DHS does promise to issue another to Congress next year. This all adds up to nothing unless 52 million people plan to enter this country from one airport.
Meanwhile, President Trump has signed an executive order, directing DHS to get a biometric exit system in place. But turning the helm of the Titanic – especially when it’s run aground in the swamp – is no easy task.
Still, this is not an insurmountable feat, and the IT geniuses need to put their shoulder to the wheel on this because allowing people to stay indefinitely carries with it public safety and national security concerns. Think that’s an exaggeration? Of the nineteen September 11 hijackers, two of them were overstays, two others had previously overstayed – and had been granted the wrong visas to begin with – but held current visas on the day of the attack, and another had entered as a tourist and didn’t change his status to student. All in all, the 9/11 Commission estimated that at least six had violated immigration laws before the strike.