Sessions: In FY 2015, Less than One Percent of Visa Overstays Removed

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By Joe Guzzardi

Joe is a CAPS Senior Writing Fellow whose commentaries about California's social issues have run in newspapers throughout California and the country for nearly 30 years. Contact Joe at joeguzzardi@capsweb.org, or find him on Twitter @joeguzzardi19.

The writer's views are his own.

May 25, 2016

Visit America on a tourist visa, come as a business traveler or on the Visa Waiver Program, and stay for life. In a nutshell, that’s how the Department of Homeland Security treats nonimmigrant arrivals. Like the lyrics in the old Eagles’ song “Hotel California,” the federal government is “programmed to receive,” but when it comes time to leave, not so much.

According to the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest, of the 482,781 visa overstays during the 2015 fiscal year, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an agency that operates under DHS, removed only 2,456 individuals, or less than one percent. During the seven-year period since 2009, ICE removed about 50,000 visa overstays, with the annual total declining significantly each year:

Fiscal Year Removals
2009 12,538
2010 11,259
2011 10,426
2012 6,856
2013 4,240
2014 3,564

Once a visa holder remains beyond the authorized time period, his immigration status changes to illegal alien. No one in authority knows where the vanished visitors are. They may be working for an employer that doesn’t use E-Verify or they may be plotting to blow up the Empire State Building. To the Obama administration, ignorance is bliss.

DHS’ inexcusable record is the predictable outcome of ICE’s failure to pursue overstays. In their March testimony to the Senate Homeland Security, ICE director Sarah Saldana, DHS Inspector General John Roth and the State Department’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs could not defend the administration’s pathetic indifference toward tracking the overstays/illegal immigrants.

Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI), befuddled by the collective ineptitude of the government branches assigned to monitor immigration comings and goings, wondered why visitors’ passport numbers could not be linked to a specific visa. Once entered into a database, the visitors’ status could be immediately determined with the push of a computer screen button.

Congress mandated an entry-exit system in the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act. A 20-year failure to act is inexcusable, and can only be explained as ongoing and willful disregard for national security and the public’s well-being.

 

Customs and Border Protection officer at LAX
Customs and Border Protection officer at LAX.

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