US Cannot Track Visitors on Foreign Visas
Last year 2.9 million foreign visitors checked in on temporary visas but never officially checked out, according to immigration officials. It is estimated that several hundred thousand of them simply do not leave. according to the New York Times:
Since 2004, homeland security officials have put systems in place to check all foreigners as they arrive, whether by air, sea or land. Customs officers now take fingerprints and digital photographs of visitors from most countries, instantly comparing them against law enforcement watch list databases. (Canadians and Mexicans with special border-crossing cards are exempt from those checks.)
But homeland security officials said that a series of pilot programs since 2004 had failed to yield an exit monitoring system that would work for the whole nation. They have not yet found technology to support speedy exit inspections at land borders. And airlines balked at an effort last year by the Bush administration to make them responsible for taking fingerprints and photographs of departing foreigners.
The current system relies on departing foreigners to turn in a paper stub when they leave.
Last week’s terrorist plot brought this problem to a head, once again. New concerns over national security were sparked by a 19-year-old Jordanian who had overstayed his tourist visa and who has been accused of plotting to blow up a Dallas skyscraper.
Congress has repeatedly mandated verification that visitors have left the country but it still is not being done. Verification of entry and exit of the United States is a must for both national security and if the government is serious about curbing illegal immigration. Currently, estimates indicate that about 40% of all illegal aliens living in the United States overstayed a visa.
All the ‘Secure our Border’ signs in the world won’t take care of 40% of the problem.
Further reading: New York Times