U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents report that the government flagged more than 1.6 million foreign visitors for overstaying their visas from 2013 to 2015, but President Obama did not attempt to remove them from the country, citing them as a low priority.
According to the Government Accountability Office, ICE concluded that it would be too costly to pursue the overstays, and instead focused on Obama’s higher priority of capturing illegal aliens with serious criminal records.
The problem of overstays is becoming increasingly critical, as the border has gotten more secure and migrants see an alternate path to crossing in obtaining a visa and refusing to leave when it expires. A watchdog report estimates that in excess of 40 percent of illegal aliens arrived legally with a visa, but overstayed when their time in the country was up.
Homeland Security is increasing efforts to track visitors and ensure that they are leaving the country in time, but the department continues to wrangle with the challenge of expanding pilot programs at airports and seaports. They are also faced with covering the land ports of entry where millions of daily visitors need to be identified.
A pilot program was implemented at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport using facial recognition software to attempt to track departures. Homeland Security is reviewing the results of the program and working to expand it to additional airports.
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In January, President Trump issued an executive order demanding a speedier process and periodic progress reports on visa overstays with the first one due in early May.
GAO data reveals that Homeland Security identified more than 2.7 million leads of potential visa overstays from 2013 to 2015. Approximately 870,000 were subsequently closed when it was determined that the visa holders eventually left or obtained some other legal status in the U.S.
Another 155,000 cases remained open, while 27,000 were sent to ICE’s special Homeland Security Investigations unit, suspected as possible public safety or national security threats.
More than 5,000 of those individuals became subjects of deportation proceedings, while 369 were arrested on criminal charges, resulting in 300 convictions. Less than half a percent were garnered punishments because of their overstay status.
The remaining 1.6 million that were identified were referred to deportation officers, but none were forced to leave the country because they overstayed their visas.
H/T: The Washington Times
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