It’s Official, Visa Overstays Biggest Immigration Problem in U.S.

Canada and Mexico are the worst offenders.

The Department of Homeland Security has declared visa overstays the number-one problem of illegal immigration in the United States.

A report released on Monday of the numbers in 2016 shows that 739,450 people came to the country legally but refused to leave the country after their visa expired, thus becoming illegal aliens. 

Among the worst offenders are from student visas, according to The Washington Times. Canada and Mexico are the worst offending countries with a combined 182,000 overstays:

Indeed, more than 98.5 percent of those admitted through airports and seaports departed before their admissions expired in 2016. But the sheer amount of travel — some 54 million visitors who came through those air and sea ports — means that even that small overstay rate works out to nearly 740,000 illegal immigrants.

Some of the overstays were short-term, and they did leave eventually, but the majority were long-term problems. Nearly 630,000 were still in the U.S. at the end of 2016, for a persistent overstay rate of 1.25 percent.

Student visas holders were the worst offenders, with more than 5 percent of them breaking the terms of their visits — and a persistent overstay rate of 2.8 percent.

Almost none of the visa overstays are investigated, Homeland Security officials told Congress last year. Just 2,500 visa overstay cases resulted in deportations in 2015, or a fraction of 1 percent of the problem.

This DHS report flies in the face of the one released last year which severely downplayed the numbers and ignored student visas, The Times notes. It also highlights that the biggest problem isn’t sneaking across borders. To that end, less than 500,000 illegal border crossers have been successful. The rate of those sneaking across and those caught is one-to-one. That means nearly a half a million have been caught and turned away.

But it’s important to remember that at least five of the 9/11 hijackers overstayed their visas. After 9/11, the federal government spent $1 billion on an electronic fingerprint and photo scanning system meant to keep track of foreigner visas but have failed miserably by allowing millions, including those who wish to do us harm, to remain in the country undetected. 

For more details on the federal government's failures, click here.

Photo credit: Duane Storey via / CC BY-NC-ND