While border security is a main concern for senators working to revamp the nation’s immigration system, a less likely problem- immigrants who come to the U.S. legally but stay long after their visas expire- is another issue that government officials aim to end with new legislation. The proposed bill may adapt a system similar to Australia’s, where passports are scanned upon arrival and exit of the country. The proposed U.S. Senate bill envisions a similar entry-exit system at airports and seaports to be enacted within the next five years.
“We have nearly four and a half million visa overstayers in our country,” Chris Crane, National ICE Council president, told The Daily Caller. “Five thousand officers and agents can’t deal with those kinds of numbers. … [It’s] politics, politics politics over public safety.”
According to Fox News, the U.S. originally envisioned a biometric-based system, where foreign tourists, students and businessmen would provide 10 fingerprints and eye scans when they enter and exit the country. However, this method was too expensive and time consuming. Currently, there is no exit control at the airport, so officials have no idea who has overstayed their visas.
The lack of security for student visas rings true at universities, where there is typically only one person overseeing the process. Universities, according to visa expert Luis Guerra, benefit from these visas because of the monetary charges for international students.
Although many immigrants whose visas have expired live normal lives, work or go to school, PBS reported that 40 percent of immigrants who do not have legal citizenship are in the country with expired visas. Doris Meissner, director of the U.S. Immigration Policy Program at the Migration Policy Institute, said that this is still grounds for breaking the law.
“There are a whole range of circumstances that lead to visa overstays, but they also are in violation of the law,” she told PBS.