Nearly half a million foreigners overstayed their visas last year and thousands of them were from countries associated with terrorism, according to a new Department of Homeland Security report.
The DHS data, mandated by Congress, revealed the extent to which foreign nationals who remained in the U.S. after their visas expired contributed to the illegal immigrant population last fiscal year — which ran from October 1, 2014 – September 30, 2015.
The analysis was limited to foreigners who came to the U.S. as visitors for business or pleasure via sea or air ports. It found that by the end of FY 2015 there were 527,127 individuals who had not departed on the terms of their admission and 482,781 individuals suspected of remaining in the U.S. despite their expired visa or “Suspected In-Country Overstays.” By January 4, 2016 there was a drop in the number of suspected overstays to 416,000.
While the administration boasted that the overstays represented about 1 percent of nonimmigrant visitors who were supposed to leave the U.S. in FY 2015, there were thousands of overstays from countries associated with Islamic terrorism — including 219 from Afghanistan, 681 from Iraq, 564 from Iran, 1,435 from Pakistan, 440 from Syria, and 219 from Yemen.
The countries with among the highest number of overstays last year were Canada with 93,000 and Mexico with 42,000. The report, however did not include data on border crossings, or additional types of nonimmigrant travelers like students or guest-workers.
“The overstay deluge stems from the Administration’s decision to largely exempt visa overstays from enforcement – which, naturally, eliminates the entire premise of a temporary visa,” a Republican Senate aide emailed of the report.
“By not enforcing visa overstays, the Administration has flung the border open – millions get temp visas and then freely violate their entry contracts and shred their eviction notices. Further, DHS has refused to complete the legally-required biometric tracking system,” the aide added.
According to the Center for Immigration Studies, while the total illegal immigrant visa overstay population is estimated to be about 4 million to 5.5 million people, only about 8,000 are removed each year.
In an analysis of the DHS report, CIS director of policy studies Jessica Vaughan highlighted the omissions in the report — notably the lack of land crossing data, which accounts for more than 75 percent of overstays.
Vaughan said that the public should be “tremendously concerned” by the report’s findings where more than 12,000 of the overstays “came from countries associated with terrorism.”
“Clearly, our immigration controls are not sufficient to protect Americans. These scofflaws are encouraged by the Obama administration’s appalling neglect of interior enforcement and overly generous visa policies,” she said.
The Senate subcommittee on immigration is slated to hold a hearing Biometric Exit Tracking System Wednesday.