The laws prohibiting overstaying a visa in the U.S. are “more show than substance” due to a lack of enforcement and failure to implement a biometric tracking system, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) argued Wednesday at a Senate Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest hearing.
“If we do not track and enforce departures, then we have open borders, especially the way it is being carried out today,” Sessions, the chairman of the committee, said.
Some 40 percent of the illegal population in the U.S. are estimated to be visa overstays. However, the U.S. has yet to implement a biometric entry/exit process to prevent visa overstays.
“It must be understood that under the policies of this administration, overstaying a visa does not result in deportation,” Sessions said. “There is no plan or policy that does it. Such policies carried out today are a demonstration by our government that the exit date requirement has no meaning. Again, this is the very essence of open borders. Anyone can come in, no one has to leave.”
While Congress has mandated that government incorporate an biometric entry/exit system for decades, the Department of Homeland Security has yet to implement one.
In his opening statement, the Alabama lawmaker argued that in addition to the lack of a biometric entry/exit system, the reason behind the lack of visa exit date enforcement is due to the Obama administration’s immigration prioritization policies. Those policies require that an illegal immigrant first commit a serious crime before immigration enforcement actions are triggered.
“In addition to the harm done to American job seekers and taxpayers, this also poses a substantial national security risk and a monumental erosion of the integrity of law that encourages more violations,” Sessions said.
“The situation is dire, the time to act is now,” he added.
The committee chairman recalled the recently released DHS report detailing that at least a half million foreign nationals overstayed their visas last year.
“That is a population of individuals that is larger than any city in Iowa, New Hampshire or South Carolina,” he said.
Committee member Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) joking asked why Sessions picked those states.
“Because there are three [presidential primary] elections coming up. Did you not know that? And perhaps when people go to their election they’re going to consider these type issues,” Sessions responded.
The chairman called for DHS to establish tracking system at every port and send message that if one overstays a visa they will be sent him.