Fed Tech Slowed ICE Agents Tracking Visa Overstays, Report Finds

Sample Immigration Visa: USCIS.gov

A recent report issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) shows just how much the federal government has done to handicap ICE agents who are working to find those who are illegally in the country because of visa overstays. Estimates reveal there are 1.2 million of these individuals in the country. Two of the 9/11 terrorists overstayed their visas.

Visa overstays are one of the primary causes for illegal immigrants to be in the United States. Moreover, as discussed on Breitbart News Daily in an interview with Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) in late January, “about 40 percent of people who come to visit our country on a visa overstay their visa, and we have no idea where they are.”

The senator from Kentucky added, “On 9/11, at least two of the hijackers were here on visa. They were traveling back and forth to the Middle East, and we really had no idea where they were or what they were doing, and they were overstaying their visa. So, there are problems I think in the immigration system that need to be fixed for our safety.”

The report issued by DHS last week shows that ICE investigators are given a sluggishly encumbering system, causing delays in determining whether a visa holder poses a national security threat.

Auditors with the DHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) found that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) investigations “may take months” to determine both a visa holder’s status and whether they are a threat to public safety.

According to a statement obtained by Breitbart Texas from the DHS OIG, the IT scheme that exists presently “forc[es] ICE personnel to laboriously piece together vital information from up to 27 distinct DHS information systems and databases to accurately determine an individual’s overstay status.” The system lacks “integration and information-sharing capabilities,” they reported.

The DHS OIG inspector found that:

The myriad of information systems and databases used in DHS for visa tracking were not effective in identifying nonimmigrant overstays. Some of these systems and databases were ‘stove-piped’ and did not electronically share information, resulting in numerous inefficiencies. Despite some recent system integration efforts, ICE personnel conducted cumbersome and manual searches across multiple systems for information on in-country overstays. ICE personnel periodically were unsure of which system to use and were hampered by multiple passwords required to maintain system access. Obtaining visa and immigration status on suspected overstays also was difficult due to the unstructured manner in which data were stored.


Multiple legacy information systems and databases used in DHS for visa tracking did not fully support ICE’s efforts to identify nonimmigrant visitor overstays. Federal law requires the CIO of each department or agency to develop and maintain a sound IT environment to ensure integration across IT capabilities used for mission operations.10 However, DHS has not fully established a shared and integrated IT environment to promote collaboration across components, which hinders effective and efficient visa mission operations. Up to 27 distinct DHS information systems and databases were used to support the Department’s visa-related programs and operations, depending on location. The Department has worked to integrate some IT systems used for tracking arrivals and departures and for capturing derogatory information. However, ICE personnel still need to check multiple individual systems to accurately determine an individual’s overstay status. For example, CTCEU analysts at ICE headquarters relied on approximately 17 systems, including 13 DHS and four external systems and databases (reference to graphic). ICE personnel in the field used as many as 18 distinct DHS systems and databases, as well as approximately five external systems, to conduct their investigations.

As reported by Breitbart Texas, another problem in keeping track of visa overstays is the absence of a biometric system at the U.S. ports of departure. “It is also vital that such exit tracking employs biometric indicators — for instance, the travelers’ photos or fingerprints. Using only biographic information, such as names or passport numbers, provides no assurance that the person departing is the one whose original arrival was recorded,” the Center Immigration Studies (CIS) has reported.

During the radio interview, Senator Rand noted:

We need to know virtually 100% of the time when you come and when you leave. It’s called entry and exit. We do need to know that. And here’s the problem that faces Europe. In Europe a million people went into Germany, some of them presented with one name and no papers. So if you call back to Syria and say, my name is so-and-so, and you ask for the agency to check this person with one name, there is no agency. It’s chaos over there so vetting these people is very, very difficult. And I think we need to do more vetting of people coming with one name from various countries in the Middle East.”

Then-Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) was the chairman of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest when he told Breitbart in an exclusive interview in September 2016:

“No, we haven’t,” Sessions told Breitbart News when asked whether the United States has followed through—during both the Republican administration of George W. Bush or the Democratic administration of Barack Obama—on implementing a biometric entry-exit visa tracking program as recommended by the 9/11 Commission Report. …”

“It’s a combination of things—special interest interference and bureaucratic dragging of feet and pressure from activist groups and business groups that have blocked this plain, common-sense, that we are absolutely able to execute immediately virtually. So it’s really frustrating. Actually, the first legislation to require a biometric entry-exit system was in the 1996 Congress. So that’s 20 years ago. Then, we’ve had three or four more legislative acts to call for this, and it has not occurred. I would just say this on how it got started, particularly the 9/11 Commission said the failure to have a biometric entry-exit system threatened the security of the United States, and it was one of their top recommendations for the United States to carry out. They came back ten years later and reviewed how well their recommendations had been followed, and one of the few dramatic failures was the entry-exit system. They once again issued a report criticizing the government for failure to produce an entry-exit system, and we still haven’t done it.”

Breitbart News reported that Sessions cited an analysis from early 2016 from DHS that there are 500,000 visa overstays per year.

“ICE must equip its personnel with the tools and training they require for the vital work of tracking visitors who overstay their visas,” said Inspector General John Roth after the release of the DHS OIG report. “Timely identification, tracking, and adjudication of potential visa overstays is critical to ICE’s public safety and national security mission.”

Bob Price serves as associate editor and senior political news contributor for Breitbart Texas. He is a founding member of the Breitbart Texas team. Follow him on Twitter @BobPriceBBTX and Facebook.

DHS OIG Report on Visa Overstays and Technology -17-56-May17


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.