Roughly 40% of the 11 million undocumented workers in the United States are foreigners who came legally mostly through visas but have overstayed the length of the visas or overstayed their legal residence here, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday. These immigrants did not cross the U.S. border with stealth but rather obeyed the laws when they arrived. The scant hard evidence about this group indicates that they are better educated than non-visa illegal immigrants, and often speak English with greater fluency. They also tend to emigrate from Europe, Asia and Africa, rather than Central and South America. In many cases, they used tourist visas to enter the U.S.
Sen. Jeff Flake (R., Ariz.), who is working on the Senate immigration bill, “Whenever I use that statistic, people seem completely surprised. They assume that, yeah, some people overstay–but 40% of the illegal population here?” Flake commented that a sizable group of the overstayers exceeded the time limit on H-1B visas, which apply to highly skilled workers
According to a study by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California, of the 8,500 immigrants in 2003 who obtained permanent legal status, there was an average of 13.2 years of education, 50% more than the 9.4 years for illegal immigrants from the same time; 55% of the immigrants who gained permanent status spoke English well or very well, while only 39% of the illegal immigrants could do that well.