Immigration Reform Bill Doesn’t Fix Visa Overstay Problem

Immigration Reform Bill Doesn’t Fix Visa Overstay Problem


The fact that the Boston Bombing suspects were foreign naturalized and permanent  residents, respectively, is stirring new debate over the immigration overhaul.  Last Wednesday, the bipartisan “gang of 8” US  senators released their 844 page plan for comprehensive immigration reform.  This week, tempers flared between opponents of the plan during  a hearing on it.

Part of the plan ties in the path to citizenship to strengthened borders.  It has biometrics components that would enhance the current system in place. Employers would require noncitizens present a biometic green card that matched a photo stored in an e-verify system.

The current biometrics data program was created to enable the United States government to better track Visa overstays. While a substantial portion of the nation’s estimated 11 million undocumented people living here did in fact sneak in across the US-Mexico border, over 40 percent overstayed visa authorization to come to the US on business, as students or casual visitors.

But the biometrics identification system is not new but slow in development. In 2004, the Department of Homeland Security launched the program which it patterned after similar programs in the United Kingdom and Australia. Before permitting entrants to come here, they were to be required to submit a digital photograph and fingerprints. That biometric data was fed into a national database, the Treasury Enforcement Communications System (TECS), which police could use during arrests and bookings.

However, last year, the DHS admitted that while it was close to finalizing the program, it was incapable of tracking those who have overstayed the visas who did not go through the criminal justice system.

One solution were to at least require social security cards also include biometric data that way employers would be certain they were only hiring legally authorized individuals.  Some civil libertarians scoffed at the proposal.  Further,   that is also not a fool proof alternative as today, many undocumented people are paid under the table. That system would not catch them either.

Finally, a critical and substantial amount of the 11 million undocumenteds are not criminal and never go through the criminal justice system.  Many work, have homes, go to school and are living in established immigrant communities or among the general population, comfortably, undetected.  They would continue as such so long as they remain law-abiding systems and offer no reason for their fingerprints to be scanned.

A recent Rasmussen Reports poll indicated that 55% of those questioned believe those who overstayed their visas should go home.

While the immigration overhaul is a critical first step, it still does not eliminate or offer a solution for the visa overstay program.