According to The New York Times . . .

President Trump has staked much of his presidency and his re-election on halting the movement of undocumented immigrants across the southern border.  But that’s not reality.

Some 350,000 travelers arrive by air in the United States each day.  From Asia, South America and Africa, they come mostly with visas allowing them to tour, study, do business or attend a conference for an authorized period of time.  But when they stay beyond when their visas expire, some of them fall into the same illegal status often associated with migrants showing up at the border.

Nearly half of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants now in the country did not trek through the desert or wade across the Rio Grande to enter the country; they flew in with a visa, passed inspection at the airport — and stayed.

Nearly Half of the Undocumented Population Overstayed a Visa.

Of the roughly 3.5 million undocumented immigrants who entered the country between 2010 and 2017, 65 percent arrived with full permission stamped into their passports, according to new figures compiled by the Center for Migration Studies, a nonpartisan think tank.  During that period, more overstayers arrived from India than from any other country.

“A big overlooked immigration story is that twice as many people came in with a visa than came across the border illegally in recent years,” said Robert Warren, the demographer who calculated overstay estimates by using the Census Bureau’s annual American Community Survey and shared those figures with The New York Times.

As Mr. Trump has called for hiring thousands of new Border Patrol agents and erecting miles of new fencing, federal immigration authorities have devoted relatively few resources toward the much larger numbers of undocumented immigrants who have overstayed their visas.

The Department of Homeland Security said it has succeeded in bringing the number of visa overstayers down slightly over the past two years, but enforcement is difficult because authorities are only beginning to gain access to better data on who has and has not flown out of the country.

“Once they are in the country, they are home free because there is so little interior enforcement,” said Jessica Vaughan, a former federal visa officer who is now policy director at the Center for Immigration Studies, which lobbies for restricting immigration.

Overstayers represent about 46 percent of the 10.7 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, according to the migration center’s data.  This is not necessarily because of a huge jump in the number of people overstaying their visas; rather, their proportion of the undocumented population has soared amid a huge decline in border crossings since 2000.

The largest number of overstayers — about 1 million — hail from Mexico, a neighboring country with a long history of commercial and family ties and substantial flows of people across the border.  But the picture is changing.  Between 2010 and 2017, 330,000 Indians overstayed their visas, more than from any other country. Large numbers of people from China, Venezuela, the Philippines, Brazil and Colombia also overstayed.

Many undocumented Asians — including a large number from India — have settled in and around Sunnyvale, California, about 50 miles southeast of San Francisco, according to the Center for Migration Studies analysis.

Apple, LinkedIn and other tech titans in the area employ many whom the companies have sponsored for legal work visas or permanent residency in the United States.

Some of them stay on as independent contractors after their visas have expired.  Let’s not forget that they entered the U.S. legally.

Tracking Visa Overstayers Is Difficult.

The government reported that nearly 670,000 travelers who arrived by air or sea and were supposed to depart in the 2018 fiscal year had not left by Sept. 30, 2018. That number had dropped to nearly 415,700 by March 2019, because many people overstay by just a few months.

But developing policies to curb overstays requires accurate data, experts say, and Homeland Security officials still lack a reliable system to track them.  But the Government is now tracking people who overstay, especially those who enter on a Visa Waiver (W.T.)

Most travelers are photographed and fingerprinted at American consulates abroad when they receive a visa and then again on arrival in the United States.  But Customs and Border

Protection still depends overwhelmingly on biographical information from the manifests of departing travelers, provided by airlines, to tally who did not leave in time, or at all.

In 2016, federal officials began working with airlines and airport authorities to install a biometric facial-comparison system at departure gates.  A digital picture taken of those boarding a plane to leave the country is compared to the one taken on their arrival.

Thus far, the program covers 4 to 5 percent of those departing by air each day, said John F. Wagner, a deputy assistant executive commissioner for Customs and Border Protection.  He said in an interview that his agency hopes to cover 90 percent of departing travelers within three years.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which enforces immigration rules in the interior of the country, said that it puts a priority on identifying those who pose potential national security or public-safety threats.  In fiscal 2018, its Homeland Security Investigations unit made 1,808 arrests in connection with visa-violation leads.


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