The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is responsible for monitoring those who remain in the United States after their visas have expired. DHS does this by matching arrival and departure records in databases. The perfect state is to match an arrival record with a departure record to show that the visa user has exited the U.S. in accordance with the visa's regulations.
The hallmark of the Senate's Gang of Eight's Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act, S. 744, is border security and the concept that the border will be secure before amnesty is granted. Of course, bills must pass both the House and Senate, and then get the President's signature before it becomes law. The Obama administration has made the passage of S. 744 a priority; getting the President's signature will not be an obstacle. In preparation for the Senate's passage of comprehensive immigration reform, the House Committee on Homeland Security conducted a hearing to understand the issue of border security as it pertains to visa security and overstays.
In response to the hearing and as part of the testimony, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a report entitled "Immigration Enforcement: Preliminary observations on DHS's overstay enforcement efforts." The report found that as of April 2013:
- DHS continues to maintain more than one million unmatched arrival records. 44% of the unmatched records are from tourist visa overstays while 43% are from tourists admitted under a visa waiver;
- The average amount of time elapsed for all unmatched arrival records was 2.7 years;
- 40% of the visa overstays had been in the US for 2-8 years;
- Neither DHS nor its predecessors have regularly reported overstay rates since 1994, as required by federal law;
- April 2013 is the first time student visa information is electronically exchanged with the arrival/departure database;
- Since 1996, DHS (and its predecessors) have been required to establish a biometric exit system. In 2004, DHS was required to establish a plan for a biometric entry and exit data system. In 2010, a pilot program was put in place but it was unreliable. As of 2012, there were still barriers to implementation.
The problem is not only illegal aliens crossing the border but also people legally admitted to the US who then become illegal aliens when they remain past the approved visa date. We have the DHS that is responsible for enforcing visa laws of which they are incapable of doing. What is being done about this unguarded border?