The recently completed Little League World Series provides a great example of how the U.S. visa system should work. Players and coaches representing the draw’s international half, and their families, got their visas for a specific reason and with a fixed timetable – to play baseball and leave after the last pitch is thrown. For some, like the Ugandan team, the visas have been harder to come by.
|Japanese team wins LLWS; players head home.|
From the perspective of Americans who want immigration laws enforced and abuse of those laws stopped, the important thing is that once the tournament ends, everyone goes home without fuss, muss or bother. No one files a petition to change their immigration status, and no one appeals for an extension. In LLWS’s 70-year history, no foreign national has ever defected. To be sure, these kids are age 11-13 traveling under adult supervision, so comparing their status to those here on work-related or other visas isn’t completely fair.
Nonetheless, the U.S. visa system is so lax that it’s basically an honor system. People go home if and when they feel like it. Estimates are that about 40 percent of visa holders overstay.
Yet an efficient process to ensure that visitors return home on a timely basis has been within Congress’ reach for years, but has never been put into effect. Despite countless thousands of words and congressional promises to secure the border, the most basic system that would allow the Department of Homeland Security to know who comes in and out of the country has been stalled, unnecessarily so.
In 1996, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act became law and mandated that the U.S. collect departure data “for every alien departing the U.S.” to match it against arrival records. After 9/11, Congress added biometric mandates. Yet, according to a 2011 Government Accountability Report report, Customs and Border Protection does not inspect travelers exiting the U.S. through land ports of entry, including their biometric information.Nonimmigrants departing the U.S. through land ports of entry turn in their forms on their own initiative.
With presidential politics in high gear, candidates on both sides of the aisle promise voters that they’ll physically secure the border. An easier and possibly more effective method of making America safe and reducing illegal immigration would be to ensure that DHS knows through an operative entry-exit system who’s coming in and who’s not leaving.