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Visa Overstays Far Exceed Illegal Border Crossings – Should Immigration Enforcement Focus on Visas, Not a Wall?

Instead of focusing on enforcement at the border, should the U.S. shift its focus to visa overstays?

by Countable | 1.17.19

What’s the story?

  • As President Donald Trump fights to secure funds for his border wall with Mexico, a new study finds that for the seventh consecutive year, visa overstays far exceed illegal border crossings.
  • The study, from the nonpartisan Center for Migration studies, found that most unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. are those that overstay their visas—not those coming through the southern border.
  • This is at-odds to President Trump’s unproved claims that there is "a growing humanitarian and security crisis at our southern border."
  • Given these findings, instead of focusing on enforcement at the border – and funds for a barrier – should the U.S. shift its focus to visa overstays?

What did the study find?

  • From 2016-2017, people who overstayed their visas accounted for 62 percent of the newly undocumented, while 38 percent had crossed a border illegally.
  • Unauthorized immigration from Mexico fell by almost 400,000 in 2017.
  • Since 2010, unauthorized immigration from Mexico declined by 1.3 million.
  • Mexico was the leading country for visa overstays in 2016—“about twice the number from India, China and Venezuela," according to the study.
"It is clear from our research that persons who overstay their visas add to the US undocumented population at a higher rate than border crossers. This is not a blip, but a trend which has become the norm," said Donald Kerwin, CMS' executive director in a statement.  "As these numbers indicate, construction of hundreds of more miles of border wall would not address the challenge of irregular migration into our country, far from it."

What do you think?

If building a barrier with Mexico would do little to address unauthorized immigration, should policy focus on visa overstays not a wall? Both? Neither? Take action and tell your reps, then share your thoughts below.

—Josh Herman

(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / AlxeyPnferov)

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