The Latest Immigration Scandal: Overstayed Visas

Yesterday the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency issued a report titled “Entry/Exit Overstay Report, Fiscal Year 2015.” The report is limited in scope: it relates only to overstays of individuals admitted as temporary visitors for business or pleasure. It does not include overstays of visa categories like students or workers on H-1B or H-2B visas, and it covers only one year. Nevertheless, the figures are staggering. The Border Protection report concludes that during FY 2015, 527,127 individuals overstayed their authorized period of stay. At the end of the fiscal year, 482,781 of these individuals were still inside the United States. Basically, the Obama administration made no attempt to enforce the law.

Today Jeff Sessions’ Senate Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest held a hearing on the Border Protection report. In his opening statement, Sessions said:

Several of our temporary entry programs are uncapped – meaning an unlimited number of people can enter on a temporary basis. Others permit the admission of tens of thousands of aliens each year. If we do not track and enforce departures, then we have open borders. It’s as simple as that. …

It must be understood that, under the policies of this Administration, overstaying a visa does not result in deportation. Such a policy is a demonstration by our government that the exit date requirement has no meaning. Again, this is the very essence of open borders: anyone can come in, and no one has to leave.

It is a monumental erosion of the integrity of our law and encourages more violations. …

[The Border Protection report] means that nearly a half a million individuals potentially overstayed in just one fiscal year – and that number does not include aliens admitted under a variety of temporary visa programs (students, temporary workers, etc.). That is a population of individuals that is larger than any city in Iowa, New Hampshire, or South Carolina. The total number of visa overstays at large in the U.S. is surely in the millions.

The report includes surprisingly high visa overstay rates for some countries that currently participate in the Visa Waiver Program – but details extremely troubling information about other countries. For example, the report indicates that 219 individuals from Afghanistan, 681 from Iraq, 564 from Iran, 56 from Libya, 1,435 from Pakistan, 440 from Syria, and 219 from Yemen overstayed their visas and are suspected of being inside the United States. Again – this is just from one year, and does not include many visa categories.

This nation, despite clear law, makes no attempt to identify, locate, or deport them. Our Executive Branch is on strike against the will of the American people and the requirements of Congress.

Under Secretary Jeh Johnson’s policies, aliens who overstay their visas, but manage to avoid being convicted of any crimes, have practically no chance of ever being removed from the United States.

In this six minute video clip, Sessions tries to get administration witnesses to acknowledge the obvious: there are millions of foreigners who have overstayed their visas in the United States, and, absent apprehension for a serious crime or serendipitous information of a terrorist link, no one makes any effort to find them or deport them:

We interviewed Senator Sessions for our Power Line Show a week or so ago. Off line, I said to my partners that Sessions should be on Mount Rushmore. I was probably 60% kidding. At this point, I am down to around 50%.

As we have argued repeatedly, the lawless Obama administration has willfully violated its Constitutional duty to faithfully execute the immigration laws of the United States. This is why, when the U.S. Supreme Court accepted certiorari to review the 5th Circuit’s decision that certain of President Obama’s executive orders on immigration were illegal, the Court added, on its own initiative, a further issue to be briefed and argued: “Whether the Guidance violates the Take Care Clause of the Constitution, Art. II, §3.” This is, of course, the Constitution’s most fundamental mandate to the executive branch: to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”

The Supreme Court’s action may have been a “stunning” “bombshell” as Professor David Bernstein says, but what is really stunning is the Obama administration’s thumbing its nose at the Constitution, at federal law, and at its own most basic duties.