Tuesday, October 2, 2018

U.S. Doesn’t Know How Many Foreign Visitors Overstay Visas

The early Chinese regulated Trade by creating a Formal Framework for Controlling Merchants who came from outside Territories. A remarkable Collection of 35,000 Texts from the Garrison Town of Xuanquan, not far from Dunhuang, paints a vivid picture of everyday goings-on in a Town set at the neck of the Gansu corridor. From these Texts, written on bamboo and wooden tablets, we learn that Visitors passing into China had to stick to Designated Routes, were issued with written Passes and were regularly Counted by Officials to ensure that all who entered the Country also eventually made their way Home. Like a Modern Hotel Guest Folio, Records were kept for each Visitor, noting how much they spent on Food, what their Place of Origin was, their Title, and in which Direction they were Headed.

These Measures are to be understood not as form of Suspicious Surveillance, but rather as a means of being able to Note Accurately who was Entering and Leaving China, as well as what they were Doing There, and above all to Record the Value of the Goods that were Bought and Sold for Customs purposes. The Sophistication of the Techniques and their Early Implementation reveal how the Imperial Courts at the Capital in Chang'an, modern Xi'an, and from the First Century AD at Luoyang dealt with a world that seemed to be shrinking before their eyes. We think of Globalization as a uniquely Modern phenomenon, yet 2,000 years ago too, it was a fact of life, one that presented Opportunities, created Problems, and prompted Technological advances.

Today, how many Foreign Visitors Overstay their U.S. Visas every year? The reply is simple, but not in a satisfying way. “We don’t know,” Official say.

Nearly 20 years ago, Congress passed a Law requiring the Federal Government to Develop a System to Track People who Overstayed their Visas. After the Attacks of Sept. 11th, 2001, an Entry and Exit Tracking System was seen as a Vital National Security and Counterterrorism Tool, and the 9/11 Commission recommended that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) complete a system “as soon as possible.” Two of the Sept. 11th Hijackers, Satam al-Suqami and Nawaf al-Hazmi, had Overstayed their Visas.

Since then, the Federal Government has spent Millions of Dollars on the effort, yet Officials can only roughly Estimate the Number of People in the U.S. Illegally after Overstaying Visas.

Officials blame a Lack of Technology to Conduct more Advanced Collection of Data like Iris Scans, Resistance from the Airline and Tourism Industries because of Cost, and Questions about the Usefulness of Tracking People Exiting the Country as a Counterterrorism Measure. Some Experts also note that a Sizable Number of those who Overstayed their Visas are Highly Skilled Workers who come under the H-1B Program or are Foreign Students.

Despite the call by some Lawmakers for an Exit System, Airports and the Airline Industry have Balked because it would Cost Airlines $3 Billion, according to a 2013 Homeland Security Estimate. The Department issued Regulations in 2008 requiring Airports to Collect Biometric Exit Information, but Carriers have largely Ignored the Regulation, and there have been No Sanctions.

One widely cited Statistic, from a 1997 Report by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), puts the Number of People who Overstay their Visas at 40%, which now would mean about 4.4 Million of the estimated 11 Million Undocumented Residents in the U.S.

In 2004, Lawmakers Passed Legislation that required Homeland Security Officials to Accelerate efforts to Create an Automated Biometric Entry and Exit Data System. Congress Repeated its Demand for a Biometric Exit System in 2007 and set a Deadline for 2009. But the Deadline Passed, with the Department putting into Place only a Handful of Pilot Programs.

Since then, the Department has continued to struggle to meet this Requirement. A 2013 Report by the Government Accountability Office said the DHS had more than One Million “Unmatched” Arrival Records, meaning that those Records could Not be Checked against other Information showing that the Individuals had Left the Country, but again the Department could not Offer a Precise Number.

In early 2013, Janet Napolitano, then the Secretary of Homeland Security, testified before Congress that the Agency Planned to Issue a Report on Overstay Rates by December 2013. The Agency did not follow through because Officials said they did not have Confidence in the Quality of the Data.

Many Members of Congress and some Law Enforcement Officials worry that Terrorists could Exploit the Visa Program because the U.S. does not routinely Collect Biometric Information, Fingerprints, Iris Scans, and Photographs that can be used for Facial Recognition, of People leaving the Country.

Nearly Three Dozen Countries, including many in Europe, Asia, and Africa, Collect such Information. “U.S. airports and other entry and exit points were never designed with departure control in mind,” said Theresa Cardinal Brown, the Director of Immigration Policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington and a DHS Official under President George W. Bush. “If we want to do that it’s going to mean building a lot more infrastructure.”

The 9/11 Commission Report called the Establishment of an Entry and Exit Biometric System “fundamental to intercepting terrorists” trying to Enter the U.S. because it would allow Law Enforcement Officials to determine if a Traveler had Overstayed a Visa. Still, efforts to Build such a System to Collect the Information have Stalled for Decades.

Some National Security Experts are not convinced that a Biometric System would be an Effective Counterterrorism Tool. “A biometric exit system does little to help stop those who fail to register an exit, i.e., overstay their visas,” said David Inserra, a Policy Analyst on Domestic Security with the Heritage Foundation. “The system merely tells officials that an overstay has occurred, not if it is a false positive, a national security risk, or just an honest mistake.”

Mr. Inserra and other Experts like Ms. Brown added that Homeland Security did Not have the Resources to Enforce Existing Immigration Laws, let alone pursue all those who Overstay their Visas. The best way to Deal with Terrorism Threats, they say, is to give More Resources to Intelligence Agencies.
“The biometric exit system is not going to solve all our problems,” Ms. Brown said. “All it will ever do is just generate a really expensive list if there aren’t any additional resources allocated.”

The Experts say Homeland Security would be better off using Biographical Information, such as a Traveler’s Name and Date of Birth, to Track Exits and Collect Overstay Data. But other Experts say Names and Identifications like Passports and Travel Documents are hardly Foolproof.

Groups like the Islamic State have used Fake Passports and Aliases to Bypass Border Checkpoints and move from Country to Country, Janice Kephart, former Counsel for the Senate Judiciary Committee and a Staff Member on the 9/11 Commission, said last year in Congressional Testimony. She provided Lawmakers with Islamic State Documents that encouraged Supporters to get Fake Credentials.

“Having accurate data on who is coming and going — not who is pretending to be coming and going — is essential to curtailing the insidious and increasing direct threat that ISIS is loudly declaring at our homeland,” said Ms. Kephart, who is now the Chief Executive of the Secure Identity and Biometrics Association, a Trade Group.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

No comments: