On illegal immigration, Janet Napolitano points to visa overstays, lack of enforcement

Sylvia Cochran
Yahoo! Contributor Network
"Police officer (U.S.) taking fingerprints"

Championing the amorphous concept of "immigration reform" that as of yet lacks clear-cut definition, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is pointing to visa overstays as a major problem. During a sit-down with the San Diego Union Tribune, which is just a hop, skip and a jump away from the Mexican border with California, she lamented the lack of"high-tech resources" that prevent authorities from pursuing visitors to the U.S. who choose to overstay their allotted visa time.

These visitors may obtain tourist visas, fiancé visas or even education visas and simply choose to stay on even after their holiday is over, relationship turns out to be a bust and their college days grow to a close. At times these are also the immigrants who receive a temporary visa based on their application for political or religious asylum, but who then overstay their allotted time and do not return to the immigration office for an extension of time.

While it is unclear how an immigration reform bill would address the issue of visa overstays, which are already against existing law, and how a passing of an as-of-yet unnamed bill will put high-tech gadgetry into the hands of law enforcement, it is true that illegal aliens are not infrequently those who receive legal visas but then choose to stay even after their time runs out. Across the nation, but especially in Southern California, there is the misconception that undocumented workers are those who cross illegally into the United States via the desert or mountains.

Instead, visa overstays make up a rather significant number of illegals, perhaps as many as 5.5 million, which would be about half the number of undocumented aliens currently in the U.S., if the estimates of the Arizona Republic are accurate. Even as the Tucson border patrol sector apprehended about 241,673 illicit border crossers during a fiscal year, the federal authorities -- who are charged with finding and apprehending visa overstays -- only logged about 27 cases. Is it really the missing or lacking technology that accounts for this disparity?

The short answer must be a resounding "no." Consider that visa overstays are neither a new problem nor one that requires further adjudication or gadgetry, contrary to what Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano suggests. On Sept. 1, 2000, the U.S. Government Accountability Office published its report on "Illegal Aliens: Opportunities Exist to Improve the Expedited Removal Process." Detailing processes related to asylum seekers' petitions and also the failure of many to not attend their removal hearings, the call for executive action remained unheeded.

With the status notation "closed -- not implemented," the ideas of re-evaluating simply releasing aliens pending a hearing and also verifying their addresses went by the wayside. The reason is simple: budget constraints. This then poses the question: Just how much monetary value does an administration place on homeland security? Moreover, just why is something as simple as an address-check not possible? What possible gadgetry can accomplish this straightforward step for less money than was available in 2000?