A favored talking point of late among politicians and pundits is that there is no reason to build a border wall or physical barriers because it will not reduce visa overstays, which account for a growing percentage of the illegal immigrant population.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif .) recently tweeted, “Fact check: Nearly half of all undocumented immigrants come to the United States legally but then overstay their visas. A border wall would do nothing to curb visa overstays.”
Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, one of a multitude of Democrats likely to run for president, noted in a new video ad that since 2007, the population of illegal aliens “has grown more through visa overstays than unauthorized border crossings.”
And virtually every opponent of a border wall was circulating a new report from the mass immigration advocacy group, Center for Migration Studies (CMS), says that for the past decade, “the primary mode of entry to the undocumented population has been to overstay temporary visas.”
“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,” said CMS Executive Director Donald Kerwin.
Feinstein, O’Rourke, and Kerwin may be factually correct that a border wall won’t reduce visa overstays, but theirs is a false and misleading argument.
First, no one is arguing a physical barrier will combat visa overstays.
Second, more than half of the illegal alien population is comprised of visa overstays, but what about the other (almost) half who could be deterred by a wall or stronger enforcement?
Third, the report focuses too intently on the illegal population from Mexico, while ignoring the growth in foreign students and guest workers, overwhelmingly from India and China, who violate the law by overstaying visas.
According to the Department of Homeland’s annual “Entry/Exit Overstay Report,” of the estimated 1.7 million students and exchange visitors who were scheduled to complete their program in the United States, some 700,000 did not leave. China had the most overstays with over 15,000.
When asked in a recent Washington Post interview how he would approach the issue, Beto O’Rourke replied, “I don’t know.”
Well, a first step would be to stop undermining Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) by allowing local and state governments to create sanctuaries that inhibit legitimate pursuits of overstayers .
They would implement E-Verify to ensure employers hire only those legally eligible to work. And they also would adequately fund the programs and technological upgrades needed to enable enforcement agencies to do their jobs.