On Monday, President Trump signed a memorandum directing his administration to find “effective ways” to reduce the nearly 670,000 nonimmigrant visa overstays recorded last year.
According to a White House fact sheet, the Secretaries of State and Homeland will make their recommendations within 120 days on ways to effectively combat overstays, which the administration argues “place significant strain on Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security resources” needed to tackle the national emergency along the southern border.
The memo is targeted at countries that have an overstay rate of 10 percent or more based on statistics reported by the Department of Homeland Security. Officials say that encompasses about 20 countries. There also is consideration of suspension or limited entry of individuals from countries with high rates of visa overstays.
The presidential action was not unexpected given the Wall Street Journal reported on April 14 that the administration was weighing its options concerning visitor visas for citizens of countries with high rates of overstaying.
Recognizing the unwillingness or incompetence of Congress to act, the memo directs the officials act within “applicable law.”
It is not the administration’s first crack at the overstay whip, however. Last May, the administration began its effort to reduce overstays by toughening the rules for foreign or exchange students who overstay U.S. visas, one of the largest groups of overstayers.
The new rule revised how “unlawful presence” is calculated by USCIS. Rather than having the days overstayed begin at the time the violation was reported, under the revised rules the time would start when the visa expires. The rule is important because how long a student is banned from reentering the country is based on the overstay length. For example, a three-year ban is applied for a 180-day overstay, while remaining in the U.S. for more than a year merits a 10-year ban.
Just as they opposed that rule, no-borders activist groups like the National Immigration Forum have found fault and are making the argument that the policy “lays the groundwork for significant policy changes that continue to curb legal immigration and further expand enforcement operations.”
The ACLU has yet to react, but if the past is prologue, a lawsuit is in the cards.
The outstanding question is how Democrats in Congress and those on the presidential trail will approach Trump’s move considering their robotic retort to any mention of a border wall was that visa overstays constitute a larger percentage of illegal immigrants than border crossings.
Time and time again, Democratic politicians and their allies in the media would cite a Center for Migration Studies’ report which found that for the past 10 years, “the primary mode of entry to the undocumented population has been to overstay temporary visas.”
For example, Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke suggested in a lengthy Feb. 3 blog on Medium that his immigration plan would “address visa overstays (which accounts for the majority of undocumented immigration) through better tracking of and notification to visa holders.” He has not made a comment, nor has Beto been asked for his thoughts on the overstay countermeasures.
Actually, no potential rival to President Trump has taken a position, nor been drawn into taking one by a reporter. In fact, during the five hours of CNN’s Democratic town hall marathon, one single question on immigration was asked. Just one.
While ignoring the ongoing problems with a crumbling immigration system may be permissible when ensconced in the protective environment of the CNN studios, the American people will demand answers and solutions when they get on the campaign trail.