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DHS Still Doesn’t Know Who Overstays Visas « The Washington Independent

In October, The New York Times reported that “Eight years after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and despite repeated mandates from Congress, the United States still has no reliable system for verifying that foreign visitors have left the country.”

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano today confirmed that it still doesn’t.

Sen.Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) just asked her what progress has been made. Napolitano responded that while they’re tracking people more effectively when they fly into or out of the country, they still haven’t figured out how to know when and how many people have overstayed their visas.

“I don’t think we can say with precsion what percent of people are staying over their visas,” said Napolitano. Immigrants who’ve overstayed their visas may be discovered if they get arrested for a crime, she said, through the recently expanded Secure Communities program, which fingerprints everyone in local jails and sends that information to DHS. “We hope in the next few years to have it in every jail across the country,” said Napolitano.

Feinstein seemed exasperated. “I’ve been trying at this for nine or 10 years now,” she said. “When will we have a system when we will be able to know if visa waivers have left the country? We keep increasing the pool of countries. We’re now [at] 35 countries that people can come in without a visa. Yet we don’t have the data as to whether they leave. So the blame of the illegal immigration problem is put on poor people who come over the border, when they may not be the main part of the problem. We have no way of knowing.”

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