A total of 584,885 foreigners overstayed their U.S. visas in fiscal year 2020, according to a newly released report from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
DHS recently released the report, but made it appear as if it had been released in September 2021 after being pressured by Republican senators for defying the law and not releasing it.
The Entry-Exit Overstay Report (pdf) found 584,885 foreign nationals who were legally allowed to enter the United States for a period of time, but failed to abide by their visas and stayed longer than permitted.
That was higher than the 497,272 foreigners who overstayed visas in fiscal year 2019.
Fiscal year 2020 ran from Oct. 1, 2019, to Sept. 30, 2020.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas called the increase “an anomaly when compared with the prevailing trend” and attributed it to the COVID-19 pandemic.
About 1.2 percent of foreigners who entered the United States legally via air or sea are believed to have overstayed their visas in 2020, according to the report.
The most overstays among nonimmigrant visitors were among Brazilians, Venezuelans, Colombians, Chinese, and the British. Nonimmigrant students and exchange visitors staying too long were most likely to be from China, India, Saudi Arabia, and Brazil.
The high number of overstays “is an indication that the State Department is not doing a good enough job to screen travelers for eligibility and that they’re simply issuing too many visas inappropriately to unqualified applicants,” Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies for the Center for Immigration Studies, told The Epoch Times.
“And I’m concerned that this is going to get even worse when travel picks up again and people around the world have heard the message from the Biden administration that there is essentially no interior enforcement and no enforcement of the rules against overstaying, that they’re going to see this as an opportunity to come and settle here illegally, without fear of any penalties,” Vaughan said.
The Biden administration has relaxed enforcement rules that helped the Trump administration clamp down on illegal immigration, such as by restricting which illegal aliens that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers can pick up.
Biden administration officials have described the immigration system as broken and have said it will take time to fix it. Critics say it was working fine when former President Donald Trump was in office.
Some attempts at change have been reversed, including a bid to end the “Remain in Mexico” program, which forces some asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while their applications are being processed. A federal judge forced the administration to relaunch it after he found that Mayorkas ignored how DHS determined that it helped curb illegal immigration.
In 1998, Congress ordered the government to produce an annual report on visa overstays. Lawmakers said in 2021 that they were “concerned that the large number of annual in-country alien overstays threatens national security and the integrity of legal immigration.”
Sens. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and James Lankford (R-Okla.) pushed for the release of the report in December 2021, noting that DHS had failed to meet its legal deadlines in producing it and a separate report over how it vetted evacuees from Afghanistan.
“These reports hold vital information for our oversight work of your department and for the public as the American people seek to assess the impact of the Biden administration’s immigration enforcement efforts. Your continued delay in providing these reports violates the law and raises significant questions about your commitment to uphold the laws Congress enacts,” the senators told Mayorkas.
The administration is still withholding the Afghan evacuee report, as well as an annual report detailing the deportations that ICE carried out in 2021.
The number of illegal immigrants that ICE was holding in detention has dropped since May, hitting 20,623 on Dec. 19, 2021, according to Syracuse University’s Transactional Research Access Clearinghouse.
The Biden administration has been releasing tens of thousands of immigrants without court dates—an unusual arrangement—and has let thousands of immigrants go without receiving COVID-19 testing.
For the first time, the number of immigrants being monitored through ICE’s new alternatives to detention programs exceeded 150,000 in December 2021, Syracuse University stated. The programs feature immigrants being allowed to go free while being monitored through various technologies, such as ankle bracelets.