Officials estimate that 40 percent of illegal aliens first came into the country legally and overstayed their visa. The reason - the United States has no entry/exit system to determine when someone who enters the country actually leaves.
In 1997, the INS reported that most visa overstays were filling white collar jobs. Of the overstays, the report stated that 67 percent of the aliens had at least 12 years of education. The Center for Immigration Studies did some further research on the issue and published their findings in the report "No Coyote Needed."
Despite mandates from Congress, there is still no system in place that verifies when someone leaves the country. Officials estimate that 2.9 million foreigners overstayed their visas last year. And last week, authorities arrested Hosam Maher Husein Smadi who overstayed a tourist visa and was accused of plotting to blow up a Dallas skyscraper.
Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) said last week's incident "points to a real need for an entry and exit system if we are serious about reducing illegal immigration." Sen. Chuck Shumer, who chairs the Senate Immigration Subcommittee, said that he would look into funding an entry/exit system by using money from the $787 billion economic stimulus bill passed in the spring.
Since 2004, Congress and the Department of Homeland Security has spent $1 billion in establishing an entry system. But the DHS has said that it's too costly to install an exit system, and doing so, could disrupt trade, border cities and immigration agencies. They've also said that test systems have failed.
Last year, 39 million foreigners entered the United States, and using paper logs, DHS has confirmed that 92.5 percent have left the country. Of the remaining 2.9 million foreign visitors, an estimated 200,000 are believed to have intentionally overstayed their visas.
Furthermore, the government's current system does a poor job of identifying people who have overstayed their visas. Before Smadi was arrested for the plot in Dallas, he was pulled over for a traffic violation a few weeks earlier. But when officers pulled up his information, there was no immigration record.
Updated: Tue, Oct 13th 2009 @ 10:57am EDT