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Brown: DHS Overstays Report a Good First Step Toward Transparency and Metrics

Washington, D.C. – The new report released last night by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is a good first step toward increasing transparency and sharing information on border enforcement efforts that must continue, said Theresa Cardinal Brown, director of immigration policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center and a former DHS official. Brown added:

“Although limited and incomplete, this is a good start by DHS on reporting on visa overstays. Consistent reporting like this, over time, on overstays and other metrics is essential for the public and policymakers to understand whether and how our immigration enforcement efforts are working and where to direct resources for the greatest impact.

“Some may be alarmed that the report puts the number of suspected overstays at more than 400,000 people in fiscal year 2015. In fact, this is more than the total number of border apprehensions in the last year, and reinforces the view that a large portion of the unauthorized population entered on visas and did not depart. This remains a major hurdle for effective immigration enforcement. However, statistics show the vast majority of visitors to the United States abide by the terms of their admission and leave on time, and another recent report suggests that the overall number of unauthorized immigrants is decreasing.

“This DHS report will likely reignite calls for an ‘entry-exit’ system to track temporary visa holders. Because people enter and depart the United States in many locations and by many means, implementing such a system would be extremely complex, with technological, logistical, staffing, and physical infrastructure challenges.

“Developing a more comprehensive entry-exit system may help identify overstayers and allow penalties for those who depart and later try to return legally, but would not assist with addressing those who remain within our borders. Ultimately, that is a matter of enforcement resources and priorities, and underscores the need for a legislative solution on immigration.”

Theresa Cardinal Brown is available for comment.