A government watchdog report has shown that US visa agents are struggling to track US visa holders because of their outdated computer system. The report shows that immigration enforcement operative and analysts have to use 10 to 40 passwords to access computer systems. In addition, 40% of “active” cases in one year turned out to not be overstays.
The report also reveals that US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents have been locked out of computer systems, because the agents are believed to pose security risks, for they keep computer system passwords “written out on their desks”. According to ICE agents, one in five US visa holders under investigation had already left the country. By following up on these cases, the agents had wasted 225 hours.
The report claims that people who stay in the country beyond their US visa validity are the main source of illegal immigration in recent years, whom Trump has pledged to arrest and deport. However, arresting these people has led to civil unrest, an example for which is a rally in Utah against the detainment of a Mexican immigrant who overstayed her US visa back in 1993. According to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, US visa controls are “a matter of national security”.
The report also shows that outdated technology system in the ICE, and a lack of training of its agents obstructs the monitoring of the immigration status and whereabouts of US visa holder who enter US for business, studies, travel and other purposes. The system for tracking US visa holders when they leave the country is yet to be established, even though these people are screened when they enter the US.
According to the report, the number of foreigners arriving in the US on non-immigration visas and overstaying exceeded 500,000 in the year ending September 2015, out of about 45 million visitors entering the US in that time.
To tackle the problem of tracking visitors, the government has launched a biometric screening program for US visa holders exiting from Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. This system is planned to be implemented in other US airports in 2018.
As part of this pilot program, US Customs and Border Protection combine traveler and airline data with images taken of passengers to confirm their departure. Between October 2014 and September of 2015, the US granted more than 10 million non-immigrant visas. Visa holders who stay beyond the validity of their visa are investigated to establish whether they have applied for immigration benefits, left the country or pose a security risk.
Our Verdict: The report shows that there are serious loopholes which would cause the Trump administration’s concern, if Trump plans on making US immigration his priority.