SPEAKERS CONTENTS INSERTS
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VISA OVERSTAYS: A GROWING PROBLEM FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT
SUBCOMMITTEE ON IMMIGRATION,
BORDER SECURITY, AND CLAIMS
COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED EIGHTH CONGRESS
OCTOBER 16, 2003
Serial No. 52
Printed for the use of the Committee on the Judiciary
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Available via the World Wide Web: http://www.house.gov/judiciary
COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY
F. JAMES SENSENBRENNER, Jr., Wisconsin, Chairman
HENRY J. HYDE, Illinois
HOWARD COBLE, North Carolina
LAMAR SMITH, Texas
ELTON GALLEGLY, California
BOB GOODLATTE, Virginia
STEVE CHABOT, Ohio
WILLIAM L. JENKINS, Tennessee
CHRIS CANNON, Utah
SPENCER BACHUS, Alabama
JOHN N. HOSTETTLER, Indiana
MARK GREEN, Wisconsin
RIC KELLER, Florida
MELISSA A. HART, Pennsylvania
JEFF FLAKE, Arizona
MIKE PENCE, Indiana
J. RANDY FORBES, Virginia
STEVE KING, Iowa
JOHN R. CARTER, Texas
TOM FEENEY, Florida
MARSHA BLACKBURN, Tennessee
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JOHN CONYERS, Jr., Michigan
HOWARD L. BERMAN, California
RICK BOUCHER, Virginia
JERROLD NADLER, New York
ROBERT C. SCOTT, Virginia
MELVIN L. WATT, North Carolina
ZOE LOFGREN, California
SHEILA JACKSON LEE, Texas
MAXINE WATERS, California
MARTIN T. MEEHAN, Massachusetts
WILLIAM D. DELAHUNT, Massachusetts
ROBERT WEXLER, Florida
TAMMY BALDWIN, Wisconsin
ANTHONY D. WEINER, New York
ADAM B. SCHIFF, California
LINDA T. SÁNCHEZ, California
PHILIP G. KIKO, Chief of Staff-General Counsel
PERRY H. APELBAUM, Minority Chief Counsel
Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security, and Claims
JOHN N. HOSTETTLER, Indiana, Chairman
JEFF FLAKE, Arizona
MARSHA BLACKBURN, Tennessee
Page 4 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCLAMAR SMITH, Texas
ELTON GALLEGLY, California
CHRIS CANNON, Utah
STEVE KING, Iowa
MELISSA A. HART, Pennsylvania
SHEILA JACKSON LEE, Texas
LINDA T. SÁNCHEZ, California
ZOE LOFGREN, California
HOWARD L. BERMAN, California
JOHN CONYERS, Jr., Michigan
GEORGE FISHMAN, Chief Counsel
ART ARTHUR, Full Committee Counsel
CINDY BLACKSTON, Professional Staff
NOLAN RAPPAPORT, Minority Counsel
C O N T E N T S
OCTOBER 16, 2003
The Honorable John N. Hostettler, a Representative in Congress From the State of Indiana, and Chairman, Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security, and Claims
Page 5 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The Honorable Linda T. Sánchez, a Representative in Congress From the State of California
Dr. Nancy Kingsbury, Managing Director, Applied Research and Methods, General Accounting Office
Mr. Kevin Tanner, Director, Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Force, Federal Bureau of Investigation
Ms. Theresa Papademetriou, Senior Legal Specialist, Library of Congress
Dr. Susan Forbes Martin, Director, Institute for the Study of International Migration, Georgetown University
Material Submitted for the Hearing Record
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Prepared Statement of the Honorable Sheila Jackson Lee, a Representative in Congress From the State of Texas, and Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security, and Claims
VISA OVERSTAYS: A GROWING PROBLEM FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 16, 2003
House of Representatives,
Subcommittee on Immigration,
Border Security, and Claims,
Committee on the Judiciary,
The Subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 1:07 p.m., in Room 2141, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. John N. Hostettler [Chairman of the Subcommittee] presiding.
Mr. HOSTETTLER. The Subcommittee will come to order. Today, we will hear from expert witnesses regarding the rapidly increasing population of illegal immigrants who have entered this country with valid visas issued by the Department of State or from visa waiver countries who remain in the United States in violation of the terms of their admission.
Aliens who violated the terms of their visas have participated in numerous attacks on the United States, beginning with the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, up to and including the September 11, 2001, attacks. Despite this fact, our laws and policies regarding visa overstays have changed very little over this period. This hearing is being held to assess how many visa overstays are currently residing in the United States as illegal aliens and the effect of this large population of illegal aliens on our national security and the safety of the American people.
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In particular, the General Accounting Office, or GAO, will provide the Subcommittee with information on the significant problem of visa overstays and why that problem will not go away unless substantial efforts are made to control it. Estimates that the GAO has made available to me show that up to three million illegal aliens in the United States arrive with valid visas issued by the Department of State. Worse, the number of visa overstays being added to this cumulative total every year is around 300,000 illegal aliens, nearly double some prior published estimates of 150,000 visa overstays who become illegal aliens every year.
The Department of State has the primary responsibility to determine whether a person applying for a visa has a strong potential for violating the terms of that visa. Unfortunately, over the past 10 years or so, our State Department's foreign consular officers got into the practice of waiving personal interviews of visa applicants and accepting documents from third-party agencies. These loose practices have been described in detail in hearings before the Congress regarding the failure to interview nearly all of the 9/11 terrorists before they were issuedeach issued visas.
One of the results of those hearings was a transfer of primary responsibility for visa policies and regulations to the Department of Homeland Security. This Subcommittee may hold a future hearing to examine whether the Department of Homeland Security's new role is having an effect or whether visa issuance is still business as usual at our foreign missions.
Certainly, something needs to change, and soon, to dramatically reduce the number of visa overstays. If only one-tenth of 1 percent of these visa overstays are involved with or support terrorism, our current immigration system allows 300 supporters each year, or actual terrorists, to plan and carry out the next act of terrorism against our citizens on our own shores.
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There is an inclination by some in the media and in the Congress to dismiss the problem of visa overstays. In fact, some cities have even chosen to extend financial support to visa overstays and other illegal aliens. That attitude, however, only encourages other aliens to come to our country and violate our laws. Be assured that aliens who overstay their visas are not unaware that they are violating our laws. Furthermore, when foreign visitors enter the United States, their visas and passports are checked by uniformed inspectors, reinforcing the serious legal nature of the visa and the terms and expiration dates stated on that visa.
So those 300,000 visa overstays, more or less, are not staying here because they don't know they aren't lawfully present. Probably most of them planned for their illegal overstay long in advance of their visa application. It's likely that most of them lined up contacts and prospective employers before they ever arrived. Meanwhile, our Federal agencies led by the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State seem unable to come up with a strategy to stop this problem.
While this flood of uninvited overstays continues, Federal and State law enforcement are struggling with growing crime committed by illegal aliens, many of whom arrived with a visa and with no intent to return when the visa expired. As the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Assistance has stated, quote, ''Complex problems are associated with illegal aliens who commit crimes.'' Criminal aliens tend to be drug-oriented and violent, often preying on members of their own cultures. If deported, they frequently use new names to reenter the United States and establish residence in different cities.
Furthermore, criminal aliens do not confine their activities to border cities. Communities throughout this country are experiencing increasing alien involvement in drug importation and distribution, weapons smuggling, and violence against persons and property. The escalation in alien crime has placed added demands on State and local law enforcement personnel at the same time the States, counties, and cities are facing reduced tax revenues and competing demands for service.
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I am hopeful that this hearing will help us to come to grips with how we can reinforce the efforts by the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State to increase scrutiny in screening processes so that we can reduce the number of unwanted visa overstays. In the face of the rising costs associated with aliens who overstay their visas, we simply cannot afford not to address this problem.
At this time, I turn to my colleague from California, Ms. Sánchez, for an opening statement for the minority.
Ms. SÁNCHEZ. Thank you, and with the chair's indulgence, I'd like to read the statement of my colleague, the Ranking Member on this Committee, Sheila Jackson Lee.
Mr. HOSTETTLER. Without objection.
Ms. SÁNCHEZ. The subject of this oversight hearing is visa overstays, a growing problem for law enforcement. An overstay is an alien who enters the United States lawfully for a temporary period of time and then remains longer without permission.
No one has been able to determine how many overstays there are in the United States. Typically, the number is estimated to be a fraction of the total population of unauthorized aliens in the United States. The total population figure that will be discussed at this hearing is from a report issued by the former Immigration and Naturalization Service on January 31, 2003. According to that INS report, seven million unauthorized aliens reside permanently in the United States as of the year 2000. In estimating the percentage of overstays in that population, INS applied the 33 percent figure from a previous report, which produced an overstay number for the year 2000 of 2.3 million.
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It is a mistake to view all overstays as a law enforcement problem. Some overstays did not intend to violate the terms of their admission and will leave the United States voluntarily. For instance, a non-immigrant visitor can request an extension of his or her stay by filing a timely extension application. But the former INS and now the Department of Homeland Security has difficulty processing applications quickly. Consequently, many extension applications are not granted until after the admission period has expired. Technically, a person has violated the terms of his admission by overstaying for a single day, and according to immigration law precedent, is removable as an overstay even when a timely extension application was filed. Nevertheless, people in this category are not law enforcement problems.
Other non-immigrant visitors become overstays on account of an inability to understand American immigration documents. Non-immigrants are provided with two different time periods for their paperwork. The first is for the visa. A visa is a permit to apply to enter the United States which is issued by the Department of State. It does not entitle the holder to be admitted to the United States. It classifies the visit as business, tourism, et cetera, and is usually valid for multiple visits to the United States during a specified period of time.
The decision on whether to admit the alien is made by DHS. DHS also designates the period for which the alien will be admitted. The visa does not indicate the period of time authorized for the alien's visit. If DHS decides to admit the alien, it issues a second document, a formal I-94, an arrival-departure record, which sets forth the date, place of arrival, the class of admission which corresponds to the visa class, and the length of time the alien may remain in the United States.
Page 11 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The estimates of how many unauthorized aliens are in the United States and how many of them are overstays are just really educated guesses. No one knows how many unauthorized aliens live in the United States or how many of them are overstays. New entry-exit information systems, such as a US VISIT, may eventually provide accurate data on overstays, but it will be prospective information. It will only identify aliens who overstay after a non-immigrant admission recorded by the US VISIT system. It will not provide any information on how many overstays are already in the United States.
The collection of entry-exit data will not have enforcement value, either. Comprehensive entry-exit data will make it possible for DHS to produce accurate lists of overstays on demand, but what will DHS do with these lists? The entry-exit data will not include information on the location of overstays. It will tell DHS who the overstays are, but not where they are.
We cannot remove the 2.3 million overstays that are estimated to be living in the United States. We can reduce that figure to a more manageable level, however, by separating out the ones who would make substantial contributions to our country as lawful permanent residents. We need a legalization program that would allow hard-working, law-abiding individuals to come out of the shadows and the fringes of society.
Reducing the undocumented population would have many benefits. For instance, it would make it easier for us to identify the aliens in our midst who mean to do us harm. The wider availability of legal status for hard-working long-time residents would provide employers with a more stable workforce, improve the wages and working conditions of all workers, and curtail an underground labor market filled with smuggling, fraud, abuse, and other criminal activities.
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We have nothing to lose by providing access to legalization for people who have established themselves as productive, desirable members of our society. Thank you.
Mr. HOSTETTLER. Thank you. The gentlelady yields back the balance of her time.
The chair now recognizes the gentlelady from California, Ms. Sánchez, for her opening statement.
Ms. SÁNCHEZ. Thank you, and I apologize.
Mr. HOSTETTLER. That's all right.
Ms. SÁNCHEZ. I feel like I have dual personalities right now. [Laughter.]
And I want to thank you, Chairman, for convening the oversight hearing today to hear testimony on visa overstays.
Visas are important immigration tools that allow foreign nationals to temporarily visit the United States. Visas allow these temporary visitors to legally enter this country and contribute to the enrichment of our schools, businesses, and governments. Visas give diplomats, health care professionals, entertainers, students, and loved ones, to name a few, an opportunity to come and visit and improve our many communities.
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The reality of our immigration system is that it is not uncommon for foreign nationals to overstay their visas. The reason for overstays range from ignorance of immigration law, to bureaucratic red tape while trying to get a visa extension, to intentional violations of the visa terms.
I believe that my colleagues on both sides of the aisle agree that our entire immigration system, including visa processing and monitoring, is in need of comprehensive reform. The solution to the visa overstay problem is not to have law enforcement personnel begin arresting and detaining minorities based on an assumption that they are immigrants who have overstayed a temporary visa. Likewise, the solution to the visa overstay problem is not subject to Muslims, Arabsis not to subject Muslims, Arabs, or other minority groups to more burdensome visa terms or registration requirements.
In the post-9/11 era, our fears about future terrorist attacks have been used to justify immigration policies that endanger civil liberties and give overly broad powers to law enforcement. These are very real concerns that I hope our panel of witnesses can address in their testimony, and again, I thank the Chairman for being so kind with my time, and I will yield the balanceyield back the balance of my time.
Mr. HOSTETTLER. The gentlelady yields back her time.
The chair will now recognize the panel, and without objection, all Members can insert their opening statements into the record.
Page 14 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Today, we have Dr. Nancy Kingsbury. Since October 2000, Dr. Kingsbury has been the Managing Director for Applied Research and Methods at the General Accounting Office, where she is responsible for managing GAO's advanced analytic staff. Prior to this appointment, Dr. Kingsbury was an Assistant Comptroller General responsible for GAO's work on government-wide management issues, including human capital management and government-business operations, tax policy and administration, justice and immigration issues, and financial institutions and marketsvery busy.
Dr. Kingsbury was appointed Director for Planning and Reporting in the General Government Division in July 1995, after serving as Director for Federal Human Resource Management Issues for 2 years. She has also served as GAO's Director for Air Force Issues from 1988 to 1993 and Director for Foreign Economic Assistance Issues from 1986 to 1988.
Prior to coming to GAO in 1984, Dr. Kingsbury served in a variety of positions in the Office of Personnel Management and as an official of the Peace Corps. Dr. Kingsbury holds a B.A. degree from the University of Miami at Florida, where she graduated summa cum laude with general honors. She attended the Johns Hopkins University as a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, where she received her M.A. and Ph.D. in experimental psychology and analytic methods in 1965 and 1968, respectively.
Mark A. Tanner is a member of the Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Force, or FTTTF, Counterterrorism Division. The task force's mission is to, one, deny entry into the United States of aliens associated with or suspected of being engaged in or supporting terrorist activity; and two, supply information to locate, detain, prosecute, or deport any such aliens already present in the United States. In addition to the FTTTF, he provides information and coordinates other agencies of government with respect to the foreign terrorist presence in the United States.
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Since Mr. Tanner became an FBI agent in 1983, he has held assignments as an investigator in the Charlotte, Jacksonville, and New York field offices and as a unit chief in the Information Management Division at FBI headquarters. Subsequently, he became the Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Phoenix Division, responsible for the investigation of organized crime, drugs, and violent crime investigative programs in Arizona. Mr. Tanner then became the FBI's Deputy Chief Information Officer, after which he went to the FBI's Inspection Division, which provides internal consulting services to FBI executives toward improving the effectiveness and efficacy of FBI programs.
Ms. Theresa Papademetriou is a Senior Legal Specialistdid I get that close?
Ms. PAPADEMETRIOU. Yes, absolutely.
Mr. HOSTETTLER [continuing]. Western Law Division in the Directorate of Legal Research of the Law Library of Congress. She is responsible for the legal research and analysis of issues of European Union and Greek laws. She holds an LL.B. from the University of Athens, Greece, and acquired an LL.M. in international and comparative law from the George Washington University National Law Center, Washington, D.C., in 1995.
Ms. Papademetriou has authored a wide range of reports on issues involving the European Union, including European Union: Privacy and Personal Data Protection, The Safe Harbor Agreement 2002, and the European Union chapter on European Legal Cooperation Against Terrorism of 2002.
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Dr. Susan Forbes Martin is the Director of the Institute for the Study of International Migration in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. Dr. Martin directs the certificate program in Refugee and Humanitarian Emergencies, open to master's level students at the university.
A longtime expert on immigration and refugee policy, Dr. Martin came to Georgetown University after having served as the Executive Director of the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform, a bipartisan panel appointed by the President and Congressional leadership. During this period, she also served as U.S. coordinator for the Binational Study on Migration between Mexico and the United States, a joint study with the Mexican government.
Prior to joining the Commission's staff, Dr. Martin was the Director of Research and Programs at the Refugee Policy Group. She has taught at Brandeis University and the University of Pennsylvania. She earned her M.A. and Ph.D. in American studies from the University of Pennsylvania and her B.A. in history from Douglass College, Rutgers University.
In addition to her work in the United States, Dr. Martin has conducted field-based research on refugee and migration issues in such countries as Mexico, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Thailand, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Mali, Albania, and Serbia. I'm sure there's somewhere from A to Z that we've left out, but it's close. [Laughter.]
She served as Managing Editor of World Migration Report 2000, published by the International Organization for Migration and the United Nations. She is the author of Refugee Women and numerous monographs and articles on immigration and refugee policy. She is also a founder and member of the board of the Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children.
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Ladies and gentlemen, I thank you very much for being here today. You each will have 5 minutes for an opening statement. Without objection, your full written testimony will be entered into the record.
Dr. Kingsbury, if you would please start.
STATEMENT OF NANCY R. KINGSBURY, MANAGING DIRECTOR, APPLIED RESEARCH AND METHODS, UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTING OFFICE
Ms. KINGSBURY. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, and I am pleased to be here today to discuss our work on overstays. While our work is ongoing, my testimony today will focus on our results to date in three areas: The extent to which overstaying occurs, weaknesses in the current overstay tracking system, and potential impacts on domestic security.
I want to emphasize that our work does not include other aspects of immigration or domestic security unrelated to overstaying, but GAO has done a wide body of work in what we refer to in my testimony as a layered defense against the problems of terrorism and I think that that body of work will stand for itself outside of this hearing.
While the vast majority of overstays appear to be motivated by economic opportunities, the few who are potential terrorists could represent a significant threat to our domestic security. An effective strategy to address this risk requires consideration of this larger context of layered national defense, the key ingredients of which are intelligence, investigation, and information sharing.
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To summarize the results of our analysis to date, we found that overstaying is significant and may be understated by the Department of Homeland Security's recent estimate of 2.3 million. The current system for tracking foreign visitors has a number of weaknesses, and these two challenges make it more difficult to ensure our domestic security. Improving the overstay tracking system and, thus, improving the ability to utilize intelligence, investigation, and information sharing could contribute to improved domestic security.
There is currently no direct method for estimating the overstay population. DHS based an estimate, as Ms. Sánchez said, coming out of the 2000 Census and reached a 2.3 million figure. It is likely that this estimate understates the true number of overstays. The starting point for the DHS estimate did not include short-term overstays, and the method used to arrive at the one-third estimate, which was based on analysis of arrival and departure records in the early 1990's, would not have included many Mexican and Canadian visitors who overstayed their periods of admission and settled here. The graphic that we have displayed over there illustrates what we feel is covered and not covered by the DHS estimate. We were able to identify two much smaller sources of data that at least appear consistent with DHS's proportional estimate that overstays are about a third of the illegal immigrant population, or possibly higher.
There is a system currently in place that requires that visitors from most countries who enter the United States illegallyexcuse me, legally through ports of entry register their arrival using a special form, which is called the I-94 form. Half of the form is to be filled out on arrival and the second half kept by the visitor and turned in upon departure. Over the years, our work has shown that there are significant weaknesses in the system that make it difficult, if not impossible, to actually confirm departure or to identify or track foreign visitors who overstay.
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First, as noted in passing earlier, many Mexicans and Canadians who cross legally into the U.S. are not required to fill out the I-94 form.
Second, once here, a visitor may have his or her period of admission extended or immigration status changed and these changes are not updated or integrated with the data on arrivals and departures.
Third, even when forms are filled out, the information provided on arrival, such as destination address, is often not accurate at the outset or not reliable because it changes and is not updated.
And fourth, collection of departure forms is incomplete, so confirmation of departure is unreliable.
Of course, these weaknesses do not address the much broader problems that occur because visitors may enter the country with false identities or may enter the country illegally at locations other than ports of entry.
Inability to identify and track overstays limits prevention and enforcement options. Despite large numbers of overstays, current efforts to locate and deport them are generally limited to criminals, illegal immigrants who fraudulent obtain employment in critical homeland security-related occupations, such as airport workers, or through special efforts, such as the domestic registration program recently implemented under the National Security Entry and Exit Registration System, or NSEERS. DHS statisticians told us that for fiscal year 2002, the risk of arrest for all overstays was less than 2 percent, and for persons not in the targeted groups, it was considerably lower.
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DHS has recently begun two initiatives intended to remedy some of the weaknesses we have discussed. As a part of NSEERS, an effort has begun to register visitors at ports of entry to the U.S., to conduct interviews with registered visitors while they are here, and to have government inspectors register departures. However, this initiative did not cover most visitors because it focuses on persons born in only eight countries, nor does it routinely contemplate actual observation of departures.
The U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology, or US VISIT system, is a new automated tracking system intended to improve entry-exit data. The first phase of US VISIT now being rolled out uses passenger and crew manifest data as well as biometrics to verify foreign visitors' identities at airports and seaports. Additional phases will link US VISIT data to other systems that contain data about foreign nationals.
Ultimately, if successfully designed and implemented, US VISIT could avoid many weaknesses associated with the current system. However, our recent report on US VISIT emphasized the challenges faced by the program and the importance of mitigating risks and aggressively managing the project. At this point, important aspects of defining the program's operating environment are not yet decided and its facilities needs are unclear and challenging. As these decisions are considered, we believe that evaluating US VISIT's program design against the weaknesses we have discussed here could be important to ensuring its success.
As noted earlier, the majority of overstays are stimulated by economic considerations, but the overstay issue still presents risks for domestic security. In examining this issue, we reviewed data from DHS's recent effort called Operation Tarmac, to establish the legal status of workers at 106 airports and thereby to identify illegal workers in secure areas. These kinds of efforts are thought to reduce the nation's vulnerability to terrorism because security badges issued on the basis of fraudulent documentation constitute security breaches, and overstays and other illegal immigrants working in such facilities might be hesitant to report suspicious activities for fear of drawing authorities' attention to themselves.
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Operation Tarmac identified more than 4,000 illegal immigrants who had misused identity documents to obtain airport jobs and security badges. A substantial number of the cases we examined in detail from 14 of those airports were overstays.
This example illustrates the weaknesses in DHS's current overstay tracking system and the magnitude of the overstay problem make it more difficult to ensure domestic security.
And with that, Mr. Chairman, I'll conclude my statement and look forward to the questions.
Mr. HOSTETTLER. Thank you, Dr. Kingsbury.
[The prepared statement of Dr. Kingsbury follows:]
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Mr. HOSTETTLER. Mr. Tanner.
STATEMENT OF MARK A. TANNER, DIRECTOR, FOREIGN TERRORIST TRACKING TASK FORCE, FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION
Mr. TANNER. Thank you, Chairman Hostettler and other Members of the Subcommittee. It's with pleasure that the FBI comes to you today and offers these remarks with regard to the significant problem of visa overstays and its impact on our counterterrorism efforts.
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The Department of Justice and the FBI has been charged by the President, with the support of the Congress, to protect the American people from the continuing threats of terrorism and crimes therewith. It's within the context of these post-9/11 times that I offer these remarks.
As represented in the GAO report, which has been the focus of this hearing, there are a number of foreign visitors to the U.S. who fail to leave as required by their respective visas. The quality and completeness of data with respect to those visas is important to the effectiveness and efficiency of our ability to do our jobs. The enormous numbers of visitors to the U.S. and avenues of entry and exit makes it inordinarily difficult, if not impossible, to account for each entry.
Nonetheless, the Department of Justice and the FBI, in partnership with other law enforcement agencies, the intelligence community, and the Defense Department, have devised and implemented processes and specialized operational units to mitigate this risk.
One such specialized organization is the Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Force, of which I am the Director. Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Force is a mouthful, so I'll call it ''F-tray-F'', is what we refer to it as. The participants in FTTTF include the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (BICE), and Customs and Border Protection, the Department of State, ImmigrationI mean, Office of Personnel Management, and Department of Energy and Social Security Administration and Central Intelligence Agency. To date, we have also established liaison with the Australians, the Canadians, and the United Kingdom.
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The mission of FTTTF, as stated in Chairman Hostettler's remarks, is to keep foreign terrorists and their supporters out of the U.S. and develop means that lead to their removal, detention, prosecution, or other legal process. To accomplish this mission, the Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Force has coordinated and facilitated information sharing agreements with our participating agencies, as well as public and proprietary companies who have data that help us locate persons in the U.S. Quality and completeness of this data directly affects the efficiency and effectiveness of our efforts.
Among the sources of data are the I-94s, which are the focus of this study and GAO's report. The I-94 is collected by the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, are completed by the foreign traveler. It's recognized that the quality of the data on the I-94 is not as complete as we would like. The factthat factor is compensated by our use of other government data and public and proprietary data sources to effectively determine the accuracy or the inaccuracy of the I-94 data.
In addition to supporting specific criminal investigations of terrorist, FTTTF has supported the Department of Homeland Security's National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, commonly known as NSEERS, and we have vetted over a quarter of a million NSEERS registrants to try to help DHS locate those that are absconders.
The newly created Terrorist Screening Center, as required by Homeland Security Presidential Directive Number 6, will further enhance our capabilities to keep terrorists out of the country or locate them when they are in-country. HSPD Number 6 requires that the Terrorist Screening Center provide information to support screening processes at all opportunities. Such information will be made accessible, when appropriate, to State, local, tribal, and territorial authorities to support their screening processes and enable them to identify and assist in the location of terrorists. Additional mechanisms will be hosted to support appropriate private sector organizations and foreign governments that are helping us in the war on terrorism.
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Efforts such as these and the cooperation between the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, and other law enforcement agencies significantly mitigate the risk imposed by the visa overstay problem. It bears noting, however, that at this critical point of risk mitigation is to keep terrorists and their supporters out of the U.S., and that is best done at the visa applicant process and the border inspection process. The Terrorist Screening Center will seek to improve that capability. The recent GAO study, of course, suggests there is need for improvement in this regard.
In the event that someone penetrates the border, either legally or illegally, and comes to our attention after they're in this country, FTTTF and the Terrorist Screening Center will work to locate them. Whether or not there is an accurate record of their lawful and timely departure is important to us, but we must assume they are still in this country or they may have gotten here undetected. We will take the same vigilant activities to try to locate their presence. The fact that they are able to overstay their visa authority affects the timing of their plans, but not their intent. As you may well appreciate, our mission requires that we remain as vigilant about serious criminal activities of foreign visitors during their lawful stay as well as subsequent overstays.
Thank you, and I look forward to your questions.
Mr. HOSTETTLER. Thank you, Mr. Tanner.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Tanner follows:]
Page 27 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCPREPARED STATEMENT OF MARK TANNER
Chairman Hostettler, Ranking Member Jackson-Lee, and Members of the Subcommittee, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is pleased to have the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss the important issue of nonimmigrant aliens who overstay their lawful admission and their relationship to terrorism. The Department of Justice and the FBI have been charged by the President, with the support of Congress, to protect the American people from the continuing threats of terrorism and the crimes associated therewith. It is in the context of our post-9/11 world that we present our views and concerns to the Subcommittee today.
As represented in the GAO report, which is the focus of this hearing, the number of foreign visitors to the U.S. who fail to leave as required by their respective visa is significant. The quality and completeness of government information concerning an individual's correct identity, location and status has a direct impact on the effectiveness and efficiency of our efforts to locate them. The enormous number of visitors to the U.S. and avenues of entry and exit makes it inordinately difficult, if not impossible, to accurately account for each entrant. Nonetheless, the Department of Justice and the FBI, in partnership with other law enforcement agencies, the intelligence community, the defense community and foreign nations are devising and have implemented processes and specialized operational units to mitigate the risks imposed by such overstays.
One such specialized organization is the Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Force or FTTTF. The participants in the FTTTF include the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security's Bureaus of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Customs and Border Protection, the State Department, the Social Security Administration, the Office of Personnel Management, the Department of Energy, and the Central Intelligence Agency. To date, we also have established liaison with Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom. The mission of the FTTTF is to provide information that helps keep foreign terrorists and their supporters out of the U.S. or leads to their removal, detention, prosecution or other legal action. To accomplish this mission, the FTTTF has facilitated and coordinated information sharing agreements among these participating agencies and other public and proprietary companies to assist in locating terrorists and their supporters who are, or have been, in the U.S. The quality and completeness of the data directly impacts our efficiency and effectiveness.
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Among our sources of data are the I-94s, which were a focus of the GAO study. The I-94 is collected by the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, after being completed by a foreign traveler. It is recognized that the quality of data on the I-94, which is self-reported, is rarely complete. This factor is compensated, by our use, when appropriate, of other sources of confirming data. These additional data sources, increase the quality and therefore usefulness of our efforts. For example, as terrorist subjects are identified by law enforcement or the intelligence community, the FTTTF typically searches other sources of data to assist in developing investigative leads. If there is an I-94 record for that same subject, it may be compared to other government, public, and proprietary sources of data in order to verify or refute its accuracy, with our ultimate goal to locate the individual.
In addition to supporting the specific investigations of terrorists, FTTTF has supported the Department of Homeland Security's National Security Entry/Exit Registration System (NSEERS) by vetting over a quarter of a million NSEERS registrants in order to assist in the location of absconders.
The newly created Terrorist Screening Center, as required by Homeland Security Presidential Directive - 6, will further enhance our capabilities to keep terrorists and their supporters out of the U.S. or locate them. HSPD-6 requires that the Terrorist Screening Center provide information to support screening processes at all opportunities. Such information will be made accessible when appropriate to State, local, territorial, and tribal authorities to support their screening processes and otherwise enable them to identify, or assist in identifying such individuals. Additionally, mechanisms will be hosted, to the extent permitted by law, to support appropriate private sector organizations and foreign governments' cooperation with the U.S. in the war on terrorism.
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Efforts such as these, and the cooperation between the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, and other law enforcement agencies significantly mitigate the risk imposed by the visa overstay problem. It bears noting, however, that the critical point of risk mitigation is to keep terrorists and their supporters out of the U.S. The earliest opportunity that the government has to encounter and identify terrorists and criminals is during the visa application process or at their initial border inspection. The recent GAO study suggests there is room for improvement in the current processes.
In the event that someone penetrates the border or comes to law enforcement attention for serious criminal activities after their legal entry, the FTTTF and Terrorist Screening Center will work to locate them. Whether or not there is an accurate record of their lawful and timely departure, we must assume they may still be in the U.S. or have returned undetected, and thus we remain vigilant in our efforts to locate them. The fact that they are able to overstay their visa authority, affects the timing of their plans, but not their intent. As you can well appreciate, our mission requires that we remain as vigilant about serious criminal activities by foreign visitors during their lawful stay, as during any subsequent overstay.
Mr. HOSTETTLER. Ms. Papademetriou.
STATEMENT OF THERESA PAPADEMETRIOU, SENIOR LEGAL SPECIALIST, LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
Ms. PAPADEMETRIOU. Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee. I would like to thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to present to you my testimony on the European Union's approach on the issue of visa overstays. With your permission, I would like to make a few remarks for the Subcommittee.
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The European Union currently has 15 members, and as of May 1, 2004, 10 more members will be added. While issues on immigration fall within the jurisdiction of the European Union, the maintenance of public order and public security and the safeguarding of internal security belongs to the member states.
In general, the European Union's approach regarding illegal immigration is multifaceted. However, I'm going to limit my remarks on two mechanisms that have the potential to assist the national authorities of the member states in controlling the illegal aliens which remain within their territory. The first is the Schengen Information System, which is a comprehensive database and it has been already in place, and the second one is the Visa Information System, which is still under preparation and further discussion.
The Schengen Information System was established on the basis of the so-called Schengen Convention in 1995 with the objective to assist the member states in safeguarding the public order and public security. In brief, it contains data on wanted persons and stolen objects.
The data that are input into this system include data relating to aliens who are reported because they have been denied entry in the territory. In this case, the national authorities are going to prepare a report based on the fact of whether the alien actually poses a threat to public policy or public security.
Data relating to aliens who have been subject to deportation proceedings or against whom there is evidence of an intention to commit a crime.
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Data relating to persons who have been disappeared or the persons who, for their own security, are in need of protection.
Data relating to persons or vehicles, provided, though, that this is permitted under the national law of the member state, for the purposes of discrete surveillance or checks. Such a report could be made in order to prosecute criminal offenses and for the prevention of threats to public security in the following two instances: Where there are real indications to suggest that the person intends to commit serious offenses; or under an overall evaluation of the person concerned, in particular of previous offenses committed, there is a possibility or a reason to suspect that the person will also commit other crimes.
Discussions are currently underway to update this system in light of the enlargement and also to expand the categories of data that are going to be inserted and to allow additional authorities to have access to the system. It has also been suggested that the storage and the transfer of biometric data, including fingerprints, should be included.
The proposed Visa Information System will be an additional tool for the European Union in an effort to harmonize the rules of the member states regarding a uniform system of visas. It will operate as an online system, and it comprises two parts. It has a central identification system, which is going to be under the responsibility of the European Commission, and a national identification system, which is going to be operated by the member state.
The system will contain information on visas issued based, of course, on the information provided by the applicant. The question as to whether it is going to contain information on visas denied is still under further discussion. Electronic photos will also be stored and travel documents will be scanned and stored. Thus, any subsequent manipulation of the travel document could be easily detected by comparing the document with the image stored. Among the biometric identifiers that have been reviewed for possible use, such as iris scanning and others, fingerprint has been considered as the best solution for this database. There are also plans for the eventual connection of all consular offices.
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At this point, please allow me to give you an example of how this system is going to operate in place. When an individual visits the consular office outside the EU to be issued a visa, the consular office will enter the data based on the information provided by the applicant, along with the scanning and storing of travel documents. In case, at a later stage, the same individual goes to another consular office, and based on the information provided or retrieved from the system, the Consul General will be able to detect fraud in case that there is fraud, and also may refuse a visa in case that the alien has been visa shopping.
In conclusion, both systems have certain advantages. While the Schengen Information System has a broader scope than the Visa Information System in terms of data inserted and also access rights of individuals or competent authorities, it is limited because insertion, input of data depends on whether such an act is permitted by the national law of the member states and whether an individual, and actually, an individual must be in violation of the law or pose a threat to domestic security and public order. On the other hand, the Visa Information System is only limited to those aliens who seek a visa to enter a member state of the European Union. In reality, even with these two systems, which actually in the future they're going to be interlinked, a number of illegal aliens will still remain undetected.
Thank you, and I'm looking forward to questions.
Mr. HOSTETTLER. Thank you, Ms. Papademetriou.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Papademetriou follows:]
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Mr. HOSTETTLER. Dr. Martin.
STATEMENT OF SUSAN FORBES MARTIN, DIRECTOR, INSTITUTE FOR THE STUDY OF INTERNATIONAL MIGRATION, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY
Ms. MARTIN. Thank you. I'm very pleased to be here to testify and to see the Committee dealing with the issue of overstays. I must admit it's also a bit discouraging since the first time I testified before this Committee on the overstay problem was almost 10 years ago, and my testimony, I must admit, is quite similar to what I had to say before. Mr. Smith no doubt remembers.
The aim of immigration policy and its implementation as I see it is dual, to facilitate the entry of those foreign nationals whose presence in the United States we want, and to identify and deter the admission of those whom we don't want to be in our countries, for whatever set of purposes. And I think the balancing between facilitation and prevention and control, I think, is a very, very delicate one and one that requires a great deal of attention.
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I agree very much with the point that Mr. Tanner ended with, that if those who pose security risks are already here, we have, in effect, lost a lot of the battle in that prevention of entry is certainly far superior to trying to find the needle in the haystack after people are already admitted to the country. And those who do want to do harm to the country will, as he mentioned, as well, be able to do it within a period of legal stay, if that's really their intent. So the overstay problem in terms of the security risks, I think we need to keep in some perspective on that.
As my colleagues have mentioned from the GAO and FBI, overstayers, though, are a large proportion of those who are here illegally or without authorization for their stay at any given time. I'm looking at overstay in the broader context, not just a visa overstay, but of those who have entered with inspection, been admitted into the U.S., but then don't leave when they're supposed to, or work in violation of the terms of their entry.
Though a very large and significant part of that population, it's also necessary to keep in mind that they are a very, very small percentage of the total number of foreign visitors who enter the United States each year, with 500 million entries and exits from the United States, 300 million of those being entries and exits of foreign nationals, 30 million coming in on visas. The numbers of overstayers are really quite a small part of that total, and so again, the balancing of facilitation and control is absolutely essential.
Still, overstay does undermine the rule of law. It makes a mockery in some respects of our legal immigration system and, therefore, I think serious attention must be given to it.
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In 1994, the Commission on Immigration Reform recommended the development and implementation of an electronic arrival and departure control system to be implemented immediately in airports, potentially over the long-term at land border ports of entry. In 1996, the Congress did pick up on that recommendation and it became a part of immigration law. Because of the great difficulties, though, of implementing an entry-exit control system on the land border ports of entry, the deployment of the entire system was, I think, very unfortunately delayed way beyond a reasonable period of time.
There are models for electronic arrival and departure systems for those coming into the country at airports. Australia has a very good system of electronic travel authorization that applies particularly to people coming without visas, so they haven't been pre-screened by consular affairs officers. But the electronic system allows for a running of their names, passport number, date of birth, other information against a lookout system that will identify people and prevent them from even getting onto an airplane if they pose a security threat.
So there are models. I believe many of them are being integrated into the US VISIT system and that's quite beneficial. But it's beneficial, I think, not so much an entry-exit system will allow the identification of the specific person and finding where that person is in the country to pick them up. I think it's unrealistic to expect it to have that effect.
It's valuable because it provides extremely useful information that we can use, intelligence that we can use in doing a better job of prevention, in giving the officers who are making decisions on visas and on inspections at ports of entry the trend analysis that's necessary in order to really determine who may be likely to overstay, who may pose a threat, who might be likely to be coming for work purposes. And I would hope that in developing US VISIT that that analytic capacity and the ability to actually look at the data and not just collect it will be a required part of the implementation. Too often in the immigration system, we've collected information and allowed it to just stay in storage rooms and in boxes or in computers and never used it and exploited its value in terms of being able to prevent the things that we don't want to happen.
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So let me, just to summarize, overstay is a significant part of the unauthorized population, but a small part of the total number of foreign visitors who enter and exit each year. We can develop much more effective systems for entry and exit. In my testimony, I also mention the much greater use we should be making of commuter systems and frequent traveler systems to get people in and out with information collected but not with delays in their arrival. And ultimately, the real value of such systems is to be able to prevent entry, develop the information systems necessary in order to keep up with the trends in movements and thereby make our country much safer than it is today. Thank you.
Mr. HOSTETTLER. Thank you, Dr. Martin.
[The prepared statement of Dr. Martin follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF SUSAN MARTIN
Immigration policies aim to facilitate the entry of foreigners whose presence is desired, and to identify and deter the entry of unwanted foreigners. Since September 11, policymakers as well as the general public have questioned whether current policies and practices are capable of meeting these twin challenges. All of the terrorists suspected of blowing up the World Trade Center and the Pentagon entered the United States on valid visas. They resided and studied in this country and several European countries with little danger of apprehension-even though several had overstayed their permission to remain.
Overstay has been a persistent problem in managing immigration policies. Some perspective is needed, however, in assessing the scale and nature of the problem. Overstays represent a significant proportion of the unauthorized migrants currently in the United States. The most recent government estimates are that about one-third of the long term unauthorized population is composed of overstayers. If the best estimates of the number of long-term unauthorized migrants are correct, about 2.5 to 3 million unauthorized migrants are overstayers. About 125,000150,000 overstayers are added to the long term unauthorized population each year. How many persons overstay their visas for shorter terms is unknown, but it is likely to also number in the hundreds of thousands per year.
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Yet, even though a significant proportion of the unauthorized population, the overstayers are still a small proportion of the more than 30 million persons who enter the United States each year on visas. And, they are an even smaller proportion of the almost 300 million foreign visitors who entered the country in FY 2002 alone. Moreover, the vast majority of overstayers pose no security threat to the United States, remaining in the United States for family or work reasons.
This is not to suggest that we should understate the problems posed by overstays. For a legal immigration system to function, there must be an ability to manage entries and exits in a way that ensures respect for the rule of law.
Current mechanisms for determining who has overstayed visas are inadequate. For most of those arriving by air, entry-exit tracking involves a foreign national completing the I-94 form and presenting it to the inspector upon arrival. When leaving the US, the foreign national returns the departure part of the form to the airline for transmission to the Department of Homeland Security, but compliance has been spotty. Those entering and exiting the US at land borders are also supposed to turn in I-94s forms, but many do not. In any event, I-94 forms are completed by hand and they cannot be used to track the departure of specific persons until the data are entered into a computer. If the number on the departure form is not clearly readable, which may be the case after weeks or months in the country, it may be very difficult to complete the matching process.
In 1994, the US Commission on Immigration Reform recommended the development of an electronic arrival and departure record system for all visitors coming into the country through air and seaports of entry. The Commission explained that computerizing arrival and departure information would ''make determination if individual passengers have left the country prior to their required departure date easier than labor-intensive paper form matching to determine if individual visa holders have departed or overstayed the terms of their visa.'' The Commission concluded that ''exit controls are now one of the weakest parts of the inspections process.''
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Congress in 1996 required the INS to develop a new system to record the entries and exits of all foreign visitors by October 1, 1998. The legislation required deployment of the system at air, sea and land ports of entry and exit. The universal entry-exit tracking system required in 1996 legislation was opposed by neighboring countries and U.S. border states for fear it would slow trade and tourism. The US Senate voted three times to repeal the requirement. The principal opposition was to its deployment at land borders, which see far more crossings each day than airports. If each person has to be checked on entry and exit, cross-border commuting, trade, and tourism could be hampered.
Since September 11, more serious attention has been paid to the entry-exit control systems. To date, in the absence of a functioning universal entry-exit program, the administration has used ad hoc systems, generally aimed at specific, profiled populations. The National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) focuses on nationals of about thirty countries. NSEERS presently is composed of a registration program conducted at various ports-of-entry and a Special Registration program for certain foreign nationals already in the country. Although first established under the authority of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, due to the reorganization into the Department of Homeland Security, NSEERS is now overseen by the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS).
In testimony given before the Senate Committee on Finance, a senior INS official stated that the NSEERS program ''promotes several important national security objectives:
It allows the United States to run the fingerprints of aliens seeking to enter the U.S. or present in the U.S. against a database of known terrorists.
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It enables the INS to determine instantly whether such an alien has overstayed his/her visa.
It enables the INS to verify that an alien is living where he said he would live, and doing what he said he would do while in the United States, and to ensure that he is not violating our immigration laws.(see footnote 1)
He further testified that as of January 23, 2003, ''NSEERS has led to the identification and apprehension of 7 suspected terrorists.''(see footnote 2)
There is reason to be concerned, however, about the targeting of Arab and Muslim foreign nationals for registration. The Special Registration program implicitly assumes that citizens of the stated countries are believed to be more likely to be participating in terrorist activities than those of other countries (even ones with known terrorist organizations operating within their territories). There was little consultation with Arab and Islamic communities prior to the implementation of the registration system, leading to an increase in tensions between members of these communities and government officials. Yet, cooperation of the Arab and Islamic communities in the United States is a key ingredient in the intelligence gathering needed to identify actual threats. To the extent that the Special Registration makes such cooperation harder to achieve, it may harm national security and reduce the likelihood of apprehending terrorists.
The Administration has announced its intention to move forward with a universal entry-exit program, US-Visit (United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology), by the beginning of 2004. The new system will allow for automated capture of basic information about each arriving and departing passenger. According to DHS, it eventually will collect information on date of arrival and departure; nationality; classification as an immigrant or non-immigrant; complete name; date of birth; citizenship; sex; passport number and country of issuance; country of residence; U.S. visa number, date and place of issuance (where applicable); alien registration number (where applicable); and complete address while in the United States. It will also allow for recording of biometric information, such as a photograph and fingerprint. The system will be introduced at air and sea ports of entry and then extended to the land ports of entry, which have far more crossings each day. It will cover all phases of a person's visit to the United States, from pre-arrival screening by consular officers through departure from the country.
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Introducing an electronic entry and exit system at airports and seaports should be relatively straightforward, even for persons who are able to enter without a visa. Other countries have working entry-exit systems in operation. For example, Australia issues an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) after checking traveler's information collected at the time passage is booked with an airline. The electronic system enables the first security check to be done well in advance of international movement. Then, when a person arrives at check-in, the airline can check electronically to find out if the individual is cleared to board. The final inspection is done on arrival in Australia. When the person departs, the electronic system automatically records this event as well.
The land border implementation will be far more difficult without adversely affecting valued and legitimate border crossings. Given the very large number of such events each year, the small number of overstayers and even smaller number of persons who pose security threats, it is essential to balance the harm that may arise from overstays with the harm that may be done by unduly slowing down travel across the land borders. Efforts to facilitate admissions must be given as much attention as those to control entries and exits.
Pre-enrollment of frequent travelers can support both facilitation and control, allowing commuters and other frequent border crossers an expeditious method of entering and exiting, while allowing greater time and attention to be paid to visitors about whom the authorities have less information. Expansion of the existing commuter programs should be given high priority. The Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection (SENTRI) identifies border crossers who pose little risk to border security, verifies their low-risk status through extensive record checks, and screens approved participants and their vehicles each and every time they enter the United States. Frequent commuters apply and pay a fee for the program. Names, digitized photographs, and vehicle information come up on an Inspector's screen just before the vehicle arrives at the Inspection site. Upon reaching the booth, the driver stops, reaches out the window and swipes an electronically coded PortPass card through a magnetic stripe card reader. Participants in the program generally wait no longer than three minutes behind other cars to enter the U.S. at the busiest time of day. Technically, the system combines security pre-screening with biometrics and fast crossing/inspection. It acts as an effective entry-exit system in allowing information to be collected on any abuses, such as overstay, while still facilitating rapid admissions.
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A further point to make about entry-exit control systems involves the use of the data collected. The biggest benefit of such systems is not the identification and tracking of a specific individual who has overstayed, given the difficulty of finding a person who has determined to disappear. Prevention of the admission of persons who are likely to overstay, with particular attention to those who also pose a security threat, remains the most effective way to protect U.S. borders. Once someone has overstayed their visa for some period of time, it is very difficult to find them and stop their actions. It is far better to prevent their entry, which requires good intelligence and look-out systems.
The benefit of the entry-exit control systems is to provide some of the intelligence needed to ensure better prevention and better facilitation. Analysis of the data collected through US-Visit will be essential to improving the management of our immigration system by giving more accurate information about the number of overstays, the classes of admission in which overstays take place, their duration, the characteristics of overstayers, and other valuable factors helping to understand the overstay phenomenon. The analysis capability should be worked into the design and deployment of the system.
To summarize, persons who overstay their permission to remain in the United State are a significant part of the total number of unauthorized migrants but a small proportion of the millions of foreign nationals who enter the United States each year. Electronic systems for tracking entry and exit, combined with systematic and consistent analysis of the data collected, can be a valuable resource to improve management of US immigration programs. Every effort should be made in deploying such systems to ensure facilitation of legitimate movements across our borders in recognition of the many benefits accruing from the admission of foreign visitors.
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Mr. HOSTETTLER. We will open up now with rounds of questioning from Members of the Subcommittee at 5 minutes, and Dr. Martin, I would like to start off by asking a question about one of the last points you made in your testimony with regard to the usefulness of a system to track entry and exit into the country in that you said it would not necessarily give us a tool that would allow us to apprehend the actual overstays, but to create an analytical modelI'm paraphrasing, if I get it wrong, let me knowbut to create an analytical model whereby to make determinations in the future as to who may or may not be coming for the purpose as applied for the visa, who may or may not be intending to stay within the terms of their visa.
Let me see if I get this right. Are you suggesting that if there is a country or some othersome other flag that can be raised that says, we have certain folks from a particular country that come on a regular basis and it is our experience that folks from that country tend to overstay their visa, and so that would be a form of an analytical model that we might deny entry of another person because previous persons have created a model of overstay, if I can say that?
Ms. MARTIN. Well, I certainly wouldn't want the analytic framework to be as gross as nationality, because I think then we really miss the nuances in the migration experience. But certainly, if there is a country where there's a visa waiver, and there are very, very high levels of overstay coming out of that country, then you might want to reexamine whether the visa waiver is appropriate. Or if you know that the overstays are associated with certain socio-economic characteristics, gender, age, various different other things, it may help you decide who gets a more thorough screening and where the scrutiny really needs to be.
Page 43 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC My concern is that without that information and, for example, interviewing everyone for a visa, the consular officers will probably not be spending enough time on the people whom they really need to concentrate on and too much time on the people whom we know are much less likely to be a serious risk.
Mr. HOSTETTLER. So let me go on with that. You mentioned socio-economic, gender, and other, and you said nationality might not be. Would race be a
Ms. MARTIN. Again, I don't think that any race characteristic of that sort is particularly useful as a way of making those determinations. I think it has to be much more precise. My problem with the NSEERS program as it's been implemented based on broad nationality and religious views. I think that it makes us more complacent in terms of looking at other places where terrorism may be a threat. We know it's not limited just to the 30 countries or so that are part of NSEERS. It also means that if terrorists change the profile, and it's easy to do if, for example, you're only worrying about young men. Unfortunately, there have been suicide bombers who are young women. You just shift those characteristics. So it has to be much, much more specific than nationality, race, religion as the basis or else you're not doing a very good job from the security point of view or from the facilitation one.
Mr. HOSTETTLER. Let me ask one more question. If it is too specific, then isn't it easier to change the profile of the individual? I mean, if we get down to very specific things like you're saying, without taking these other things into consideration, doesn't it get much easier to change from one specific group to another type of specific group?
Page 44 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. MARTIN. Yes, but at least the analysis will be based on some data and some actual patterns of what have been the prior experiences. Too often today, consular officers, again to use them as an example, are basing it on hunches, on presuppositions, on things that are not very concrete, and I think that that creates many more mistakes than having a much more precise picture of where the concerns are and where the threats are.
Mr. HOSTETTLER. Very good. Thank you.
Dr. Kingsbury, you have pointed out that there is a little risk for visa overstays from law enforcement, from coming face to face with law enforcement. Why do you say that in your testimony?
Ms. KINGSBURY. I don't think I said it. Well, I mean, most of the people who overstay are not terrorists and they're not criminals, so from that point of view, that's not the only thrust of it. But our basic premise is that better information, as Susan said, does allow you to at least fact-base some patterns, some ways of looking at the pattern of people coming in and out of this country that hopefully would make both consular officials and border inspectors make better decisions.
Mr. HOSTETTLER. My time has run out. The Chairman recognizes the gentlelady from Texas.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. I yield to the distinguished lady from California.
Page 45 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. SÁNCHEZ. No, go ahead.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. All right, and I want to thank the distinguished gentlelady, Congresswoman Sánchez, for being so kind in representing me this afternoon, and I thank you for your indulgence, Mr. Chairman. We have several hearings. In fact, to the witnesses, we have a homeland security hearing going on right now, and I'm a Member of that committee, dealing specifically with border issues, so I thank you for your indulgence and I will ask questions and be asked for a polite excuse.
Dr. Martin, thank you very much, and to the other witnesses as well. Let meI think this is an opportunity to be educated and to determine where we can be problem solvers, so let me lay out just a few problems that I want the record to capture.
First of all, I hope to engage the ChairmanI know our time is weaningwaning, excuse me, not weaning, our time is waning in this session and I have spoken to the Chairman about the CASE Act that I have proposed that deals with the question of smuggling illegal persons who are then victimized over the border, the respective borders of Northern and Southern border, because our borders are very, very large, and I think that is an issue this Committee should address.
Additionally, I think as we look at overstays, we have to do it in the backdrop of the new circumstances and atmosphere of 9/11. While we discussed the overstays, some of whom are harmless, but, of course, it is in many instances to those concerned about illegal immigration offensive, but some of them are harmless inasmuch as they are seeking to be here for opportunity, is that we have the contrast of the undermining of our status and friendship in the United States and around the world with the harsh way that we are granting visas to those who do want to come for goodwill.
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So we have an enormous backlog in our consular offices in regions like the Arab region, in states that are friendly, such as Qatar, where we have an enormous relationship with that country and the respect for the United States. They just this past weekend opened up a complex called Education City sponsored by the Emir and Sheik Imuza, his wife, that has all American universitiesTexas A&M, Cornell, Virginia Commonwealth, the Rand Corporationon this massive campus to help educate their students and to help create opportunities for our students, as well.
So I am struck by the duplicity and the imbalance that we are speaking of to talk about visa overstays with an idea that that is the only problem that we're facing. So in the context of those remarks, I'd like to ask Dr. Kingsbury, does she have exact numbers of the visa overstays in Europe? That would be helpful as a comparison, and again, let it be clear that Europe has a multitude of countries and certainly has a substantially different immigration policy. But let me just ask that pointed question. Do you have that number for us?
Ms. KINGSBURY. We have not looked at that issue.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Well, let me ask you to do so, if you would, so that we have a basis of comparison, and that would be very helpful.
Let me also ask, the key to a successful inspection process in this country is to balance the security and law enforcement needs against the needs of commerce and tourism, which is the very point that I was making. Do you, again to you, know how they have managed to balance that in the European countries?
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Ms. KINGSBURY. No. As I say, we have not done any work in European countries.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Chairman, I think that would be very helpful to us, particularly coming from the GAO, which is an independent and certainly nonpartisan investigatory and oversight tool that we, as Members of Congress, have the ability to utilize.
Let me also say that I'm interested in Dr. Martin's comments on this, and then I'd ask for Ms. Papademetriouam I close enough?
Ms. PAPADEMETRIOU. That's correct.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. A beautiful Greek name, is that correct?
Ms. PAPADEMETRIOU. Yes.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. We have a lot of Papas in Houston. They cut off the other part. But if you would, if Dr. Martin would first comment, is this such a massive problem that in seeking solutions, should we not balance some of the concerns that I've just expressed, and then if you know the questions about Europe and the questions about Europe in terms of its balancing, I'd appreciate those questions being answered. Dr. Martin first, please.
Ms. MARTIN. Thank you. Yes, clearly, there has to be a balancing in terms of looking at the cost-benefit analysis of what we do for facilitation of the foriegn travel that we want and benefit from and what we put in place in order to control and prevent unlawful activities. And again, I go back to the fact that prevention has to be the first priority, that it's steps that are taken as far away from our shores as possible to identify people who might be threats. That comes back to having good intelligence with regard to who the threats are. I mean, I think ultimately September 11 was primarily a problem of lack of intelligence and the sharing of that intelligence with those who needed it to make decisions.
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So what we should be spending our resources on as the first priority are the very things that we need in order to make it as difficult as possible for those that we don't want to come in to come in. We should not spend a lot of time on the people that we could pre-screen, we could pre-enroll in programs for frequent travel. We can make our borders work much, much more efficiently. Again, the Commission on Immigration Reform recommended developing and expanding commuter systems on the land borders 10 years ago. They are now starting to ratchet up, but not very much.
So I think we can do a lot of things that have the dual effect of both facilitating legitimate travel and preventing illegitimate entries at one and the same time and that's where I'd at least put the bulk of my resources, in something that accomplishes both goals at the same time.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Chairman, I thank you for indulgence if I could ask Ms. Papademetriou to answer on the questions about Europe.
Ms. PAPADEMETRIOU. Yes. With regard to your first question, if I remember well, which was related to the number of illegal aliens who overstay
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Overstays in Europe, if you had some numbers
Ms. PAPADEMETRIOU. There are noneI checked that. There's no assessment as to the number, even approximate number, of people who have overstayed their visa. It is very hard to do so, even though there are certain informal and formal networks that are occupied with statistics. Still, there is no such a number.
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Ms. JACKSON LEE. So there could be one million, it could be 500,000, it could be 10 million could be possible. And then what about
Ms. PAPADEMETRIOU. This is also a growing phenomenon that is very troubling within the European Union, as well.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. What is the response as relates to Europe's ability to balance between commerce and tourism and this whole question of enforcement?
Ms. PAPADEMETRIOU. Well, first of all, I'd like to say that the European Union has the competence on the issues of visa policy. In that respect, it has issued directives and regulations that regulate the entry and exit of people who legally want to enter the European Union for travel purposes or for tourist purposes or for gainful employment. So in that respect, the member states are required by law to adopt within their system all the laws and regulations regarding the entry, the lawful entry and exit of illegal or legal immigrants.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Chairman, my time is up and I just want to thank you, and I hope that maybe even in 2004 we could have hearings on solutions. I think Dr. Martin has raised a point that I've been investigating, the whole issue of pre-approval so that we isolate those who have the criteria, the basis upon which we would believe they come to do us harm.
And she raised another point and what I think would be an excellent hearing. We are Judiciary and we are dealing with the immigration aspects, but I really think this question of intelligence is a key element to safety, even in the immigration arena, because the intelligence that we had on the 19 terrorists on September 11 was enormous. We didn't know how to interpret it, we didn't know how to use it, and, therefore, obviously tragedies occurred. Someone told me, never say never. Never say that we will prevent any sort of tragic terror act, and I will not say that today.
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But I will say that I think it would be worthy of this Committee, besides the point that we are not the Intelligence Committee, to have hearings on how that impacted the knowledge or lack of knowledge of these particular persons, some of whom came in legally, some of whom were legal when this occurred, some of whom were visa overstays. But we do a disservice if we lump everybody together. I think the pre-approval process is worthy of our consideration and the intelligence question is also worthy of our consideration. I thank the distinguished Chairman.
Mr. HOSTETTLER. Your point is well taken.
The chair now recognizes the gentleman from Texas for 5 minutes.
Mr. SMITH. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. First of all, thank you for having a hearing on such an important subject. As you have pointed out, I think very few people are aware of the fact that visa overstayers account for such a huge proportion of the people who are in the country illegally. The estimate is between 25 and 40 percent. It's probably closer to 40 percent. But that's significant for a couple of reasons, I think.
First of all, the folks who overstay their visas are known to us, or at least will be known to us once we get the entry-exit system up and going, and so they are going to be easier to identify and, therefore, we have perhaps a better opportunity to do something about that problem compared to the rest of the illegal immigrants who are in the country. But it is a huge problem and it's good to point this out.
Dr. Kingsbury, I'd like to address my first question to you, and I thought your testimony and your written testimony, as well, was very interesting, because you basically say that the Department of Homeland Security has underestimated the number of visa overstayers in the country. Their estimate is 2.3 million, as I recall, and you pointed out that that does notthat the 2.3 million really only applies to people who are actually here as sort of permanent residents and have not been going back. It also does not include the longtime overstayers from Mexico and Canada.
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I guess my question is, would it surprise you if, in fact, the number of visa overstayers was double what the estimate is, of 2.3 million? And the reason I stay that, just to elaborate and sort of extrapolate to the larger number of illegal immigrants in the country, we are told that the total number of illegal immigrants in this country is eight to ten million, but that only includes people, as you said about the visa overstayers, who are here as permanent residents. If you were to say today, in other words, on this given day, including the people who are going back and forth and so forth, isn't it possible that the visa overstayers might be as many as twice, or would you want to guess how many more than the 2.3 million?
Ms. KINGSBURY. Well, we at GAO tend not to be in the business of guessing, but I think that there arewe have been talking to a lot of experts who do look at these issues and we're going to be doing some additional work to see if there's some way of better refining that estimate. I am prepared to say 2.3 million is on the real conservative side.
Mr. SMITH. Would it surprise you if there were four million illegal visa overstayers in the country or not?
Ms. KINGSBURY. I don't think it would surprise me, no.
Mr. SMITH. Okay.
Ms. KINGSBURY. But I don't know that that's the case.
Mr. SMITH. I know you don't know it, but it wouldn't surprise me. The fact that it's not outside the realm of possibility, I think says a lot. And if we apply that to the overall illegal immigration population, then we are looking at something close to 20 million illegal immigrants in the United States, not just the 10 estimated, when we include all the people who are here temporarily, as well.
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But my point here is that the problem may be a lot bigger than anybody estimates, and I see you're nodding your head in agreement on that.
Ms. KINGSBURY. Well, it's certainly the basic reason why we think a better entry-exit recordkeeping system is very important.
Mr. SMITH. Right. Do you think we ought to do anything that we have not done in the way of legislation to impose additional sanctions on individuals who are visa overstayers, because as I say, they're known to us. It's easier to impose sanctions if we wanted to, and if so, what kind of sanctions would you recommend?
Ms. KINGSBURY. Well, there are sanctions existing in regulations that simply aren't enforced, and I think a starting point would be to enforce existing sanctions and see if that changes the situation. I'm not sure that there's a specific basis for additional legislation at this point.
Mr. SMITH. Okay, good. Ms. Papademetriou, your name is unusual but also familiar to some of us who have been on the Committee for many years. Are you any relation to the gentleman who has the same name who used to testify before the Subcommittee in years past?
Ms. PAPADEMETRIOU. No.
Mr. SMITH. Oh, you're not.
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Ms. PAPADEMETRIOU. I think I have seen his name, though, because he has published a number of articles.
Mr. SMITH. Yes.
Ms. PAPADEMETRIOU. Dimitri Papademetriou?
Mr. SMITH. Yes, that's him.
Ms. PAPADEMETRIOU. Yes, I'm familiar, but I have never met him.
Mr. SMITH. Boy, I would have guessed you were related.
Ms. PAPADEMETRIOU. There's no connection.
Mr. SMITH. That's interesting. Anyway, thanks.
Dr. Martin, one last question addressed to you, and that is do you think that the visa waiver program today is being abused?
Ms. MARTIN. Of course. I mean, every program we have is being abused. It's relative to what, which becomes the issue, and the extent of abuse. We just don't know. And again, because of not having entry-exit controls and not knowing whether or not people that come in without visas leave again. That's why I think the Australian system is far superior.
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Mr. SMITH. Do you consider that to bedo you consider the visa waiver program to be a weak link in our immigration chain, which is to say people can work the system? If the terrorists wanted to come into the United States, the way to do it is probably to go to a country, a visa waiver country so that they are not scrutinized as they would be if they applied from another country?
Ms. MARTIN. Well, I think the real problem isn't that they would go to a visa waiver country, because they still wouldn't be eligible unless they were a national. I think there may be a problem in terms of alienation of young Muslim citizens, second-generation citizens in Europe in particular, that may make them good prey for recruitment by terrorists, so that might be a problem.
I must admit, in looking at the issue, though, of visa waivers, I can't help but think in terms of visas being imposed on us in reciprocity for our imposing visas on others, and that always has to be looked at as part of the tradeoff. I remember when France imposed visas on U.S. citizens, theperhaps it was just as well that it was difficult to travel there, but it created problems in terms of our business dealings with French companies.
Mr. SMITH. Right, but I think we could well argue with other countries that we had a greater reason to scrutinize and we are the ones who were attacked. They haven't been attacked. So maybe they'd be open to our doing something a little bit more than they do. I don't think it has to be exact reciprocity between our country and their country.
Ms. MARTIN. That's the basis for which we do the visa waiver, is that it's reciprocal.
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Mr. SMITH. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. HOSTETTLER. I thank the gentleman from Texas.
The chair now recognizes the gentleman from California, Mr. Berman, for 5 minutes.
Mr. BERMAN. I think it's important tojust a couple of points in the last exchange. A person holding a passport from a country who goes to a visa waiver country and then seeks to come into the United States, the visa is not waived for that person?
Ms. MARTIN. No, absolutely not.
Mr. BERMAN [continuing]. There was an implication somehow that that was the loophole through which terrorists might come. I mean, yes, it's possible that there are people who are citizens of the visa waiver countries who could come in on that, but it would not be going to a visa waiver country in order to get into the United States.
Ms. MARTIN. Correct.
Mr. BERMAN. I just came in for the last part of this, and I don't want to force you to repeat what you've testified or answered in previous questions, but the entry-exit system, when is that supposed to beI mean, first of all, it'll never be totally in place, right, because there are some people who came before we tried to develop that system who won't be shown to have entered. Or is there something about our records that allow us to retrieve everyone who entered with a visa no matter how long ago they entered?
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Ms. KINGSBURY. Well, I don't think those records would successfully identify people that have entered before, and as far as the US VISIT system is concerned, the first phase of that, which is simply to better utilize, I think, existing procedures now, is supposed to be in effect at major airports by the end of this year. But the full-blown US VISIT system is not scheduled to be implemented until the end of calendar year 2006 under the current schedule, and that's a very ambitious schedule. So we are several years away from a functioning system that will really do the kind of thing that the Australian system can do or that will really track most of the people who come in and out of this country.
Mr. BERMAN. Does that require at the time of entry the listing of an address in the United States?
Ms. KINGSBURY. The specific procedures have not actually been decided yet, so I don't know the answer to that factually, but I would hope so.
Mr. BERMAN. I am
Ms. KINGSBURY. But there
Mr. BERMAN. I am unclear of how the system, when fully implemented, willit may very well tell us that somebody has not left
Ms. KINGSBURY. And the system will have a record of that
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Mr. BERMAN [continuing]. By the time they are supposed to have left.
Ms. KINGSBURY [continuing]. Person's fingerprints and face. So the guys like Mr. Tanner will have a better starting point than they have now.
Mr. BERMAN. But in terms of location or interim reporting of whereabouts, none of that is determined in terms of the details of the system?
Ms. KINGSBURY. To our knowledge, the procedures have not been established. There are requirements on the books today that people in this country are supposed to report changes of address, but those requirements are not enforced.
Ms. MARTIN. If I could add on that, the requirement to report change of address is there. The capacity to receive that information and get it into a file is almost nonexistent. They stay in storage rooms. An electronic system might at least allow for the entry of data on it, but I can just imagine tourists entering 20 hotels' addresses. So there are problems in any type of system. Once somebody is admitted, it's much, much more difficult to have any knowledge or control over their whereabouts, and that's again why prevention is so much more important than trying to locate somebody once they are in-country.
Mr. BERMAN. Another question that my colleague, Mr. Smith, asked presumed an extrapolation fact that said if you thought 2.3 million overstays was on the conservative side, and that you wouldn't be surprised if it was really four million, that somehow the remaining number would also be increased by a similar or even greater proportion, leaping to conclusions about 20 million
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Ms. KINGSBURY. It was a speculative question, with all due respect.
Mr. BERMAN. I mean
Ms. KINGSBURY. We have no evidence that would go there.
Mr. BERMAN. Take a moment and tell me the method. Yesterday, I read an article that said 300,000 people are still coming in, and I can't remember now whether it was a month or a year, but I'll assume it was a year, across the borders illegally. What's the basis for any scientific assertion that that's approximately the number?
Ms. KINGSBURY. There are a variety of people who study this flow across our borders
Mr. BERMAN. Give me an example of some of their methodology.
Ms. KINGSBURY. Well, I'm actually not familiar with those, but I know we have talked to a number of them and there are different views and different numbers out there. It's one reason why we didn't report that number in this testimony.
Ms. MARTIN. Most of the methodology uses census data and it's a residual. We know whom you can identify because you know who's here at a given point, how many births there are, how many deaths there are, and how many legal admissions there are, and, in effect, the people left over are often the ones. It's more complicated than that, but it's basically a residual number.
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The best estimates that I
Mr. BERMAN. That's interesting. So you have this very funny thing, where in the context of the debate on the census, the people who most vociferously argue that the census does not have a huge undercount are sometimes the same people who argue that it's the highest number of illegal immigrants is present, and the people who tend to want to talk about how huge the overcount is also minimize the number of illegal immigrants present.
Ms. MARTIN. That certainly happens. But in terms of the short-term people who are here, come and go within a year, the best estimates that I've seenwhen I was directing the Commission, we tried to get some knowledge of itis about a million per year who might be added to the total number of people here illegally, and those estimates are based on workforce numbers and what the capacity of the labor force is to absorb short-term people who might be coming for 3 months.
Mr. BERMAN. A million total? I will finish up, Mr. Chairman
Ms. MARTIN. A million total. In addition to the eight, nine million people who are long-term unauthorized, every year, about a million may circulate through the labor market during the course of the year for short stays, return home, possibly come back the next year. I must admit I've never, ever seen any estimate that would get it up to 20 million. I think that that's way, way over.
Page 60 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC If I just have 1 second, my first assignment when I got into the immigration field in the Select Commission on Immigration and Refugee Policy in 1980 was to come up with the estimate of how many people were here illegally, and I had the Census Bureau, I had all sorts of experts working on it. We looked at the high-end estimates, and if those had been correct, there would have been minus population in six Mexican states. [Laughter.]
Mr. BERMAN. I get it. We're not talking science here.
Ms. MARTIN. Right.
Mr. BERMAN. Could I ask one last question that will take a yes or no answer?
Mr. HOSTETTLER. Without objection.
Mr. BERMAN. Would any of you disagree with the assertion that the increase in money, staffing, and technologies utilized to stop illegal, unauthorized border crossings has resulted in a reduction in the number of unauthorized border crossings, or had any impact whatsoever on the ability of people to come over?
Ms. MARTIN. I don't think it's had a significant impact on reducing the numbers of people who come in illegally. It has actually increased the likelihood to stay for longer periods because it is more expensive and dangerous to come and go. I think it has had a tremendous, at least in California, tremendous effect on raising real estate prices in areas that used to have a lot of people coming over in urban areas, making it much more desirable places to live now that there aren't people traipsing across the property. It reduced a lot of the community tensions around illegal migration. But I don't think it's had a huge effect on reducing the actual numbers in the country illegally.
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Mr. HOSTETTLER. I thank the gentleman.
We will now move to a second round of questions. I have a question for Mr. Tanner. I came from a meeting prior to this Subcommittee hearing that included families of 9/11, where either an individual or son had been victims. They had been injured as a result of one of the attacks, several parents of family members who perished in that day of tragedy.
And I'd like to ask you, Mr. Tanner, without giving any classified tactics or sources or anything like that, there seems to be a lot of sentiment today that I'm hearing that visa overstays are a small portion of the overall number of people that come to the United States. However, we believe thatactually, there's a draft report of the GAO report that, in fact, visa overstays constitute the second highest population of illegal immigrants in our country. So while the number of total people visiting the United States is small, it is a very large portion of the number of illegal immigrants in the country. And on September 11, three individuals of the 19 were in the country and had overstayed their visas.
So, Mr. Tanner, I'm wondering about this. In a perfect world where there are plenty of resources to acquire an individual who has overstayed their visas and you come across these three individuals and you might not have an idea thatyou acquired them on September 1 and you might not know that September 11, they plan to fly planes into buildings, be with 16 of their colleagues to do that, but would you be able to give the Subcommittee an insight as to what the government has learned since 9/11 about talking to immigrants, talking to individuals who did not commit terrorism but may commit terrorism? Is there any possible way that these three individuals may have given some insight as to what was going to happen on September 11 had we arrested and detained for visa overstay? Once again, in a perfect world where we have plenty of interior enforcement capabilities. Is there any way that we could have found something out pertinent to September 11?
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Mr. TANNER. That's a toughthat's a theoretical question
Mr. HOSTETTLER. And the reason I asked you is because we have a lot of people in Guantanamo Bay
Mr. TANNER. Right.
Mr. HOSTETTLER [continuing]. That to understanding have not committed terrorist activity, but there are a lot of us that believe that they should continue to be detained there for a variety of reasons until we know for sure that they or a group that they're affiliated with does not want to commit terrorist activity in the United States or abroad.
So my question is not asI hope it's not as a stretch as we might think, because we are today talking to people who we think for various reasons might want to do us harm. So in that context.
Mr. TANNER. It kind of relates to the point that Dr. Martin was making about having better intelligence and, to put it in different terms, like a street police officer who works a sector of the city, begins to have some knowledge of, you know, what's normal activities in the city and things that are kind of out of the norm, raise his suspicions, and he'll pay more closer attentioncloser attention to those kind of activities where he'll develop reasonable suspicion, to become probable cause, to become, you know, a party to arrest or detain or whatever the lawful action is.
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Similarly, the immigrant population, whether it be while they're applying for their visas or their arriving at border inspection or they've overstayed their legal authority to be here, the more information we have about them and their characteristics and their associations, the better we can identify those people who require more scrutiny than others.
I mean, the sheer numbers that we're dealing with, if it's 2.3 million or even 500,000, it's too many people to hire enough border inspectors to go out and locate them all every month, every quarter, every whatever period to try to get them into compliance. But those that arethe better data we have when they do come to our attention as a result of intelligence or through the course of our normal investigative activities, the quicker we can locate them, and then those people that are of interest, we can develop them as informants, assets, cooperating witnesses, or the like if they're notif they don't actually intend to do harm but they have information of others that do intend to do harm. It makes us more efficient, more effective.
Mr. HOSTETTLER. Without objection, I want to continue on with one question. The issue of resources is an issue that this Subcommittee is going to tackle next year definitely, because my constituents and people across the country want Congress to get this right, and right now, we're not necessarily getting this right in the Federal Government. That's why we have these hearings and we have millions of people who are in the country illegally. So we need to get the resources to do it right.
But my fundamental question is, Mr. Tanner, three people know that on September 11, they're going to fly planes into buildings. Now, we don't know that and the FBI doesn't know that. ICE as it is today doesn't know that. But they know it, and as you said, when the Federal Government arrests and detains these people, they know that somethingthey believe that something is up. And is there not this understanding, I mean, is there not a time whenever we've hadwe've had al Qaeda, top agents in al Qaeda, the hierarchy of al Qaeda give us great insight and intelligence as to what may happen in the future, have we not? And I'm just speaking from reports ofpublished reports in the media. So the very highest level of al Qaeda operatives have given us insight and intelligence as to how they operate and to what they may be planning in the future.
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And my question is, extrapolating from that, isn't it possible that three of the underlings might have given us some insight as to what happened, what was going to happen in the future?
Mr. TANNER. They might have, but I would suggest that if there was an understanding or if they really thought that we were going to intercept them when they overstayed their legal authority to be here, their plans would have been to act before that legal authority expired. So in my remarks, I said it's not their plans, but it's their, I mean, the timing of the overstay affects their planning, but it doesn't affect their intent. There are many people who come here on legal authority and act badly while they're here on legal authority. So this just gives them the convenience of time.
Mr. HOSTETTLER. One more thing. One of the parents of one of the men that perished in 9/11 said, this was their statement, that the sea of illegal immigrants in the United States allowshe believed allowed these folks to operate including visa overstays. Is that the experience of law enforcement in the United States?
Mr. TANNER. It's true. The longer they're here, the more they ingratiate themselves into society and become a, you know, less obvious. But that's where the efforts of the Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Force and the Terrorist Screening Center are in place to try to mitigate that problem, because we periodically make queries of government data sources that we have available to us, public and proprietary data sources, so that if someone comes to our attention and they've gotten into this country by walking across the Canadian or the Mexican borders or they've come in here illegally, or legally and overstayed their authority to be here, we'd be alerted to their presence and be able to locate them and take appropriate law enforcement action.
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Mr. HOSTETTLER. Thank you, and I want to thank all the members of the panel, all the witnesses for your appearance and your contribution to this very important issue. Without objection, all Members will have seven legislative days to enter remarks into the record as well as pose questions to members of the panel. If you would be willing to answer those questions, we would very much appreciate that.
All the business of the Subcommittee being concluded, we are adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 2:34 p.m., the Subcommittee was adjourned.]
A P P E N D I X
Material Submitted for the Hearing Record
PREPARED STATEMENT OF CONGRESSWOMAN SHEILA JACKSON LEE
The subject of this oversight hearing is, ''Visa Overstays: A Growing Problem for Law Enforcement.'' An ''overstay'' is an alien who enters the United States lawfully for a temporary period of time and then remains longer without permission. No one has been able to determine how many overstays there are in the United States. Typically, the number is estimated to be a fraction of the total population of unauthorized aliens in the United States.
The total population figure that will be discussed at this hearing is from a report issued by the former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) on January 31, 2003. According to that INS report, 7 million unauthorized aliens resided permanently in the United States as of the year 2000. In estimating the percentage of overstays in that population, INS applied the 33% figure from a previous report, which produced an overstay number for the year 2000 of 2.3 million.
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It is a mistake to view all overstays as a law enforcement problem. Some overstays did not intend to violate the terms of their admissions and will leave the United States voluntarily. For instance, a nonimmigrant visitor can request an extension of his stay by filing a timely extension application, but the former INS and now the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), has difficulty processing applications quickly. Consequently, many extension applications are not granted until after the admission period has expired.
Technically, a person has violated the terms of his admission by overstaying for a single day, and, according to immigration law precedent, is removable as an overstay, even when a timely extension application was filed. Nevertheless, people in this category are not law enforcement problems.
Other nonimmigrant visitors become overstays on account of an inability to understand American immigration documents. Nonimmigrants are provided with two different time periods for their paperwork. The first is for the visa. A visa is a permit ''to apply to enter the United States'' which is issued by the Department of State. It does not entitle the holder to be admitted to the United States. It classifies the visit as business, tourism, etc., and is usually valid for multiple visits to the United States during a specified period of time. The decision on whether to admit the alien is made by DHS. DHS also designates the period for which the alien will be admitted.
The visa does not indicate the period of time authorized for the alien's visit. If DHS decides to admit the alien, it issues a second document, a Form I-94 (Arrival/Departure Record) with sets forth the date, place of arrival, the class of admission (which corresponds to the visa class), and the length of time the alien may remain in the United States.
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The estimates of how many unauthorized aliens are in the United States and how many of them are overstays are just educated guesses. No one knows how many unauthorized aliens live in the United States or how many of them are overstays. New entry/exit information systems such as U.S. VISIT may eventually provide accurate data on overstays, but it will be prospective information. It will only identify aliens who overstay after a nonimmigrant admission recorded by the U.S. VISIT system. It will not provide any information on how many overstays are already in the United States.
The collection of entry/exit data will not have enforcement value either. Comprehensive entry/exit data will make it possible for DHS to produce accurate lists of overstays on demand. But, what will DHS do with these lists? The entry/exit data will not include information on the location of the overstays. It will tell DHS who the overstays are but not where they are.
We cannot remove the 2.3 million overstays that are estimated to be living in the United States. We can reduce that figure to a more manageable level, however, by separating out the ones who would make substantial contributions to our country as lawful permanent residents. We need a legalization program that would allow hardworking, law-bidding individuals to come out of the shadows.
Reducing the undocumented population would have many benefits. For instance, it would make it easier for us to identify the aliens in our midst who mean to do us harm. The wider availability of legal status for hardworking, longtime residents would provide employers with a more stable workforce, improve the wages and working conditions of all workers, and curtail an underground labor market filled with smuggling, fraud, abuse and other criminal activities. We have nothing to lose by providing access to legalization for people who have established themselves as productive, desirable members of our society.
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(Footnote 1 return)
Johnny Williams, Executive Associate Commissioner for Field Operations, U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, Statement before the Senate Committee on Finance regarding Combating Terrorism: Protecting the United States (January 30, 2003), http://www.immigration.gov/graphics/aboutus/congress/testimonies/2003/Williams.pdf.
(Footnote 2 return)