A Government Accountability Office audit performed Tuesday shows that the Department of Homeland Security has lost track of one million immigrants who definitely came to the U.S. but whose present location is now undetermined.
As Congress debates an immigration bill, lawmakers in both houses have requested a practical system that would track immigrants’ entries and exits.
The new system, which is supposed to be under government development now, should be keeping track of immigrants using biometric identifiers, like fingerprints. Any points of entry via air, sea and land would be monitored.
After complaining about how difficult such a system would be to complete, the Senate countered the original request with their own, easier version, which would require biografic images, such as a simple photograph, and is limited to tracking immigrants’ entry through air and sea ports.
The Government Accountability Office said that 32 percent of visa overstays came via land ports of entry.
The average visa overstay was 2.7 years.
While the Congressional Budget Office examined the Senate bill and said that it will cut illegal immigration in half, the bill also shows that the system would heighten chances for immigrants to come to the U.S. and illegally overstay their visas under new guest-worker programs.
Though the executive branch is supposed to report the number of annual visa overstays to Congress, it has skirted this duty for the past 20 years under the guise that the information is not reliable enough.
Though there are currently one million overstays in the U.S., that number is down 60 percent: Two years ago, Homeland Security lost track of 1.6 million.
As it turned out, more than half had already left the country or gained legal status. Most of the remainder were not dubbed security risks, so the government did not make further efforts to find them. However, 1,901 were labelled national security or public safety threats. As of March, the location of 266 was unknown.
In the DHS’ response to the GAO report, they stressed the decline in the number of immigrants that were unaccounted for.