A Solution To Our Visa Overstay Problem

REUTERS/Loren Elliott

Rep. Steve King Congressman, Iowa's 4th District
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Protecting our borders and sovereignty has proven to be one of the most complex issues facing our great country. Whether it is sanctuary cities, illegal border crossings, or chain migration, to name a few, we face immigration challenges on many different levels.

One aspect of this issue that has received less attention is visa overstays, but it is no less important. When foreign visitors stay in our country beyond the time allotted on their visa, it can result in not only a drain on our resources and a disregard for American Rule of Law, but a threat to national security as well.

While hardworking Americans may feel that there are few in Washington who are taking their side in this fight, I can report that we do have allies in this cause. The Immigration Reform Law Institute is an example. Their recent lawsuit seeks records from U.S. Customs and Border Protection to obtain information on the number and country of citizenship of H2-A and H2-B visa holders who entered the country through points of entry and overstayed their period of admissions since 2013.

It is critical that this kind of information is made transparent to the American people. In order to address this challenge, it is imperative for us to know the truth about how many people are violating our laws and where the problems lie.

What we do know about the problem is cause for alarm. Just this month the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released its report on visa overstays for 2017. The data showed that 1.15 percent of nonimmigrant admissions overstayed their visits. “That’s not bad,” some might say. “That means that 98.85 percent left on time, right?” That’s correct, but the numbers require context to fully understand their meaning.

The 1.15 percent amounts to 606,926 suspected in-country overstays. That number represents more people than the entire population of Milwaukee. Now consider that, if not for visa overstays, two of the 9/11 hijackers would not have been in the country to commit that act of war against America. Visa overstays are a real national security threat.

The good news is that we are not powerless in confronting this problem. Under current law, State Department consular offices have the authority to impose immigration bonds on foreign national visa applicants.

This existing tool, however, has not been embraced due to mainly technological issues and practical hurdles. The advent of improved State Department and DHS computer systems and private sector technology removes many of these objections, making immigration bonds a new, available tool for today’s immigration process—and should be used.

To get this tool working on behalf of the American people, I have introduced the E-bonding for Immigration Integrity Act of 2018 (HR 6089) to Congress. The bill requires an alien in one of certain nonimmigrant categories to post a bond of up to $10,000 prior to being issued a U.S. entry visa. It calls for a visa applicant to present a valid credit card, pay a minimal processing fee and allow a “hold” on the credit card in the amount of the bond.

If an applicant complies with U.S. law and abides by immigration rules, upon exit the “hold” is lifted and the transaction is cleared. Should the alien overstay his or her visa, the bonded funds would be automatically and electronically forfeited to the United States Treasury and could be used for enforcement tracking of the individual, construction of a border wall, and additional border patrol agents.

The immigration bond acts as a tether to the individual; creating a financial bond to assure compliance with U.S. law and also encouraging “trust” on both sides that the foreign applicant will follow U.S. law to depart the country upon the conclusion of their authorized stay.

This legislation sends a clear message to any foreign national thinking about overstaying their visa: aliens who overstay are aliens who are going to pay. If my legislation had been in effect last year, over $6 billion could have been forfeited by those who violated the terms of their temporary entry into our country. I know the construction industry, and that kind of money would pay for a lot of the wall that we need on our border with Mexico.

I want this bill to become law so it will be in effect for future administrations, but the executive branch already has the authority it needs to implement the policy changes set forth in HR 6089.

President Trump has been an incredible champion for the interests of the American people on many fronts, but on the immigration issue in particular. I encourage him to employ the immigration bond as a powerful tool to keep America strong and safe and to restore respect for the Rule of Law.

Congressman Steve King, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, represents Iowa’s 4th Congressional District.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.