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ImmigrationDHS cannot locate 266 “illegal overstays of concern”

Published 31 May 2013

According to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, and 21 May 2013 Hill testimony by Rebecca Gambler, director of the Homeland Security and Justice for GAO, DHS, since 2011, has identified 1,901 “illegal overstays of concern.” As of March 2013, 14 percent of them, or 266, are still missing.

DHS said it cannot find 266 potentially dangerous foreign nationals who have overstayed their visas, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, and 21 May 2013 testimony by Rebecca Gambler, director of the Homeland Security and Justice for GAO. In her testimony before the House Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security, she said that since 2011, DHS has identified 1,901 “illegal overstays of concern.” As of March 2013, 14 percent of them, or 266, are still missing.

Gambler said that these 1,901 cases were giver a higher priority “because the subjects of the records could pose national security or public safety concerns.”

She said that of the 1,901 who were deemed by DHS to be posing a security threat, 266 could not be located and nine had been arrested.

The GAO report notes that:

  • A DHS review in the summer of 2011 found that there were 1.6 million overstays
  • 863,000 of them were eventually removed from the list of overstays because they had either left the country, or changed their illegal stay status to a legal one
  • There are currently more than one million “unmatched arrival records” (that is, foreign nationals who have remained in the United States with expired visas) in the DHS Arrival and Departure Information System (ADIS)
  • Of the 1,901 cases:

Gambler said that visa overstays may create a significant risk to national security, noting that several of the terrorists responsible for the 9/11 attacks were in the country illegally overstaying their visas.

 “We have reported that most overstays are likely motivated by economic opportunities to stay in the United States beyond their authorized periods of admission,” Gambler testified.  “However, overstays could pose homeland security concerns—for example, 5 of the 19 September 11, 2001, hijackers were overstays.”

The GAO reports notes that DHS has failed to report visa overstays to Congress as a result of a lack of “confidence in the quality of it’s overstay data.” DHS secretary Janet Napolitano said the agency will report on overstay rates by the end of the year.