Candice Miller: Visa ‘over-stayers’ present threat to national security

May 24, 2013

While focusing much of her attention over the past two years to border security, U.S. Rep. Candice Miller this week turned to the immigration issue of borderless security.

At a session of her House subcommittee, Miller explored ways to deal with the 40 percent of illegal immigrants who arrived in the United States by overstaying their visas, not penetrating the borders.

“They don’t come across a desert in Arizona, they come here on a visa and never leave,” said Miller, a Harrison Township Republican. “I … tell people that, even if you live in the middle of the country, if they have an international airport nearby, they are, in effect, living in a ‘border state.’ ”

At the House Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security held on Tuesday, chairwoman Miller and her colleagues learned that the whereabouts of 1 million visa-holders is unknown by federal authorities. Most probably left the country, but the backlog is such that officials have no way to confirm who left and who stayed.

Miller said the case of the deceased Boston bombing suspect, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, a visa-holder who returned to a Russian territory known for terrorist activities and then came back to America, demonstrates the need for a crackdown on travels by temporary U.S. residents.

“We need to know who‘s coming into the country, but we also certainly need to know who is leaving,” the congresswoman said. “Once they leave the country they certainly should not be allowed back in.”

The subcommittee, after hearing from several top Obama administration officials, apparently made progress in outlining a way to improve the nation’s tracing system, perhaps through such simple solutions as mandatory email communications between the temporary resident and federal officials. All seem to agree that the visa “over-stayers” present a potential threat to national security.

Miller’s subcommittee heard from officials affiliated with Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Department of Homeland Security, and the Government Accountability Office.

James Dinkins, executive associate director of homeland security investigations for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, told the panel that over-stayers are targeted by the Department of Homeland Security as potential threats that violate the integrity of the U.S. immigration system.

Dinkins reportedly said the DHS has made “significant progress in preventing terrorists from exploiting the visa process.” In particular, ICE has upgraded its Student and Exchange Visitor Information database, assuring that port inspectors have the most current information regarding a student visa holder’s status at the time of their entry and exit from the U.S.

As the Senate prepares to vote on a potentially historic immigration reform bill, Miller is hoping that a firm stand will be taken on the exploitation of the visa system.

“Those who overstay a visa,” the lawmaker said, “are much more of a threat to the U.S. than the illegal alien who comes across the border to find a job in agriculture.”