A look back at the annual report on US-VISIT, the automated entry (and hopefully someday exit) screening program, provides stark reminders of both the value of the program and of how much work still remains to be done. The program is doing a good job finding needles, but is working in only part of the haystack. The incoming Obama administration could establish some credibility on its commitment to homeland security by making the completion of the entry-exit system at land, air and sea ports a top priority.
- In FY 2007, there were a total of 46,298,869 entries recorded at air and sea ports. (This does not include Canadians or Mexicans who claim to be short term visitors).
- Of these, 236,857 (0.5%) were identified as possible overstays because they had no departure (or entry) records after their authorized duration of stay. Another 54,319 (0.1%) did depart finally, but after their authorized period of stay had expired. Not all of these can be confirmed as overstays, but it is estimated that at least 35%, or 82,900, would be.
- The US-VISIT Office manually vetted 39,327 of these, and forwarded about 12,000 records to ICE. ICE agents ultimately apprehended 273 of these individuals.
- In addition, US-VISIT created lookouts for 7,357 people who overstayed more than 90 days and then departed. These lookouts resulted in 451 adverse actions reported at ports of entry and consulates overseas, which were presumably attempted entries by these status violators.
- The fingerprint and photo-based databases managed by US-VISIT resulted in 25,552 derogatory hits for consular officers overseas adjudicating visa applications. There were 11,685 biometric watch-list hits at the port of entries. These included individuals with criminal histories for crimes such as murder and drug trafficking as well as immigration violations.
- US-VISIT updates its systems with information from other government agencies, enabling it to flag people who commit crimes after entering the United States. In FY2007, there were 11,246 such individuals identified.
- USCIS uses the system to screen those who apply for immigration benefits such as green cards and work permits. In 2007, US-VISIT generated 31,324 watch list hits on new benefits applicants, and 4,848 previous applicants.
The annual report, dated July 2008, is not on line but copies are available upon request.