Congress should support common-sense solutions, reject anti-immigrant rhetoric
The 99.2% departure rate is largely owed to the serious and severe deterrents and penalties for overstays already in place: consular officers can deny entry if visitors are suspected of planning to immigrate permanently, while an individual who does overstay faces arrest, deportation, and a ten-year bar from re-entering the country. To suggest that a monetary bond is going to prevent nefarious or unrelated criminal activity is naive at best, and is already the focus of the Counterterrorism and Criminal Exploitation Unit of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), an expertly trained team who investigate and prioritize overstay cases that present a threat to national security or public safety.
Instead, lawmakers should make it easier, not harder, for people to adjust or renew their immigration status. Recent subregulatory changes, most issued without public notice and comment, have set deliberate traps for immigrants here with proper documentation, drastically increasing the chance they will unintentionally lapse in status. These include suspending premium processing, abandoning deference to previously approved petitions, denying applications without an opportunity to provide further evidence, and forcing legal immigrants into costly deportation proceedings simply for having an application denied. Perhaps most egregious is a recent move to undo decades of precedence in how unlawful presence is calculated for international students, which could result in students being unknowingly classified as overstays, deported, and barred from re-entering for up to a decade.
Anti-immigration lawmakers and political organizations like the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), FAIR, and NumbersUSA prioritize shortsighted big-government solutions to punish foreign visitors and immigrants, regardless of the cost to Americans. Their policy wishlist advocates extreme proposals like upholding Zero Tolerance and Family Separation, ending DACA and TPS, slashing immigration levels, and fully implementing the Travel Ban. If the United States is to remain a destination for travelers from abroad, our our elected officials need to distinguish between the punitive and xenophobic policies described above and measures to combat actual national security threats.