How most illegal immigrants come to be in the US might surprise you

Visa overstays far outrank border apprehensions, reports show

By Dawn Jorgenson - Graham Media Group
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An air interdiction officer with U.S. Customs and Border Protection flies along the Rio Grande at the U.S.-Mexico border near McAllen, Texas. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Much of the immigration spotlight recently has centered around building a wall at Mexico’s border with the United States, but Sunday's news of the arrest of a Grammy-nominated artist for allegedly being illegally present in the U.S. has brought a larger issue to light: People are overstaying their visas.

The rapper 21 Savage, unbeknownst to many, entered the U.S. legally in July 2005 as a citizen of the United Kingdom, but according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, he failed to depart under the terms of his nonimmigrant visa.

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(Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)

The agency said 21 Savage, whose real name is Shayaabin Abraham-Joseph, became unlawfully present in July 2006 when his visa expired.

But 21 Savage allegedly overstaying his visa isn’t unusual. In fact, it’s much more common than many might think.

That's not all. There are numerous things concerning immigration that may surprise you.

People are overstaying visas

According to National Public Radio, many of the country’s illegal immigrants -- more than 700,000 in 2017 alone, the Department of Homeland Security has reported -- came here legally, but they overstayed their visas. Compare that to the 300,000 apprehensions along the Mexico border the same year.

People who have overstayed their visa have outnumbered people who have entered the country illegally at the border every year since 2007, NPR reports, and in 2014, the total number of visa overstays accounted for two-thirds of all new undocumented immigrants.

 

Where are new immigrants coming from?

The top country of origin for new immigrants coming into the U.S. in 2016 was India, with 126,000 people, Pew Research reported. At 124,000 people, Mexico was a close second. Trailing behind were China and Cuba.

Since 2010, Asian immigrants have outnumbered Hispanic immigrants each year. Researchers said the slowing immigration from all of Latin America began after the Great Recession, especially Mexico.

By 2055, Asians are projected to be the largest group of immigrants in the U.S. By 2065, they are estimated to make up 38 percent of all immigrants.

Border apprehensions down -- by a lot

There’s no question that immigrants who are illegally traveling through Mexico to the United States are grabbing much of the nation’s attention. But officials said apprehensions at the southern border dropped from more than 1.6 million in 2000 to a little more than 300,000 in 2017.

Even though there has consistently been a large number of apprehensions in areas that already contain fencing, Homeland Security officials said everywhere a wall has been put up, there’s been a reduction of illegal immigration by 90 to 95 percent.

According to NPR, those immigrants who are being caught at the border are the ones who account for nearly all apprehensions by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

 

CBP apprehended about 162,000 people in the Rio Grande Valley sector of South Texas in fiscal 2018 alone, and none of the other eight Border Patrol sectors on the southern border had half that much activity.

But the El Paso sector saw a major uptick in apprehensions during recent months, and CBP officials said the majority of that growth has been from family units -- people who were caught traveling with family members. They accounted for a third of apprehensions in the past year.

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U.S. Border Patrol agents take Central American immigrants into custody near McAllen, Texas. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

"What we've been seeing over the past few months is a dramatic increase in families and kids," Andrew Meehan, CBP's assistant commissioner for public affairs, said. "You have Border Patrol stations that are largely at capacity and are not equipped to handle the large surge of families and kids that have approached our border."

Many illegal immigrants crossing border aren't trying to evade arrest

Officials said many who are crossing the border illegally aren’t looking to evade arrest. Instead, they present themselves to border officials and request political asylum as they flee violence and poverty.

Pew Research reported that many who are crossing at the Mexico border are coming from areas where they are living on less than $2 a day. Those migrants are likely seeking out economic opportunities in order to send money back to their families.

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View of the U.S.-Mexico border wall in Tijuana, Mexico. (Photo by Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images)

In addition, the number of people whom agents have caught decreased across the board -- not just where there are government-constructed barriers.

What about illegal immigrants who aren't being caught?

That number, not surprisingly, is harder to peg, because a large number of undocumented immigrants are reluctant to fill out any census forms, according to Texas Monthly.

Having said that, researchers have still come up with a ballpark estimate for the number of undocumented immigrants they believe to be in the U.S. at 10.8 million. That figure is down from 11.8 million in 2007, due, researchers said, to bad economy, increased enforcement of border security and workplace immigration laws.

In addition, the Trump administration has stepped up arrests and deportations of illegal immigrants. According to ICE officials, they deported 13 percent more undocumented immigrants last year than fiscal year 2017.

It's unclear how 21 Savage's story will pan out, but CNN reported his representatives are working to secure his release and “work with authorities to clear up any misunderstandings.”

Did you have any idea that overstaying the terms of a visa was such a rampant issue? Does it impact your opinion regarding the topic of immigration overall? Let us know in the comment section below.

Graham Media Group 2019