Homeland Security has built up a backlog of more than 1.2 million illegal immigrants who it believes have overstayed visas but managed to arrest only about 3,400 of them, according to the most recent data, which works out to a rate of about 1 in every 350 lawbreakers.
That is far worse than the rate for those who crossed the border illegally, and it means criminals, people engaged in narcoterrorism and other national security risks are left to run free in the U.S., the Homeland Security inspector general said in a report Thursday.
Federal agents have trouble tracking down the criminals because the government still doesn’t monitor departures, meaning it can’t be certain whether those who came on tourist, business or student visas leave when they are supposed to.
Officers have to check as many as 27 in-house systems, in addition to state databases, to try to guess whether someone has left. Even then, they can make catastrophic mistakes when it wrongly appears that a visitor has left the country.