Forty Percent of Non-Citizens Live in U.S. on Expired Visitor, Student Visas

BY Cassie M. Chew  April 23, 2013 at 3:10 PM EST


Doris Meissner, director of the U.S. Immigration Policy Program at the Migration Policy Institute, says 40 percent of non-citizens living in the U.S. are “visa overstays.”

A major portion of a bipartisan immigration reform proposal that U.S. senators introduced last week focuses on securing the southwestern border between the U.S. and Mexico. The bill would appropriate a total of $4.5 billion for a border security and fencing strategy.

Many conservative lawmakers have said that this is key to passing immigration reform legislation. At an April 17 press briefing, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky, said he would offer at least one amendment to the bill that would require detailed reporting on surveillance at the southwestern border.

In a recent chat with NewsHour’s Kwame Holman, Doris Meissner, director of the U.S. Immigration Policy Program at the Migration Policy Institute, said that illegal immigration across the southwestern border has slowed and is at a “net zero.” Many of the 11 million non-citizens living in the U.S. initially came to the country on a visa, she said.

“People that came with visas are probably about 40 percent of that 10 to 11 million that are in the country illegally,” Meissner said.

“They are often people who came here for short-term work on properly issued visas, but their employer wanted them to stay … They are often foreign students who finished their education and decided to stay without being able to renew their visas,” says Meissner, who between 1993 and 2000 served as the head of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.

“There are a whole range of circumstances that lead to visa overstays, but they also are in violation of the law.”


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