Visa Overstays Don’t Negate the Benefits of Border Barriers

Agresti, J. D. (2019, January 9). Visa Overstays Don’t Negate the Benefits of Border Barriers. Retrieved from
Agresti, James D. “Visa Overstays Don’t Negate the Benefits of Border Barriers.” Just Facts. 9 January 2019. Web. 20 May 2024.<>.
Chicago (for footnotes)
James D. Agresti, “Visa Overstays Don’t Negate the Benefits of Border Barriers.” Just Facts. January 9, 2019.
Chicago (for bibliographies)
Agresti, James D. “Visa Overstays Don’t Negate the Benefits of Border Barriers.” Just Facts. January 9, 2019.

By James D. Agresti
January 9, 2019

Opponents of President Trump’s plan to build a wall along much of the Southwest border often argue that it won’t be effective because many illegal immigrants enter the U.S. by using visas. Visas allow people to temporarily visit or live in the U.S., but every year, hundreds of thousands of people don’t leave when their visas expire. No matter how strong or tall a wall may be, it cannot stop this activity.

Those who make that claim—including many media outlets and “fact checkers”—are misleading the public by omitting a key fact: Visa entrants are screened by the U.S. government to keep out foreigners who pose risks to the health, safety, or finances of Americans—while illegal border crossers are not.

This lack of screening allows known criminals and others who are likely to harm people to enter the United States, such as the hundreds of thousands of non-citizens who have committed violent crimes in the U.S. and been deported.

Federal Law

Under Title 8, Section 1182 of federal law, “aliens” who pose risks to the wellbeing of others are generally “ineligible to receive visas and ineligible to be admitted to the United States.” This includes, for example, foreigners who:

  • have been convicted of or admit to committing certain crimes “that involve moral turpitude, whether under U.S. law or foreign law…”
  • have “a communicable disease of public health significance.”
  • are drug abusers or addicts.
  • have physical or mental disorders that “may” endanger “the property, safety, or welfare” of themselves or others.
  • are “likely … at any time after admission, to become primarily dependent on the U.S. Government (federal, state, or local) for subsistence.”
  • do not “make a credible showing” that “all” of the activities they will engage in “while in the United States are consistent” with their visa applications.
  • have “inadequate documentation” to prove that they meet the criteria above or other requirements of federal law.

Purveyors of Half-Truths

In comments and articles about border barriers, many individuals have raised the issue of visa overstays as a foil to Trump’s plan without mentioning that visa entrants are screened for dangers while illegal border crossers are not. Some notable examples include:

Furthermore, an examination of first 20 results in Google News for border wall visa overstay did not produce any results that revealed the key difference between visa overstays and illegal border crossers. This systematic omission of a vital fact can lead to widespread public ignorance, something that has become common with many issues.

Likewise, when reporting on illegal immigration and crime, journalists, politicians, and scholars have distorted the truth by:

Echoing the comments of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, media outlets have also claimed that border walls are ineffective because some people find ways to get around, under, or over them. However, the purpose of such barriers is not to completely stop illegal border crossings but to stem the tide of them, and this has occurred in a variety of nations and locations where such barriers were erected.

In summary, prominent organizations and individuals have repeatedly misled the public about the life-threatening consequences of illegal immigration and the role that a comprehensive border barrier would play in reducing them.

  • January 9, 2019 at 4:26 PM

    Very succinct info – Thanks. One quick question about the visa overstay numbers. Are the numbers cited reflective of the number of those people actually still here/staying here, or are they simply the number of people in a given time period who did not leave “on time”.

    • January 9, 2019 at 4:31 PM

      Thank you for your kind words.

      Per the link provided in the article: “About 45 million foreigners who were lawfully admitted to the U.S. for business or pleasure through air and sea ports of entry were legally required to leave during 2015. Among these people, 355,338 were still in the U.S. nine months past the end of the year.”

      Also: “The figures above do not include foreigners who were legally admitted through land ports of entry, including those who arrived via cars, trains, buses, ferries, bicycles, trucks, and foot. The Department of Homeland Security is currently unable to determine how many of these people overstay their legal limits.”

  • January 9, 2019 at 4:46 PM

    Obama, Clinton, Pelosi, Schumer…they all wanted the wall/barrier before
    President Trump was in what has changed? Nothing has changed!
    They would rather keep the country unsafe than just allow Trump to do immigration/border reform. They have obstructed him all along. It is disgusting!

  • January 9, 2019 at 8:12 PM

    An extremely valuable publication. Thank you

  • January 11, 2019 at 4:00 PM

    Please post this on youtube. People need to know the TRUTH

  • January 11, 2019 at 9:19 PM

    It distresses me that public ignorance is, as you put it, so common. Thank you for all your hard work. The facts you compile aid me greatly when trying to understand an issue.

  • January 14, 2019 at 2:13 AM

    is there data for the amount of people that return for their asylum hearings, how many hearings are scheduled etc…? especially for people entering the country from south of the border, but overall as well.


Make a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Articles by Topic