• July 24th, 2024
  • Wednesday, 10:17:01 PM

Immigration: ‘Overstays’ vs. Border Crossings, and Biden vs. Trump


Luis Torres, Ph.D.


There is no southern border around Denver International Airport (DIA) to keep undocumented immigrants out of Denver, or around LaGuardia Airport in New York City, or around international airports in Miami, or Houston, or Orlando, or Los Angeles, or around any of the other such airports around the country.  But that is where numerous “unauthorized immigrants” (to use a euphemism)—hundreds of thousands recently—come into the United States and, simply, overstay their Visas, from far-flung countries around the world, including Europe.  Viewers heard nothing about such “overstays” in the Presidential Debate of June 27, nor is such discussion expected by Biden or Trump throughout their campaigns. Such “undocumented” immigration via airplanes does not fit their vision in the same way as does a border wall.


A recent report highlights and lists the 45 cities that “receive” the most immigrants who become “unauthorized immigrants” into the U.S.  The report states that in ranking these cities, during the eight months for which data was collected, Miami was #1, followed by Fort Lauderdale, New York City, Houston, Orlando, and Los Angeles for the top six.  Despite that the information is recent,


The numbers reflected in the newly released data are, however, obsolete. They cover only January through August 2023, whereas the [Biden] administration reports that through March 2024, some 404,000 immigrants mainly from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela have flown into U.S. airports under the program…Even so, the breakdown of those eight months of numbers by city is useful in that they clearly indicate to local elected leaders what degree the flights are a source of their staggering integration troubles; as indicated in A Secret Finally Revealed Americans Can Know US Cities Receiving Hundreds Thousands by Todd Bensman, May 1, 2024, Center for Immigration Studies.


The optics about immigration, reported incessantly by the news media, of new arrivals confronting Trump’s and previous Presidents’ border walls, make for good press. How dramatic would news footage be of travelers traipsing through airports, awaiting luggage at baggage claim, and hailing a cab or Uber to be whisked away into the night?


President Biden has demonstrated throughout his presidency his humanity, integrity, and concern for family unity.


However, the effect of crossing at the border versus being brought by Boeing are essentially the same, once those with frequent flyer mileage overstay their visas: according to immigration laws, both end up the same vis-à-vis the Department of Homeland Security—undocumented.  Such a phenomenon is viewed by American media and voters as binaries, with immigrants either, on the one hand, trudging through various central and South American countries on foot or riding on the top of the “bestia” (a squalid train,) or flying via plane, albeit in coach class, to a variety of international airports throughout the U.S.—including Denver. The former image is considered very problematic, the second, negligible.


This is not a new phenomenon, of the U.S. society viewing equivalent outcomes with diametrically opposed perspectives. For example, in 2015, during an interview with Fox News, Bill O’Reilly asked Jorge Ramos, noted Latino journalist for Univision, about whether the U.S. should continue building a wall on the southern border. Ramos responded, “It’s a completely absurd idea. Why would you want to build a 1,900-mile wall between México and the United States if almost


40 percent of undocumented immigrants come by plane and they overstay their visas?”


Those who arrive by plane, but do not leave once their visas expire are referred to as “overstays,” and the same article suggests that the “overstays” represent about 16 percent of unauthorized Mexican immigrants, about 27 percent of unauthorized Central Americans, and about 91 percent of all other unauthorized immigrants.


Therefore, approximately “a third of all overstays [come] from México and Central América” with about two-thirds from the “rest of the world.”


This “overstays” feature is a trend, not a one- or two-year anomaly. The 2019 article, “For 7th Consecutive Year Visa Overstays Exceeded Illegal Border Crossings,” supported such findings more recently. It notes then-President Donald Trump demanding “funding for a border wall to stop illegal immigration” but cites a study from the Center for Migration Studies of New York that found from 2016-2017, people who overstayed their visas accounted for 62 percent of the newly undocumented, while 38 percent had crossed a border illegally.


The study further notes that such figures show “construction of hundreds of more miles of border wall would not address the challenge of irregular migration into our country, far from it.”  While the number of undocumented immigrants from México has fallen in the last few years, it was still the main country for overstays, “about twice the number from India, China and Venezuela,” with the reference to Venezuela presaging dramatic recent immigration increases from that country.


The current political and media commentary continues apace, with immigration from the Mexican border considered “Bad!” and immigration from international U.S. airports considered… well, not considered at all. The Biden-Trump Presidential Debate of June 27 follows the same pattern, albeit President Biden has reacted humanely and within legal parameters about immigration since taking office, while Trump continued his vitriolic statements against immigrants.  According to media accounts, including The Washington Post (June 28, 2024), several key themes were debated, including the economy as the top issue, then foreign policy, health care, immigration (at #4), abortion, climate change, and others.


According to the Washington Post, the “candidates discussed border security,” continuing the same lack of discussing international airport security for “overstays.”


During the Biden-Trump debate on remarks about immigration, Donald Trump was notable for his verifiably false statements about immigrants and the immigration process. For example, according to an NBC News report of June 29, “Trump doubled down on lies about migrants receiving Social Security and the border being ‘the most dangerous place in the world,’ with almost no pushback from Biden” (“Trump’s unchallenged immigration falsehoods leave advocates frustrated and fearful”).  reality is that immigrants pay into Social Security, but they often do not receive benefits unless they become citizens or receive a Green Card and pay into the system for a certain period of time.  (Additional, very specific rules, may apply, such as for Lawfully Admitted for Permanent Residence, or refugees or asylees, among others). According to the article, several Latino advocacy organizations, including America’s Voice, Alianza for Progress, and Voto Latino, expressed frustration that President Biden was not able to refute Donald Trump’s “dehumanizing rhetoric that falsely depicts immigrants as inherent threats.”  On the contrary, according to a July 21, 2023 Stanford University study, opponents of immigration often argue that immigrants drive up crime rates. But newly released research from Stanford economist Ran Abramitzky and his co-authors finds that hasn’t been the case in America for the last 140 years.


On the contrary, “Today, immigrants are 30 percent less likely to be incarcerated than are U.S.-born individuals who are white, the study finds.”  (For Mexican and Central American immigrants, Census Bureau statistics include incarceration for the act of immigration, drawing a false comparison with U.S. citizens).  Especially in comparison with U.S. citizen males.


“Recent waves of immigrants are more likely to be employed, married with children and in good health,” Abramitzky says. “Far from the rapists and drug dealers that anti-immigrant politicians claim them to be, immigrants today are doing relatively well and have largely been shielded from the social and economic forces that have negatively affected low-educated U.S.-born men.”


Among all of the controversy and untruths and obstructions against humane treatment of immigrants, President Joe Biden’s  June 18, 2024  Executive Order (EO) on behalf of immigrants married to U.S. citizens is a singularly positive action. Announcing this EO, the White House issued its “Fact Sheet: President Biden Announces New Actions to Keep Families Together” on June 18.  The title is essential, including “to Keep Families Together.”  Part of this EO serves to seize “record amounts of fentanyl at our ports of entry” and “Expanding efforts to dismantle human smuggling networks.”  Perhaps the key emphasis in the EO, is, “President Biden is announcing that the Department of Homeland Security will take action to ensure that U.S. citizens with noncitizen spouses and children can keep their families together.”  A key provision and requirement is, in order to be eligible, noncitizens must – as of June 18, 2024 – have resided in the United States for 10 or more years and be legally married to a U.S. citizen, while satisfying all applicable legal requirements. On average, those who are eligible for this process have resided in the U.S. for 23 years.


With this Executive Order, and numerous other actions he has taken within established law (such as refugee and asylee laws), President Biden has demonstrated throughout his presidency his humanity, integrity, and concern for family unity. As we saw at the June 27 debate, Donald Trump’s blustery tirades might glimmer for an hour, but President Biden’s civilized and charitable actions will resonate and reverberate through the gift of family life.



Luis Torres, Ph.D., members of The Weekly Issue/El Semanario Advisory Board.