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Trump’s crackdown on visa overstays targets mostly African, Asian nations

President Donald Trump’s order to crack down on visa overstays will target mostly African and Asian nations. The effort will deal with only about 12% of foreigners who legally enter the U.S. on short-term visas but remain in the country after that visa has expired.

Trump on Monday ordered the secretaries of State and Homeland Security to develop plans to crack down on countries whose citizens overstay their visas, a long-term problem that is now the biggest driver of illegal immigration into the United States. In 2018, more than 569,000 foreigners overstayed their visas, according to Homeland Security data.

Trump ordered Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan to implement a series of punishments for countries whose citizens overstay their tourist and business visas more than 10% of the time. Those punishments can include limiting the number of people who can travel to the U.S. from any one country, requiring foreign travelers to post “admission bonds” that would be repaid once they leave the country and requesting more documents from foreigners seeking visas.

The countries that could be targeted by the president’s order include 21 countries, mostly in Africa and Asia. Under the guidelines set out by Trump on Monday, these countries could also face sanctions because their citizens overstayed their U.S. visas in 2018, according to Homeland Security data.

The region facing the most potential impact is Africa, with Nigeria being the biggest target. Another six countries on the list are located in Asia, and include Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen. Rounding out the list are the island nations of Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia.

Trump’s method punishes small countries. The president could have chosen to punish countries where the largest numbers of total visa overstays came from, such as Brazil, China, India and France. However, Trump chose to target countries where the overstay rate — not the total number of people who overstayed their visas — was high. That means Brazil, China, India and France will not be affected by Trump’s order since their citizens’ combined overstay rate was 0.9%.

But smaller countries like Bhutan, a mountainous nation squeezed between China and India, could face sanctions since 46 of 398 of its people who traveled to the U.S. in 2018 overstayed their visas, a rate of 13.1%.
Critics say it’s no coincidence that the Trump administration chose a method that punishes mostly African and Asian countries and spares European countries and other U.S. allies.

“This is Stephen Miller’s way of operationalizing his immigration strategy to ‘make America White again’ by covering his tracks with data to disguise the underlying White nationalist objectives of the policy,” said Douglas Rivlin, director of communications for America’s Voice, an immigration advocacy group, said of the president’s immigration adviser.

Foreign students not targeted. Trump made clear that he would focus his order on foreigners traveling on a B1 visa used by business travelers or a B2 visa used by tourists. But Homeland Security data show that foreigners traveling on student visas, research visas, and cultural exchange visas are more likely to overstay their visas.
In 2018, of the 1,840,482 foreigners who entered the country on those visas, 2.1% stayed past their expiration date. In the same year, of the 15,257,468 foreigners who entered the country on business or tourist visas, 1.9% overstayed.

The full list of countries whose citizens overstayed their U.S. tourist and business visas more than 10% of the time in 2018 were: Afghanistan, Angola, Bhutan, Burundi, Cabo Verde, Chad, Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Georgia, Laos, Liberia, Mauritania, Federated States of Micronesia, Nigeria, Palau, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

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