The media coverage of immigration enforcement tends to fixate on the southern border to the exclusion of discussions of interior enforcement or an acknowledgement that the U.S. has more than one border. A story in the Boston Globe by Maria Sacchetti on April 10 was an exception. She hits two points that are rarely mentioned in media coverage.
First, the problem of the jobs magnet drawing undocumented workers. Sacchetti noted:
Still, some say that measures needed to control illegal immigration are not in place — measures such as a nationwide system for employers to check workers’ immigration status, more frequent audits of companies that hire unauthorized workers, and a fingerprint system to track people who overstay visas. According to a 2006 Pew Hispanic Center report, visa overstayers and other legally admitted visitors accounted for as many as 50 percent of immigrants here illegally.
What is remarkable about this passage is the discussion of interior enforcement, enforcement that takes place far from the nation's southern border with Mexico. This aspect of reporting about "the border" usually goes missing. There is also an acknowledgment that the undocumented population in the U.S. does not just consist of border crossers from the south and in fact many temporary immigrants from around the world arrive with visas that then expire and become undocumented that way. Further in the article, Sacchetti writes:
Tracking people who overstay their visas is another challenge. The 9/11 Commission recommended that Homeland Security create a biometric entry-exit system to track visitors after the 2001 attacks revealed that some of the airplane hijackers had overstayed their visas. But almost nine years after the report, the program’s cost and timeline remain unclear.
And this is really a huge part of the enforcement problem that is under-reported and under-discussed by policy makers--interior enforcement. Given estimates of 40-50% of the current undocumented population is from visa overstays rather than border crossings from the southern border, any forthcoming legislation that purports to be comprehensive in any way must address the issue of a) a better verification system and b) how better to track persons who enter on temporary visas.