Visa Exit System Could Prove to be Vital for National Security and Visa Control

Immigration reform is not just about Mexicans. It encompasses those from other countries as well.

It’s no secret that there are other immigrants living in the U.S., and some of them are here even after their B2 tourism visa expires. Does anyone recall the latest story about a Moroccan immigrant plotting to bomb the Capitol? The 29-year-old man was living in Virginia, where he had been since 1999, and where he supposedly devised a plan to blow up the White House.

For those of you wondering how this could possibly happen, the bad news is the U.S. does not have any kind of a reliable system that confirms visitors here on visas have left the country. The very thought of a mass of illegal immigrants, and possibly terrorists, still living in the U.S. once their visas have expired, makes one tense.

And to be honest, it makes many Americans very uneasy in the still bitter wake of 9/11. We all know that those with less than honest intentions have been known to take advantage of serious weaknesses in the immigration system. Unless something is done about issues like this one, history may repeat itself in yet another devastating way.

Is it time for a visa exit system? Some would argue it is. Some would argue there is no money to implement one. Both of those arguments are right, which makes this issue yet another conundrum involving the reality of what needs to be done, mixed with the reality that there are no funds (or political will) to make it happen. There is talk of biometric scanners or mandatory follow-up inspections. Who would conduct those? Most people are losing their jobs and few are hiring because of the economy, and that includes the government.

Homeland Security is making noises that they are working on an exit system, but funding is an issue and it is nowhere near being ready to deploy. This is a bit like a car sitting in mud and gravel, spinning its tires to get out and getting nowhere. A tow truck is needed to provide some oomph to move it. In this case, the government needs money to move the issue forward. Obviously it isn’t going anywhere, given the state of their finances. And so, the issue dangles, or does it?

Homeland Security says they have, in lieu of an exit system, created a biographic system that tracks visa holders through multiple databases, providing immigration officials with a picture of where people are. Sounds nice, but we all know that a data system is only as good as the input and those who run it. This kind of a system does not work the same as a biometric one, but Homeland Security says it gives them some kind of control. One wonders if they had enough money to develop the biographic system, why didn’t they sink those funds into a biometric system instead?

Standing back and taking a look at the whole picture, one is struck by the mayhem and mismanagement going on all over the world. We did not used to live in fear of airplanes hitting buildings, of people packing body bombs to take out buildings and kill people. We had a fairly normal life, where peace and tranquility were the norm, not the exception. What happened? Somewhere along the line religion and politics got mixed together and a flash point was born; a reason to kill.

Will immigration reform deal with the way the world is now? Will immigration reform take care of border security issues when drug cartels want nothing more than revenge and money? Will immigration reform turn our nation into a bunker? Will immigration reform affect our constitutional rights? Food for thought. The 21st century isn’t shaping up to be what we’d all hoped it might be.

Sally Odell – Rifkin & Fox-Isicoff, PA is an immigration lawyer in Miami with immigration law offices in Orlando and Miami Florida. To learn more, visit

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