US Fails to Make Sure Foreign Visitors Leave

Dallas bomb plot highlights thousands who overstay visas
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 12, 2009 8:38 AM CDT
Ahmad Al-Shrmany is interviewed at the Immigration & Customs Enforcement processing center in Houston. Al-Shrmany, who fled Saddam's Iraq, spent 16 months in jail for overstaying his vistor's visa.   (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)
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(Newser) – Hosam Maher Husein Smadi came to the US legally on a tourism visa. But the 19-year-old Jordanian stayed after it had expired and then, allegedly, tried to blow up a Dallas skyscraper. That case has sparked calls from both parties for a better system for tracking foreign visitors, the New York Times reports, not just when they enter the country, but when and if they leave. Congressmen want a universal electronic exit monitoring system, which would identify visitors who’d overstayed their welcome.

Republican Lamar Smith says the Smadi case “points to a real need for an entry and exit system if we are serious about reducing illegal immigration,” and Chuck Schumer says he’ll steer stimulus money toward it. But Homeland Security says the system would be a costly logistical nightmare, potentially clogging trade and hurting border cities. “You can’t ask the immigration system to do everything,” says one migration researcher.