Whatever their politics--whether left-wing liberal, right-wing conservative, or Trump idiot--most people, including your not-so-humble correspondent, would agree that keeping track of visa holders in the United States would be a good idea--sort of a basic element of the whole visa system. After all, if a country can't keep track of who has overstayed a visa, it kind of defeats the purpose of issuing the documents in the first place. I was surprised, therefore, to read this morning that the Department of Homeland Security has no idea how many people with expired visas remain in the US. And this despite the fact that Congress mandated such a tracking system over twenty years ago.
This is by no means to suggest that people who overstay visas do so for nefarious reasons. I'm sure the vast majority of such visitors are gainfully employed or pursuing higher education or just happily backpacking across the Appalachians. What I don't understand is why this is apparently such a difficult mechanism to create. When someone enters the country on a visa, I assume this information is entered into some kind of database. It seems to me that a tracking system could basically consist of a large Excel file: Visitor's name, date of entry, date of visa expiration, and--I don't know--ideal first date. Don't tell me that this technology doesn't exist. If Amazon can keep track of the fact that I once clicked on a Hello Kitty foot massager (by accident, I swear!), then the Department of Homeland Security can keep track of who legally comes into and goes out of the country!
In fact, the technology does exist. The main sticking point--or one of them, anyway--is that building the necessary infrastructure would cost about $3 billion, and the airline industry has balked at picking up the cost. Of course, considering the fact that $3 billion is a rounding error in the federal budget--and that politicians never miss an opportunity to pontificate on the threat of terrorism--one would humbly suggest that the Feds could just build the system themselves. But that would require an embrace of common sense seldom seen at the national governmental level.