About 40 percent of illegal immigrants in the United States have overstayed their tourist, education, or work visas, according to The Wall Street Journal
The government estimates that there are around four-to-five million so-called overstayers out of the more than 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. today. While little is known about their whereabouts, studies indicate they tend to be better educated and more fluent in English than people who cross the nation's border illegally, the Journal reported Monday.
Overstayers on average have 13.2 years of education compared with 9.4 years for those who crossed the border illegally, according to a study from the Public Policy Institute of California that was cited by the Journal.
The bipartisan Senate group working on a comprehensive immigration reform plan has been wrestling with how to provide a pathway to citizenship for the different types of illegal immigrants and workers, regardless of whether they came here on a visa or simply walked across the border. Many of those who arrived with visas in hand could likely end up with a legal job if reform legislation includes an expansion of the H-1B visa program, which allows highly-skilled workers into the U.S. for jobs that often can't readily be filled by U.S. workers.
"Visa overstayers would benefit more from a legalization program," Madeleine Sumption, a senior policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, told the Journal. "They have higher levels of skills but are being held back by their legal status."
But Americans in general may be less sympathetic to the plight of overstayers than lawmakers trying to work out a legal status for them. According to a recent Rasmussen poll, 55 percent of likely voters would like to see people who overstayed their visas sent home.
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