An Immigration and Customs Enforcement official told Congress on Tuesday that immigrants who overstay their visas are rarely caught because the agency doesn't have the manpower or information to track them all down, The Washington Times reports.
"We utilize our prioritization scheme along with the resources that we have," said Craig Healy, ICE's assistant director for national security investigations.
According to the Times, at least 480,000 immigrants overstayed their visas in 2015. The total backlog is estimated at 5 million.
Only 10,000 investigations were made, however, and fewer than 2,000 were arrested. The rest are not considered priority targets, the Times reports.
Some members of Congress who heard Healy's testimony said more should be done to prevent the overstays, since such moves can be used by terrorists. Some of the 9/11 hijackers had overstayed their visas.
"By deporting such a small percentage of the visa overstayers, the message they are sending wide and far is just get into the country, if you're not convicted of a serious crime, [and] you're going to be allowed to stay. You’re gonna pass go; you’re gonna get the money," said Texas Republican Rep. Lamar Smith. "That is the wrong message to send because it increases more illegal immigration."
Most visa overstays were by Canadians, followed by Mexico, Brazil, Germany and Italy, according to the Pew Research Center said.
Visa overstays overall are treated with less scrutiny than illegal border crossers since they were vetted before receiving their visas.
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