Americans are divided over the question whether the construction of a wall on the border with Mexico will curb illegal immigration
. A study published yesterday shed light on an aspect that few arguing about border protection seem to be considering: More people become illegal aliens in the U.S. by overstaying their visas than by crossing a border illegally. The study by the Center for Migration Studies
estimates that in 2016 320,000 people overstayed their visas while 190,000 entered illegally. Roughly two thirds of Mexicans who became illegal aliens in the U.S. crossed the border illegally.
The prevalence of the different modes of illegal immigration has been changing in the last two decades. In the year 2000 400,000 illegal aliens had come across the border and only 225,000 had overstayed their visa, according to another report by the CMS
. The trend reversed in 2007 and by 2013, 250,000 had overstayed while 140,000 had come across the border illegally.
The Center for Migration Studies also clarifies in their reports that while the number of people losing legal status within a year might be quite high, people leave that population as well, for example by remigrating, marrying or applying and qualifying for legal status. In recent years, the number of illegal migrants living in the U.S. has actually decreased from 12.2 million in 2007 to 10.7 million in 2016 according to the Pew Research Center.