MIA case highlights overstays on tourist visas

A Honduran traveler who presented his passport and a U.S. tourist visa upon arrival at Miami International Airport was arrested when immigration officials discovered he had previously overstayed his six-month visa by more than two years.

Ilson Armando Rodríguez, 41, was indicted and pleaded not guilty to charges of forgery or false use of passport on Aug. 26, but two days later changed his plea to guilty. Soon after, he was sentenced to time served and turned over to immigration authorities for deportation proceedings.

Though Rodríguez’s passage through the federal legal system in Miami was quick, his visa overstay from 2009 to 2011 is one of the most common ways for foreign nationals to become undocumented immigrants in the United States. At least 40 percent of the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States entered the country legally with a tourist visa, like Rodríguez.

GOP focus

The issue is now part of the immigration debate among some of the 17 Republican presidential candidates.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has said that perhaps FedEx executives can help the U.S. government track foreign visitors like they track packages so they don’t overstay.

“I’m going to have Fred Smith, the founder of FexEx, come work for the government for three months,” Christie said last month at a town hall meeting in New Hampshire. “Just come for three months to Immigration and Customs Enforcement and show these people.”

Elaborating, to the laughter and applause of the audience, Christie also said: “We need to have a system that tracks you from the moment you come in and then when your time is up. However long your visa is. Then we go get you and tap you on the shoulder and say ‘Excuse me, it’s time to go.’ 

Similar tack

Jeb Bush took a similar tack while addressing a convention of auto dealers earlier in the year.

“Forty percent of the people that have come here illegally came with a legal visa and overstayed their bounds,” Bush said. “We ought to be able to figure out where they are and politely ask them to leave.”

In his immigration plan, Republican frontrunner Donald Trump proposes imposing criminal penalties against foreign visitors who overstay their visas.

“This is a threat to national security,” Trump says in his plan, which is available on his official website.

Rodríguez, for his part, is now awaiting possible deportation after pleading guilty and being sentenced to time served.