Numbers paint a different picture. The US Department of Homeland Security's May 22 report on illegal immigrants might have shed a different outcome from the usual stereotype. For years Mexicans have been tagged as the USA's most predominant trespassers, but a publicly released statistic by the agency prove that wrong. It appears that people who enter the country legally from airports and seaports are more of a concern.

In the report, the Department of Homeland Security attempted to count individuals that overstayed their visas in fiscal 2016. Interestingly, it tells a different story compared to those who jump over the US-Mexican border. Collectively in 2016, 630,000 visitors from foreign countries failed to leave the USA, a number that is bigger than the 415,000 individuals that tried to go over the border in the same period.

Numbers paint a different picture

In the same statistical report from the agency, Canadians were the biggest group of violators, not the USA's Latin American neighbors. The records show that about 120,000 Canadians stayed in the country illegally despite having expired visas compared to 47,000 Mexican immigrants.

Homeland Security's report is the second time the government released illegal immigrant data.

The first report came in January 2016 under the Obama administration for the fiscal year 2015. Surprisingly, during that period, they were only about 480,000 recorded overstays, the latest statistic on illegal immigrants has risen to about 25 percent.

Data, not 100 percent accurate

The data represents a snapshot of everyone who has visited and spent their approved sojourn, even to those who have only overstayed by one day.

But according to a report from Quartz, this figure can be misleading since many of these individuals could have gone back to their respective countries.

For instance, of more than the 50 million foreigners that have expired visas and are required to leave the US in fiscal 2016, 740,000 overstayed. However, around 110,000 individuals left by the end of the year, followed by 84,000 by January 2017. The numbers are often confusing, with the final count of illegal overstayers to less than 550,000.

Apparently, there is also another flaw in the statistic because it only included travellers that entered and left the country via a plane or a boat. Canadians and Mexicans that travelled by land were not part of the list. Moreover, the incomplete nature of the data speaks to the US Immigration's problem of tracking individuals that have already left the country. Homeland Security officials have been working to improve the monitoring system for years, but it appears that it still lags behind new technologies.

Bigger problem

Currently, Homeland Security is trying to set up a system that would help identify departing travellers without biometric technology after the US Congress mandated it more than ten years ago. It costs around $100 million a year, but Donald Trump's plan of setting up a border wall might cost even more.

The most alarming fact might have come from legal travellers, as found in the numbers, more people are overstaying and living in the US illegally via airports and seaports. The numbers do paint a different picture, and it is quite complicated from what we previously believed.

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