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DHS: More than 700,000 foreigners overstayed US visas last year

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According to a new analysis from the Department of Homeland Security, more than 700,000 foreigners overstayed their visas in 2016. (2015 file photo/Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Nearly 740,000 foreigners who legally entered the U.S.  overstayed their visas and remained in the country at the end of 2016, the Department of Homeland Security reported Monday.

Those visa overstays — a total of 739,478 — represented only 1.47 percent of the more than 50 million visitors who arrived in the U.S. through the country’s airports and seaports, and were expected to leave last year, the DHS reported. The government’s analysis does not account for those who arrived in the U.S. through a ground or vehicular point of entry.

According to government estimates, foreigners remaining in the country after their visa expired make up close to half — 40 percent — of the United States’ illegal population, which is estimated to be somewhere near 11 million people.

During his campaign for president, Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio highlighted the issue of visa overstays, telling Fox News’ “Fox & Friends” in 2015: “We have a porous border, meaning not just the border with Mexico, but 40 percent of people in this country, illegally, are overstaying visas.”

Homeland Security started collecting data on visa overstays in 2015, making this latest report the agency’s second analysis of the issue. In the report released Monday, the department said it maintains a database of arrival and departure information for all foreign nationals and sends a daily updated list of people who overstay their visas to Customs and Border Protection, which is tasked with enforcing the nation’s immigration laws.

“Identifying overstays is important for national security, public safety, immigration enforcement, and processing applications for immigration benefits,” the new report said. “[D]HS will continue to annually and publicly release this overstay data, and looks forward to providing updates to congressional members and their staff on its ongoing progress.”

Of the approximately 45 million foreigners in the U.S. whose visas expired in 2015, roughly 416,500 remained in the country illegally. However, between the two reports, the DHS changed the visa categories it used to calculate the number of overstayed visas, so the total number of overstays cannot be compared.

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