As questions arise about the future of President Donald Trump's hotly-contested border wall, some critics are pointing to a different figure just released by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
On Monday, the DHS announced that, over the course of 2016, illegal immigration grew by almost 740,000 people — a number that Fox News notes is “more than the population of Alaska.”
As critics have pointed out, the president's proposed border wall would, in fact, do very little to stem this particular six-figure number, as it's all the result of one source: foreigners simply overstaying their U.S. visas.
According to the report, 739,478 people — all of whom entered the U.S. legally via either plane or ship — overstayed their visas between October 2015 and September 2016.
Though this new figure marks an increase of roughly 200,000 people from the 12-month period before that, it should be noted that the most recent DHS report expanded to include both students and foreign exchange visitors who have overstayed their visas, rather than strictly tourists and business travelers.
In what may come as a surprise, Canadians were among the largest percentages of this nearly 740,000, as well as Mexico, Brazil, China, and India.
An often-overlooked group in immigration debates, the Associated Press notes that “an estimated 40 percent of the roughly 11 million people in the United States illegally have overstayed their visas,” as opposed to, say, walking across the border illegally.
For what it's worth, the total number of visa overstays is reportedly “much larger” than 740,000, “but has not been quantified because the statistic doesn't include how many people leave by land.”
While Trump's proposed border wall wouldn't really prevent individuals from simply failing to leave the U.S. once their visas expire, ABC News points out that another one of his proposals would:
Trump vowed during last year's campaign to finish building a system to record when visitors leave the country by using biometric identifiers, like facial or iris scans, but he has focused much of his attention on building a wall and hiring more border agents.
For comparison, the number of people who overstayed their visas last year is significantly larger than another key figure in the illegal immigration debate — the number of individuals caught crossing the border illegally.
According to the U.S. Border Patrol, 415,816 individuals were apprehended at the border between October 2015 and September 2016, the same time period that saw nearly 740,000 people remain in the U.S. despite the expiration of their visas.