Canadian border
A U.S. border patrol agent stands along the border with Canada near Havre, Montana, November 20, 2015. As many as 93,000 Canadian nationals are estimated to live in the U.S. without legal permission after their visas expired, more than any other group of immigrant. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Canadians lead U.S. immigrants in unauthorized visa overstays, according to first-ever estimates from the Department of Homeland Security. Just under half of all immigrants in the country illegally are Mexican nationals, according to Pew Research. That share may decrease in the coming years, as Central American migrants to outpace Mexican in unauthorized land-based border crossings. But what about immigrants who come to the U.S. legally with a business, tourist or student visa? Most are from Canada, not Mexico, and more are from Germany than all Central American countries combined.

DHS now estimates 93,000 Canadian overstays, more than double the amount of Mexican overstays (42,000) and about the same as the combined total of South America America. Canada has a smaller population that Mexico and Latin America, so its citizens also have a higher rate of overstays in addition to just raw figures.

Those numbers irritated some, who reacted to the figures by suggesting an ethnic or nation-based hypocrisy in immigration enforcement. Canadians and Europeans make up only a fraction of the estimated 10.9 million immigrants in the U.S. illegally.

“ICE could fill #immigration prisons with Canadian or European migrants, but it doesn’t,” wrote immigration lawyer and blogger César Cuauhtémoc in a tweet.

The DHS estimates were produced after following an outcry from legislators who were trying to better understand temporary visas, which DHS calls “non-immigrant,” in January. At that time, the department reported that it did not know how many visa overstays there were, period.

The vast majority of immigration violations are committed by immigrants from developing countries in Latin America, Asia and Africa. Developing world immigrants make up the bulk of deportations, too. Yet the new estimates could raise new questions in the immigration debate, as the administration faces increasing pressure to track immigrants in the country legally.

For example, Canadian and European immigrants are not the most commonly undocumented, but they might be the easiest to identify. That’s because they’ve had to give up personal information, often including addresses in the U.S. in order to obtain a visa to begin with.

Should the the U.S. start focusing on Canadians and Europeans instead of Latinos? It might not be a reasonable question but it could lead to some interesting answers. Let us know what you think in the comments below.

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