The first, most important dynamic is where you’re from. Only 39 countries are part of what’s called the VISA Wavier Program. These are countries with which it’s citizens may fly into the US without an approved VISA. Notably, Canada and Chile are the only countries in North, Central or South America which have these exceptions. Therefore, the migrants who’ve been flooding our southern border including those who are trying use smugglers to gain access, wouldn’t simply be able to hop on a plane to “go missing” within the US.
The VISA process for visitors is called the B-2 VISA. An application for the VISA must be made to the US State Department and approved prior to the issuance to be cleared for travel to the US. There is scrutiny regarding the specific reason(s) cited for the VISA requests including where they’ll stay, where they intend to go, etc. It’s a real process that isn’t guaranteed to be successful and the process requires upfront costs to attempt.
Then there’s the other consideration for those who’d attempt to obtain a VISA specifically for the purpose of illegal immigration. There's a record of them with the federal government. Those realities are generally enough to discourage illegal immigration through the B-2 VISA process. The most common VISA which is overstayed are those for education and professional purposes (B-1 VISAs).
Simply put, it’s not as easy as hoping on a plane and getting lost in the US for those whose pure purpose is to permanently gain illegal entry circumventing the legal US immigration process. That’s why the cartels seemingly maintain a steady demand for smuggling.
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