- The Washington Times - Monday, October 1, 2001

Proposed legislation that would temporarily bar visas from being granted to foreigners for study in the United States is "a prudent step," but doesn't go far enough, says one critic of U.S. immigration policies.
The proposal was made late last week by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat.
She said she was pushing for a six-month moratorium on granting foreign-student visas, but current international students would not be affected.
Mrs. Feinstein told the Associated Press: "The foreign student visa program is one of the most unregulated and exploited visa categories. This [proposal] may be controversial, but there has to be recognition that this is an unprecedented time in our country, and our national security depends on our system functioning to ensure that terrorists do not take advantage of the vulnerabilities in the student visa program."
Mark Krikorian, director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization, agrees.
He calls Mrs. Feinstein's idea wise, but adds: "The entire system for monitoring and managing foreign visitors is broken. And why is it that we grant visas to students from countries that sponsor terrorism? After all, we know that terrorists have entered the country on student visas."
Indeed, Mrs. Feinstein said she determined to act when she learned that Hani Hanjour, the accused hijacker and pilot of the jet that rammed into the Pentagon, entered this country on a foreign-student visa. Hanjour reportedly was granted entry after stating he would enroll at Holy Names College, a Catholic institution in Oakland, Calif. He never showed up at the school.
The process of admitting international students and tracking their stay in the United States has been an issue since it was learned that a foreign student was involved in the first bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993.
In 1996, Congress passed legislation that ordered the Immigration and Naturalization Service to create a program that requires schools to monitor international students. But colleges and universities objected. University administrators argued the legislation puts an undue burden on students and requires the schools to collect fees for the government a function that academics say is inappropriate.
Besides, university administrators admit, foreign students bring much-needed tuition. They are the financial mainstay of many U.S. master of arts and doctoral programs.
What's more, having foreign students is presumed to be a major advantage for the United States. It allows individuals from foreign nations to become acquainted with America, its people and its customs. Educators and immigration officials say the students educated here return home as goodwill ambassadors for the United States.
Faced with opposition, the INS has moved slowly even as immigration-reform advocates have argued for swift action. INS' critics say obtaining a student visa is just another way of dodging immigration restrictions because many of the students never return to their homelands.
In 1999, there were 567,146 foreign students in this country. They brought with them 36,641 spouses and children. There were also 275,519 so-called "exchange visitors" admitted largely in connection with education programs, and those visitors brought with them 43,841 of their kin, raising the total to 923,147.
Among the foreign students were 20 from Afghanistan, 400 from Iran, 36 from Iraq and 4,588 from Pakistan.
"Not huge numbers, but they have much meaning now. There should be some consequences for countries designated as state sponsors of terrorism," says Mr. Krikorian.
But Tom Myers, vice president for enrollment services at American University, says many students from such countries as Iraq have fled their nations and come to the United States from elsewhere. Moreover, he says, like other schools, American University does keep track of its international students. "We could easily report the data, but there's nowhere to report it. The INS hasn't set up a system."
For his part, David Ward, president of the American Council on Education, says he "has sympathy for Mrs. Feinstein's motive," but has concluded that acting against just 2 percent of the nation's visitors "is not the way to go."

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