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Student Visa System 'Fraudulent,' Says Group By Michael Betsch Editorial Assistant October 11, 2001

( -- At least 16 of the 19 terrorists who hijacked the four commercial airplanes used to destroy the World Trade Center and damage the Pentagon entered the U.S. with student and tourist visas that expired before September 11, 2001.

This failure to enforce immigration policy has prompted calls to revise the system that permitted the terrorists to remain in the United States while they plotted their actions.

At any given time, there are approximately 600,000 foreign students on U.S. soil. These students have been issued visas under the legal requirement that they pursue academic studies at U.S. institutions of higher learning.

"It's a total fraudulent system," said Roy Beck, the executive director of Numbers USA, a public policy group in Washington that studies the effect of immigration on the environment, quality of life and labor force.

Beck said a student visa is basically "a card that tells student-age people all around the world that you can come to the United States using a student visa and it doesn't matter whether you ever go to school, it doesn't matter if you ever go back home.

"There's absolutely no protection for the Americans in it - and there's no integrity in it," Beck said of the current visa application system.

On Sept. 27, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) proposed a six-month moratorium on the entry of any foreign student into the U.S. until a comprehensive electronic tracking system is in place. However, a little more than a week after proposing the moratorium, Feinstein backed away from the idea in favor of a joint monitoring effort between Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) officials and administrators at colleges and universities nationwide.

Beck believes Feinstein's change of heart was due to the economic effect the moratorium would have had on colleges and universities in the U.S., especially those in her home state of California.

"There's no question that these colleges and universities would lose millions and millions of dollars," Beck said of the prospect of losing tuition fees for the nearly 600,000 foreign students who attend U.S. schools.

"She was just totally beaten up," Beck said of the "incredible pressure" that colleges and universities placed on Feinstein to back away from the student visa moratorium.

But, according to Feinstein spokesperson Scott Gerber, the senator met with several university administrators and each "signed a pledge to work together to make our student visa system more effective."

College and university administrators nationwide are failing to see the big picture, even in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, Beck noted. "The student age group, worldwide, including the United States, is one of the most dangerous age groups. It is the most dangerous age group," he said.

Beck believes Feinstein's current suggestion of teaming the INS with college and university administrators is "very simple," but can be effective.

Feinstein has proposed that foreigners "who come with student visas have to be who they say they are," Beck explained, "which means they have to be fingerprinted. And, when they come into the country, you check their fingerprints and when they check into the school you check their fingerprints."

Beck noted that Feinstein "would have the schools report on them (foreign students) at least every quarter." He added that if they "don't check in the school, the computer system will know and they'll be on the lookout for them to get them out of the country.

"It's pretty exceptional," Beck said of the current efforts being made to curtail the illegal entry of foreigners into the U.S. "The Senate has had nobody championing security in terms of illegal immigration since 1996," he concluded.

-- K (, October 11, 2001

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