May 09, 2013
The recent tragic bombings at the Boston Marathon, signifying yet another senseless act of violence and loss of innocent lives has spawned a wave of anti-immigration sentiments, in particular concerning student “visas.” According to the online blog Politico: last Wednesday on Fox News, Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio said “student visas are not a right…that the nation needed to be open to changes that provided more security…I don’t like profiling anybody, I don’t like singling out anybody or generalizing anything. On the other hand student visas are not a right. Student visas are something this country does out of generosity, student visas are something this country does because we figured out it’s in our national interest, but you don’t have a right to a student visa. Therefore we can place whatever restrictions we want on student visas.”
Before we demonize all international students and even the process by which student visas are issued and tracked, we need to be reminded that we already have an effective system in place known as SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System), the Homeland Security database, that was created after the attacks of September 11, 2001. According to Chuck Olcese, the director of international student services at the University of Kansas: “international students are actually watched more closely than other people visiting the country…the student visa system is the most-watched system in the immigration process.” http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2013/may/03/ku-other-universities-monitor-status-international/
One of the three 19-year old men, Azamat Tazhayakov, charged last week with interfering with the investigation into last month’s bombing was admitted back into the U.S. in January without a valid student visa. Turns out that the visa for Tazhayakov had been terminated since he’d withdrawn from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. This information had been reported by the University and Tazhayakov’s status had been updated in the SEVIS database. Had the border agent at the airport checked the SEVIS database, he/she would have seen that Tazahayakov did not have a valid student visa and could have denied him/her entry, but the agent did not have access to the SEVIS database. Under existing procedures, border agents can verify a student’s vista status through SEVIS only when the person is referred to a second officer for additional questioning or inspection, “U.S. to tighten border checks on foreign students”. Having acknowledged the glitch in the procedure, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection has ordered that all border agents must have access to SEVIS by this week.
Creating more stringent requirements on granting visas to international students, as declared by Senator Rubio, is not the answer. Due diligence is already being carried out by the U.S. institutions admitting these students. Clearly, the SEVIS database is populated with invaluable information; it is access to this information that hindered the apprehension of Tazahayakov when he arrived on U.S. soil in January. Hopefully now that all border agents have been given authorized access to SEVIS, the likes of radicals like Tazahayakov can be stopped and denied entry before they can wreak havoc.
For more on this breaking new policy check out this piece: “US orders new visa reviews for arriving students”
The Frustrated Evaluator