Senator Dianne Feinstein of California has proposed the idea to suspend the visas of international students for six months, reports the Sacramento Bee, in order for immigration authorities to perform background checks on the students and establish a tracking system.
This proposal comes after it was learned that Hani Hanjour, a terrorist that was suspected to have been on the plane that crashed into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, entered the United States on a student visa. According to the Sacramento Bee, he said that he would be studying English in Oakland, but he had never enrolled.
Foreign students wishing to study in the United States must apply to their desired school from their home country. They then must apply for a visa at a United States embassy or consulate.
The state department is usually the entity that chooses if the visa should be issued. However, Feinstein believes that the Immigration and Naturalization Service should be involved in the process of screening the students.
According to the Sacramento Bee, Feinstein’s proposal would give $32.3 million to the INS to obtain a computer monitoring system that would track nearly 600,000 foreign students that are studying in the United States.
Overseas students on California’s college campuses agree that there is a need to tighten the visa process, however they think that the six-month time period “goes too far.”
Derya Akkaynak, a Turkish student studying aerospace engineering at the University of California at San Diego, told the Sacramento Bee: “I worked so hard to come here. The U.S. is a dream, especially for people from the Middle East.”
Other students seemed to understand the need for such restrictions. Mohamed El Fedawy, an engineering student from Egypt who is also attending UC at San Diego, said that the Visa program should not be eliminated. However, he agreed that strict restrictions are necessary, saying that “the program should do more research on the people who are submitting applications.”
“It might be difficult, but it would be better,” said Fedawy.
According to the Sacramento Bee, Senator Kit Bond of Missouri has said that he will also introduce legislation that would tighten Visa screening and “hold institutions more accountable for their foreign students at U.S. colleges and universities.”
These proposals come just as federal investigators are asking to review the records of foreign students on California campuses, and those on the campuses of other states as well.
The Sacramento Bee reports that college and university administrators are able to give the student’s records to investigators under the direction of the United States Department of Education. Legal opinion says students’ privacy protections can be violated for reasons of safety and health.
Colleen Bentley-Adler, spokeswoman for the 23-campus California State University system, told the Sacramento newspaper that thus far, investigators have obtained a list of “specific names of students who had some sort of connection to the terrorist attacks.” “We’re cooperating with the FBI and turning over the records,” said Bentley-Adler.