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[Congressional Record: December 19, 2001 (Extensions)]
[Page E2323-E2324]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access []
                             STUDENT VISAS
                           HON. GEORGE MILLER

                             of california

                    in the house of representatives

                       Tuesday, December 18, 2001

  Mr. GEORGE MILLER of California. Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of 
the International Student Responsibility Act, which I am introducing 
  Each year, over 500,000 international students enter the United 
States to study at our colleges, universities, and trade schools. The 
vast majority of these students contributes to the intellectual 
achievements of our universities, promotes understanding across 
cultures, and acquires an appreciation for the American values of 
freedom and democracy.
  I am troubled, however, that the poor administration of the student 
visa program has become a threat to national security. At least one of 
the September 11th hijackers entered the country on a student visas, as 
did one of the 1993 World Trade Center bombers. Last year, a 
congressional commission on terrorism concluded that national security 
requires tighter monitoring of the status of foreign students.
  On October 31, 2001, two subcommittees of the Committee on Education 
and the Workforce held a hearing on the student visa program. We 
discovered some gaping loopholes.
  For example, all the information in student visa applications is 
reported by the international student. There is no due diligence 
requirement from home countries to ensure that this information is 
accurate and that the student is trustworthy.
  Second, the State Department does not notify the college when a visa 
is granted, nor does the Immigration and Naturalization Service 
promptly notify the college when the student enters the country. The 
last contact the college had with the student may have been granting 
admission. If the student enters the country but doesn't show up on 
campus, neither the college nor the INS may know anything went wrong 
for a year or longer.
  Third, the INS is lagging behind schedule implementing the Illegal 
Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, which 
requires data collection on international students' enrollment status 
and current address. Without that database, the INS does not know when 
an international student graduates or drops out. Nor has the INS 
established a database to track foreign visitors' entry and exit from 
the country, so the INS does not know how many students stay in the 
country after completing their studies.
  I would like to include for the record a recent editorial from the 
Contra Costa Times, which draws sound, sensible conclusions on this 
issue. As the editorial notes, ``One of the easiest, albeit illegal, 
ways to get into the United States and stay here indefinitely is 
through student visas. . . With America's heightened awareness of the 
need for secure borders and internal security, we no longer can afford 
to ignore student visa requirements.''
  Like many Americans, I value the attendance of international students 
at our colleges and universities, but we should make sure they follow 
the rules. The databases mandated by the 1996 law, but not yet 
implemented, are a good place to start. The International Student 
Responsibility Act gives the INS additional resources to implement them 
as quickly as possible. It also authorizes to funding to ensure that 
the databases are not a paper exercise, but are used aggressively as 
the basis for investigations and, if appropriate, deportations.
  The Act also adds new procedures to address current law's 
shortcomings. It requires the INS to notify colleges with 10 days when 
their students enter the country, and requires colleges to promptly 
notify the INS is any of their students fail to enroll. It creates an 
incentive for international students to comply with the law by 
withholding their transcripts and diplomas until they return home or 
extend their stay in the U.S. legally.
  Finally, the best protection against potential terrorists is to 
prevent them from entering the U.S. at all. The Act requires the 
Department of State to ask international students' home countries 
whether the students are known criminals or terrorists before granting 
the visas. It also requires heightened scrutiny of students from 
countries that are state sponsors of terrorism.
  We must strive to keep America as open as possible to foreign 
students, but also to ensure that we have closed the gaping loopholes 
in the student visa program that make our country more vulnerable to 
terrorism. I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting this important 

              [From the Contra Costa Times, Nov. 23, 2001]

                         Control Student Visas

       One of the easiest ways, albeit illegal, to get into the 
     United States and stay here in definitely is through student 
     visas. The visas are issued for full-time students for a 
     specified time. Yet students often stay in the country well 
     past the visas' expiration dates with impunity. This 
     situation must not continue for students or anyone else who 
     received a visa to come to the United States.
       That does not mean this country has to close its doors to 
     foreign students or other wishing to work in or visit the 
     United States. It certainly does not mean the United States 
     should place a six-month moratorium on all student visas, as 
     Sen. Dianne Feinstein has proposed. It does mean the 
     Immigration and Naturalization Service is going to have to do 
     a far better job of controlling visas and keeping track of 
     everyone with a visa who enters this country.
       Those who are here past the expiration dates on their visas 
     should be deported. However, it also should not be such an 
     onerous burden for visa holders, particularly students, to 
     get their visas properly renewed before they expire as long 
     as the person continues full-time studies in this country and 
     is law-abiding.
       With America's heightened awareness of the need for secure 
     borders and internal security, we no longer can afford to 
     ignore student visa requirements. Nor can we grant visas to 
     anyone without closer scrutiny of his or her background.
       Of particular concern are students from countries with a 
     record of harboring terrorists who are seeking visas. The 
     list of such countries is short, but includes several nations 
     in the Middle East, where much of the world's international 
     terrorism is bred.
       It is critical that those seeking visas from such nations 
     receive extensive background checks before they enter the 
     United States. Some may see this as racial profiling. It is 
     actually nation profiling, and it is necessary for public 
     security. Thorough background checks need not prevent the 
     United States from accepting large numbers of foreign 
     students, even from countries where terrorism is a problem.

[[Page E2324]]

       It simply means that the United States must enforce its 
     visa laws to reduce the chance of terrorism and to get a 
     better grip on controlling its borders.
       To accomplish this goal in a humane manner, the INS is 
     going to have to increase its work force so that those 
     wishing to spend extended periods of time in the United 
     States are carefully screened, are easily able to renew visas 
     for legitimate purposes and are deported when they violate 
     the terms of their visas.


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