[Congressional Record: December 19, 2001 (Extensions)]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
HON. GEORGE MILLER
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
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.
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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