By Mrs. HUTCHISON (for herself, Mr. Levin, Mr. Bingaman, Mr.
Domenici, Mr. Murkowski and Ms. Cantwell):
S. 2742. A bill to establish new nonimmigrant classes for border
commuter students; to the Committee on the Judiciary.
Mr. LEVIN. Mr. President, I am pleased to join my colleague from
Texas, Senator Hutchison, in introducing legislation to make part-time
commuter students who are nationals of either Canada or Mexico and
attend school in the United States eligible for student visas.
Thousands of Canadian nationals commute to attend schools part time
in the United States and hundreds of these part-time students commute
to schools in Michigan. Between 35 and 40 part-time Canadian students
attend Baker College, in Port Huron, MI, each semester. And more than
400 Canadian students plan to attend Wayne State University in Detroit
part time this fall alone. Other schools in Michigan, including Lake
Superior State University in Sault Saint Marie, also have a number of
part-time Canadian students. Unfortunately, current law does not
establish an appropriate visa for these part-time commuter students.
Under the Immigration and Naturalization Act, aliens who reside in a
foreign country and are pursuing a full course of study from a
recognized vocational institution or an established college,
university, or other academic institution in the United States are
eligible for student visas. For purposes of granting student visas, the
INS defines ``full course of study'' as 12 credits or more. Part-time
commuter students, those who might be only taking a class or two, are
not currently eligible for student visas.
However, some INS district offices have permitted part-time commuter
students to enter the United States as visitors to pursue their
studies. However, the INS recently announced its intention to eliminate
this practice and enforce the full time, 12 credit hour requirement.
I agree with the INS that we need to tighten up enforcement of our
immigration laws. However, achieving this goal does not mean that we
have to prohibit all part-time commuter students from attending classes
at schools in the United States. But absent a legislative remedy, that
is exactly what will happen. Fortunately, the agency recently postponed
enforcement of the policy until August 15, 2002, while administrative
and legislative remedies are considered. The legislation we are
introducing today appropriately addresses the problem facing part-time
commuter students without opening new avenues for illegal immigration.
Our bill would amend 18 U.S.C. 1101 to make certain part-time
commuter students eligible for student visas. The bill would allow
nationals of Canada or Mexico who both maintain a residence and a place
of abode in their country or nationality and who commute to school to
enroll part time in schools in the United States. Part-time commuter
student visas are restricted to nationals of Canada or Mexico. Our bill
would not make political asylees, residents, or others who are
nationals of third countries but simply live in Canada or Mexico
eligible for the visas.
The legislation also enhances national security by ensuring that
part-time commuter students are tracked through SEVIS, the Student and
Exchange Visitor Information System. SEVIS was set up to make the
Federal Government aware of changes in a foreign student's status that
could affect their eligibility to remain in the United States. The
Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act passed by the Senate
in April and signed into law by the President on May 14, 2002, paved
the way for full implementation of SEVIS. Certain schools began
participating in a SEVIS this month and participation is mandatory by
January 30, 2003. However, SEVIS only tracks nonimmigrant students and
exchange visitors. Aliens admitted with visitor visas are not tracked
through the system. Our bill will, for the first time, ensure that
part-time commuter students from
Canada and Mexico are tracked through SEVIS.
Mr. President, the legislation we are introducing today is not only
an improvement on current INS policy with regards to part-time commuter
students but it closes an important loophole in INS's student tracking
system. I am pleased to join Senator Hutchinson in introducing the bill
and I look forward to seeing it pass the 107th Congress.
Border Commuter Student Act of 2002
Ms. CANTWELL. Mr. President, I am joining today with Senator Kay
Bailey Hutchison to introduce the Border Commuter Student Act of 2002.
In my State and many other States along our borders, Canadian and
Mexican students take advantage of our excellent community colleges and
vocational schools. For many years, this system has worked well,
providing economic benefits to the schools and to the surrounding
communities while also helping Mexican and Canadian students to benefit
from educational opportunities in this country.
Unfortunately, despite the fact that this is a system that has worked
well for both Canadian students and the local communities the
Immigration and Naturalization, INS, recently decided to begin
enforcing a 50-year-old law that prohibits those students from
attending U.S. schools on a part-time basis. As of August 15, students
will no longer be allowed to cross the Canadian border to attend
classes at Bellingham Technical College. This will result in a
significant loss of funds for Bellingham Technical College and the
surrounding community in Whatcom County which is already suffering from
severely reduced border traffic in the wake of September 11 and the
economic downturn in the State as a whole.
They will not be allowed to cross the border to attend El Paso
Community College, D'Youville College in Buffalo, or Wayne State
University in Detroit.
In my home State of Washington, Bellingham Technical College
currently has many part-time students who commute from Canada, the vast
majority of whom are enrolled in nursing, surgical technology, and
dental assistant training programs. This action is being taken at the
same time we are facing a devastating shortage of nurses and other
health care professionals both in the United States and in Canada.
This bill will address this issue by creating a new category for
students who do not intend to immigrate to this country. It will be
limited to Canadian and Mexican commuter students residing in their
home country and attending school on a full- or part-time basis at
schools in many of our border States. In order to qualify for this
visa, students will have to prove that they are who they say they are,
and will be subjected to more strict requirements than Canadian
visitors entering the U.S. for pleasure.
Our educational system is the best in the world, and the INS decision
to terminate a system that has been extending that educational
opportunity to those who live adjacent to our borders and that has been
providing economic benefit to my State and many other States, is the
wrong policy. With the introduction of this legislation today, we will
address this problem and allow a system that has been working to
continue. I am proud to be a cosponsor of the Border Commuter Student
Act of 2002.
I would like to thank Senator Hutchison for her leadership on the
bill and look forward to working with her and my other colleagues to
pass this important legislation
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