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< Back to current issue of Immigration Daily < Back to current issue of Immigrant's Weekly


[Congressional Record: October 15, 2002 (House)]
[Page H7908-H7910]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:cr15oc02-53]                         



 
                  BORDER COMMUTER STUDENT ACT OF 2002

  Mr. SENSENBRENNER. Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and pass 
the bill (H.R. 4967) to establish new nonimmigrant classes for border 
commuter students.
  The Clerk read as follows:

                               H.R. 4967

       Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of 
     the United States of America in Congress assembled,

     SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

       This Act may be cited as the ``Border Commuter Student Act 
     of 2002''.

     SEC. 2. ESTABLISHMENT OF BORDER COMMUTER NONIMMIGRANT CLASS.

       (a) Class for Academic or Language Studies.--Section 
     101(a)(15)(F) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 
     U.S.C. 1101(a)(15)(F)) is amended by striking ``and (ii)'' 
     and all that follows through the end of subparagraph (F) and 
     inserting the following: ``(ii) the alien spouse and minor 
     children of any alien described in clause (i) if accompanying 
     or following to join such an alien, and (iii) an alien who is 
     a national of Canada or Mexico, who maintains actual 
     residence and place of abode in the country of nationality, 
     who is described in clause (i) except that the alien's 
     qualifications for and actual course of study may be full or 
     part-time, and who commutes to the United States institution 
     or place of study from Canada or Mexico;''.
       (b) Class for Vocational or Nonacademic Studies.--Section 
     101(a)(15)(M) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 
     U.S.C. 1101(a)(15)(M)) is amended by striking ``and (ii)'' 
     and all that follows through the end of subparagraph (M) and 
     inserting the following: ``(ii) the alien spouse and minor 
     children of any alien described in clause (i) if accompanying 
     or following to join such an alien, and (iii) an alien who is 
     a national of Canada or Mexico, who maintains actual 
     residence and place of abode in the country of nationality, 
     who is described in clause (i) except that the alien's course 
     of study may be full or part-time, and who commutes to the 
     United States institution or place of study from Canada or 
     Mexico;''.
       (c) Limitation.--Section 214(m) of the Immigration and 
     Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1184(m); as redesignated by section 
     107(e)(2)(A) of P.L. 106-386) is amended by striking 
     ``section 101(a)(15)(F)(i)'' both places it appears and 
     inserting ``clause (i) or (iii) of section 101(a)(15)(F)''.

  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to the rule, the gentleman from 
Wisconsin (Mr. Sensenbrenner) and the gentlewoman from Texas (Ms. 
Jackson-Lee) each will control 20 minutes.
  The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. 
Sensenbrenner).


                             General Leave

  Mr. SENSENBRENNER. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all 
Members may have 5 legislative days within which to revise and extend 
their remarks on H.R. 4967, the bill currently under consideration.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the 
gentleman from Wisconsin?
  There was no objection.
  Mr. SENSENBRENNER. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may 
consume.
  Mr. Speaker, the Immigration and Nationality Act permits foreign 
students to study in the United States on nonimmigrant student visas. 
Aliens must be full-time students to be eligible for F visas, which is 
academic or language studies, or M visas, which are vocational or non-
academic studies, nonimmigrant student visas. However, some INS 
districts have paroled commuter students from Canada and Mexico into 
the United States as visitors to bypass this statutory requirement 
because no visa category exists for part-time commuter students.
  Since September 11, 2001, the INS has issued memoranda regarding its 
intent to end this practice of accommodating part-time commuter 
students but permits its continuance through the end of this year for 
students already enrolled in border schools. On August 27, 2002, the 
INS issued an interim rule to expand the F and M student visa 
categories to permit Mexican and Canadian commuter students to obtain 
student visas.
  However, such a rule is open to differing interpretations across 
administrations. By passing H.R. 4967, this bill would make Congress' 
intent clearer that the Canadian and Mexican students should be able to 
obtain student visas and attend U.S. schools along our borders.
  The bill amends the F and M student categories of the Immigration and 
Nationality Act to expand student visa authorization only for nationals 
of Canada or Mexico who maintain actual residence and place of abode in 
the country of nationality, whose course of study may either be full- 
or part-time, and who commute to the U.S. institution or place of study 
from Canada or Mexico. These part-time students will be tracked in the 
Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, or SEVIS; and I would 
point out that if this bill is not passed, and they continue to be 
paroled in as visitors, they will not be tracked under SEVIS because 
they do not have student visas.
  In practice, the INS has been allowing the students in for years but 
without proper authority to do so. This bill gives the INS that proper 
authority, and I urge my colleagues to vote for it.
  Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
  Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I 
might consume.
  (Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas asked and was given permission to revise 
and extend her remarks.)
  Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join my 
colleagues in support of making part-time commuter students who are 
nationals of either Canada or Mexico and attend school in the United 
States eligible for special student visas. I especially congratulate 
the gentleman from Arizona (Mr. Kolbe) for his untiring efforts to move 
this legislation forward.
  Thousands of Canadian and Mexican nationals commute to attend schools 
part-time in the United States. According to the Institute of 
International Education, 25,769 Canadian students and 10,679 Mexican 
students are enrolled at U.S. colleges on a full-time basis. There are 
thousands of additional students that are part-time students.
  Texas has a significant portion of students who commute to schools in 
Texas. For years now, border points like El Paso and Laredo have made 
exceptions for part-time Mexican students who enter on a daily visitor 
and travel visa. Schools in Texas, such as Texas A&M International, 
will benefit from this legislation. Texas A&M International University 
has approximately 50 to 60 students that benefit from this legislation. 
At the University of Texas Pan-American in Edinburgh, Texas, 14 of the 
425 international students are part-time.
  According to university officials at both institutions, many more 
students would attend if they could be able to cross the border easily. 
Unfortunately, current law does not establish an appropriate visa for 
those part-time commuter students who, in fact, are coming to learn and 
then returning home to contribute to their communities.
  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 the purpose of granting student visas, the INS 
defines ``full course of study'' as 12 credits or more. So, therefore, 
part-time commuter students, those who might only be 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. I am encouraged by the INS' recent reversal of a May 2002 
decision to eliminate this practice and enforce the full-time 12-hour 
credit requirement.
  We do know that we live in different times since the horrific acts of 
9-11. We do know our responsibilities for border security; and of 
course, as I have mentioned earlier, my commitment to such in 
cosponsorship of several bills, recognizing the balance, a balance in 
the previous bill to add a study on racial profiling, this bill is a 
balance. It recognizes that these students are coming to learn, to 
contribute, and to make a difference not only in their lives but in 
their communities.
  It also recognizes the economic aspect of it, and these students will 
be contributing to the economy of the regions of which they participate 
in those academic institutions.
  Fortunately, the agency recently postponed enforcement of the policy

[[Page H7909]]

until August 15, 2002, while administrative and legislative remedies 
are considered. I consider that a balanced perspective on the part of 
the INS.
  The legislation we are introducing today appropriately addresses the 
problem facing part-time commuter students without hoping for a new 
avenue for illegal immigration. Of course, this bill is on the floor of 
the House today and 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 of nationality and who commute to school to 
enroll part-time in schools in the United States, and part-time 
commuter student visas are restricted to nationals of Canada or Mexico. 
The bill would not make political asylees, residents or others, who are 
nationals of third countries, who simply live in Canada or Mexico 
eligible for the visas; and I think that is an important point to make.
  Again, I believe that we have an enormous responsibility to ensure 
the security of our communities, but I think this is a balanced and 
forthright legislative initiative to help all.
  Finally, Mr. Speaker, 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, leads the way for full implementation of 
participation in services 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. This 
bill for the first time will ensure that part-time commuter students 
from Canada and Mexico are also tracked through the student tracking 
process, again in response to the new concerns we have after September 
11.
  I ask my colleagues to support this balanced initiative and support 
this legislation.
  Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join my colleagues in support of making 
part-time commuter students who are nationals of either Canada or 
Mexico and attend school in the United States eligible for special 
student visas. I especially congratulate Mr. Kolbe for moving this 
legislation forward.
  Thousands of Canadian and Mexican nationals commute to attend schools 
part time in the United States. According to the Institute of 
International Education, 25,769 Canadian students and 10,679 Mexican 
students are enrolled at U.S. Colleges on a full time basis. There are 
thousands of additional students that are part-time students. Texas has 
a significant portion of students who commute to schools in Texas. For 
years now Border points like El Paso and Laredo Texas have made 
exceptions for part-time Mexican students who entered on a daily 
visitor and travel visas. Schools in Texas such as Texas A&M 
International will benefit from this legislation. Texas A&M 
International University has approximately 50 to 60 students that would 
benefit from this legislation. At the University of Texas Pan American 
in Edinburg, Texas, 14 of the 425 international students are part-time 
students. According to university officials at both institutions many 
more students would attend if they could cross the border easily. 
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. I am encouraged by the INS recent reversal of a may 2002 
decision to eliminate this practice and enforce the full time, 12 
credit hour requirement.
  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. This 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. The 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.
  This legislation is also consistent with the current INS interim rule 
in that it ensures that part-time commuter students are tracked through 
the Student Exchange Visitor Information System. As we discussed in our 
Subcommittee hearing a few weeks ago on SEVIS, this system was set up 
to ensure that the Federal Government is 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, leads the way for full implementation of SEVIS. 
Participation in SEVIS 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. This 
bill will, for the first time, ensure that part-time commuter students 
from Canada and Mexico are tracked through SEVIS.
  While I acknowledge new security concerns in the aftermath of 
September 11, I feel that we can meet those concerns without 
prohibiting all part-time commuter students from attending classes at 
schools in the United States. This legislation represents a bipartisan 
compromise that will allow us to meet these needs in a reasonable, 
thoughtful manner. This legislation represents the best type of 
legislation that results when members on opposing sides can put aside 
partisan differences and work for viable solutions. I am pleased to 
support this measure and I will work to see its passage in the 107th 
Congress.
  Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. SENSENBRENNER. Mr. Speaker, I yield such time as he may consume 
to the gentleman from Arizona (Mr. Kolbe), the principal author of this 
bill.
  Mr. KOLBE. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for yielding me the 
time, and I want to thank the chairman of the full committee and the 
ranking member, the distinguished gentlewoman from Texas, the ranking 
member of the Subcommittee on Immigration and Claims, for their 
courtesies shown to me and my staff in the preparation of this bill and 
the consideration of it in the committee.
  Mr. Speaker, H.R. 4967 will end years of frustration for colleges and 
universities, frustration made worse by the terrorist attacks of 
September 11.
  The Border Commuter Student Act is simple in its purpose. It is to 
allow U.S. border colleges to teach Mexican and Canadian citizens who 
live near the border. It creates a new nonimmigrant classification for 
Mexicans and Canadians who want to commute each day to U.S. college or 
school. The study can be full-time or part-time.
  The people of Mexico and Canada who live and work in their home 
country but who want to attend a night class, such as business English 
for Mexicans, in the United States should be allowed to do this. Every 
day citizens of Mexico and Canada cross back and forth to shop, to do 
business, to visit relatives. They should also be able to further their 
education. On that, I think most of us agree.
  Current law provides for two student nonimmigration categories. The 
F1 category is for academic studies and the M1 category is for 
nonacademic or vocational studies. These categories by law require that 
a student be enrolled full-time; but here is the loophole, or I should 
say the gaping hole, for commuting students.
  A person can enter the United States only to study full-time; and if 
they enter for business or for pleasure, the law explicitly states that 
they cannot be enrolled in a study.
  For decades, it has been the policy of the INS that these border 
commuter students were required to attend class full-time; however, it 
was loosely enforced prior to September 11, 2001. The INS recently 
pushed this law to its limit by allowing border commuter students to 
enter the United States to study on a reduced course load as long as 
they are a ``qualified full-time student.''
  I commend the INS for expanding the number of students that can enter 
the U.S. as full-time students to include these quasi-full-time 
students. Although the INS did what they could

[[Page H7910]]

under the law that limits students entering the country to full-time 
status, this simply is not enough.
  We need to clarify the law so that there is no misunderstanding, no 
room for misinterpretation, and no room for further changes by future 
administrations to this policy. We need to give these colleges and 
students the confidence that a future INS commissioner is not going to 
change policy midstream in someone's studies.
  The Border Commuter Student Act creates a new classification for 
Mexicans and Canadians to enter the United States. In other words, it 
provides additional options for the citizens of our neighboring 
countries to enter the U.S. It does not allow foreign children to 
attend public elementary or high schools; and it ensures national 
security by continuing the requirement that all foreign students be 
entered into the student tracking system; and that, Mr. Speaker, is 
very important.
  It is in the interest of the United States to allow our neighbors to 
take courses in English and history and mathematics and philosophy or 
business or nursing or any other kind of vocation or profession at our 
Nation's colleges and schools along the border. In addition, it is in 
the interest of Mexico and Canada to allow their citizens access to an 
expanded area of educational opportunities.
  I am very proud today that the House of Representatives is doing its 
part to help these schools and these students. I believe our neighbors 
to the south and the north deserve special treatment and the Border 
Commuter Student Act adds another option to enter the United States for 
Canadians and Mexicans who live along the border.
  The bipartisan bill was voted out of the Committee on the Judiciary 
unanimously. It is supported by the administration, by the Mexican 
Government, the Canadian Government, the U.S.-Mexico Counties 
Coalition, the Arizona-Mexico Commission, the American Association of 
State Colleges and Universities, the National Association of State 
Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, the Career College Association, 
the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, the University 
of Phoenix system, University of Texas system, and Texas Tech.
  Mr. Speaker, this is, as the gentlewoman said earlier, good 
legislation. It is balanced legislation. It corrects a flaw we have had 
in our immigration law for some time, and I urge my colleagues to 
support this bill.
  Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I 
may consume.
  Let me just conclude by simply saying what we want in this 
legislation is to help our commuter students from Canada and Mexico 
come in, be trained, and contribute to their communities and societies. 
This is a balanced legislative initiative, and I ask my colleagues to 
support it.
  Mr. REYES. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in strong support of H.R. 4967, 
the Border Commuter Student Act. I applaud my colleague, Mr. Kolbe, for 
his hard work at addressing in issue that is critical along the U.S.-
Mexico and Canada borders.
  As you know, the situation on the U.S.-Mexico and Canada borders is 
unique in regard to foreign students who reside in their homelands and 
who cross at our Ports-of-Entries (POEs) to use American colleges and 
universities. Many of these students attend classes on a part-time 
basis. In the past, the interpretation of the meaning of part-time 
student varied from POE to POE resulting in inconsistent policy. 
Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) District Directors used 
their discretion in allowing part-time students to cross at many POEs.
  Recently, the INS began to enforce laws by stating that ``aliens who 
seek to enter the United States regularly but primarily to pursue less 
than a full course of study are neither visitors nor students and are 
ineligible for student visa or visitor status.'' INS Commissioner 
Ziglar further clarified policy by stating that ``the POEs are not to 
admit visitors for business or pleasure whose purpose for entering the 
United States is to pursue a part-time course of study at a college or 
university.''
  As we continue with our efforts to secure our homeland, I will be the 
first to admit that priority must be placed on improving the ability of 
the INS to enforce our laws and deploy technology necessary to secure 
our nation's borders. Having worked for many years in the U.S. Border 
Patrol, I understand the importance of increasing security at our 
nation's POEs and I also understand the need to carefully monitor 
student visas.
   However, as you can imagine Mr. Speaker, this situation would have 
created a great deal of confusion in my district and in many other 
districts along the U.S.-Mexico and Canadian borders and would have 
penalized law-abiding people who were taking steps to educate and 
improve themselves. In fact, there are over 2,000 studends in my 
district alone who would have been adversely impacted by the 
implementation of this policy. Some of these students included 
professionals who work full-time in Mexico border cities and who cross 
regularly to attend colleges and universities part-time in pursuit of 
graduate degrees. Such individuals include skilled workers in 
maquiladoras, educators, and engineers. Many of these individuals 
contribute to the improvement and quality of life for sister cities 
along our borders.
  The Border Commuter Student Act, of which I am an original cosponsor, 
creates two new non-immigrant student visa categories for Canadian and 
Mexican students who study part-time in the United States but who live 
in their home country. This legislation only applies to schools located 
within 75 miles of the border. Mr. Speaker, this is good, common-sense 
legislation that closes a loophole and allows students from the U.S.-
Mexico and Canada borders to attend classes in the United States on a 
part-time basis. I urge my colleagues to support it.
  Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my 
time.
  Mr. SENSENBRENNER. Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The question is on the motion offered by the 
gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. Sensenbrenner) that the House suspend the 
rules and pass the bill, H.R. 4967.
  The question was taken; and (two-thirds having voted in favor 
thereof) the rules were suspended and the bill was passed.
  A motion to reconsider was laid on the table.

                          ____________________






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