Student visa restrictions tightening

Posted 2:39 p.m. April 29

by Niki Dasarathy

(U-WIRE) WASHINGTON – President George W. Bush is set to sign a bill into law that mandates intense background checks on all student-visa applicants from countries listed by the State Department as potentially harboring terrorists, in response to the Sept. 11th terrorists’ attacks.

The bill is part of a recent push by the federal government to increase boarder controls and is accompanied by a separate piece of legislation that would divide the Immigration and Naturalization Service into two agencies.

The bill’s purpose is to cut down on terrorism and terrorist activities and is, “part of a general trend following 9/11,” said Ivy Kennelly, Assistant Director of Sociology at George Washington University.

The bill would require background checks on students coming from Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria. One of the hijackers came to the United States on a student visa.

“The more information the feds have about aliens, students and non-students, who are applying to enter the U.S., the better,” said GWU law professor Alberto Benitez. Benitez is skeptical on whether the new system will work though. “Alone, it will not stop terrorism,” he said.

The Senate passed the bill two weeks ago, with a few changes proposed by Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.V.).Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner (R-W.I.). originally sponsored it in the House last December.

In a continuing effort to increase national security, the House of Representatives passed a bill last week, which would break the Immigration and Naturalization Service into two separate departments, splitting their duties. The INS grants visas to international students and supplied visas for each of the hijackers who carried out the attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C., on Sept 11th.

“The breakup of the INS is designed to assure the public that the government is doing something,” said Benitez.

The greater question is whether or not this bill will make an affect on stopping terrorism, which is difficult to measure.

“This is their (Congress’) rational for expending military strength and start American support against these countries,” said Kennelly.”It will make no affect on terrorism.”

Some students have concern that this bill will deter international students from studying in the United States.

Catherine Skillman, a sophomore at American University, which has a student body consisting of 11 percent of international students, fears the bill might prevent several non-terrorist students from studying in U.S. schools.

“It might stop a few dangerous people from coming to the U.S.,” she said. “But I believe that it will limit foreign students and won’t keep all the terrorists out.”

The recent proposals by Congress are intended to enforce stricter boarder regulations, but many legal scholars are skeptical, believing that it will be too difficult to do that effectively.

“The administration’s response to the legitimate problem of terrorism is simply wrong,” said Benitez.”The truth is that the United States cannot control its borders.”

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