Terrorism - Foreign Students do Not Threaten National Security

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Foreign Students do Not Threaten National Security

In response to the horror of the September 11 terrorist attacks, America has demanded action, and we have gotten it. In addition to the U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan and the ongoing federal investigation of the events surrounding the World Trade Center attacks, we have seen a flurry of legislative and executive action designed to increase our domestic security. Yet not all of this activity has been without controversy. From Bush's executive order authorizing the use of military tribunals to try non-U.S. citizens suspected of terrorism, to Attorney General John Ashcroft's call for the questioning of thousands of Middle Eastern men, government actions are sparking a crucial debate: to what extent are we willing to sacrifice civil liberties and individual rights in the quest to make our country safer?

For many students here at the university, this question is not just a matter of abstract debate. Because several of the suspects in the September 11 attacks (as well as in the previous World Trade Center bombing) are thought to have entered the United States on student visas, the relative freedom of international students to study here may soon be restricted.

In the wake of the attacks, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California) called for a six-month moratorium on student visas, a proposal that was subsequently dropped under strong pressure from representatives of U.S. universities. Yet the international student visa process remains under strict scrutiny.

The Visa Entry Reform Act, currently in the Senate Judiciary committee, proposes a number of measures to toughen up the immigration and visa system. Of particular interest are two components of the bill: the implementation of a monitoring program for foreign students, and the denial of foreign student visas to nationals of "state sponsors of international terrorism." The monitoring program would ensure that students pass a background check before arrival, and are actually enrolled in a degree program once they arrive. As such, it is a reasonable response to the real threat of terrorism which we confront. It is the second component to which I wish to object.

The countries which the State Department considers to be state sponsors of terrorism are Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Cuba, North Korea and Sudan. Over the last four years, we have had hundreds of students from these countries enrolled at the university.
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