December 12, 2001
A funny thing happened on the way to Senator Dianne Feinstein's
(D-CA) proposal to take a six-month time-out on issuing visas to
foreign students in order to defend Americans from fraud and potential
terrorists. She was backed into a corner by an unusual phalanx of
well-dressed lobbyists on the warpath.
From the highways and byways of America, the officials of private
and public colleges and universities converged on Capitol Hill to kill
this Feinstein proposal. They claimed that a moratorium on student
visas would be "devastating" to universities and "wreak havoc on
Senator Feinstein's proposal for a time-out was eminently
reasonable, but the universities had enough clout to get her to abandon
it and substitute requiring development of an electronic database by
October 26, 2003.
The U.S. State Department grants over a half million student visas
a year even though student visas are known to be a tremendous source of
fraud. Over the past decade, U.S. universities have enrolled 16,000
students from states that sponsor terrorism.
The U.S. has issued 4,000 student visas in Saudi Arabia alone, and
15 of the 19 hijackers on 9/11 held Saudi visas. A U.S. Commerce
Department employee was just criminally charged with accepting bribes
to grant visas to Saudi residents.
Do you feel safer now since the Democrats insisted on making all
airport security guards federal employees?
One of the criminals convicted of the 1993 truck bombing of the
World Trade Center was in the United States on an expired student visa.
Wouldn't you think that, at least since 1993, it should have been a
priority of law enforcement to tighten up on student visas?
In 1996, Congress called for the establishment of a government
database to track foreign students, but it never became operative
because of opposition from the universities. This issue didn't appear
on our government's radar screen until after 9/11.
The suspected ringleader of the 9/11 hijackers, Mohamed Atta, came
into the U.S. on a tourist visa, which he converted to a student
trainee visa in July so he could attend flight training school. Hani
Hanjour, the hijacker who is believed to have helped steer the plane
into the Pentagon, was on a student visa but never reported to class.
One day in October, 14 Algerians landed at the Dallas airport and
on another day in October, 14 Syrians arrived, and all were allowed to
proceed to a private flight school for training. We'd like to know how
and why visas are issued for flight training schools, which proved so
deadly on 9/11.
Nobody swallowed the line that the university lobbyists were just
seeking to spread democracy, promote knowledge, and forge ties with
future leaders abroad. Let's do a reality check on their motives.
The universities are making so much money out of foreign students
that they don't care what dangers they pose, what fraud is involved, or
whether the students exit the U.S. when their visa expires. The
universities don't even want to be bothered with the nuisance of
reporting to the government when the foreign students arrive and
Has any student in your family had a hard time gaining admission
to an elite U.S. college? How does it make you feel to know that
547,667 places in U.S. colleges were occupied by foreign students in
the academic year just ended, and the number has been rising
The universities want the foreign students because they usually
pay the full tuition, while 84 percent of American students attending
private universities receive some sort of financial aid.
In lobbying against Feinstein's original proposal, the
universities argued that their graduate programs in the sciences,
engineering and math would collapse without the foreign students
because these courses can't be filled with enough qualified American
students. American students rank poorly on international science,
engineering and math competitions, and that is reflected in the smaller
number who take those subjects in college.
The National Assessment of Educational Progress just reported the
results of its 2000 tests. Only one in five high school seniors has a
solid grasp of science, only half even know the basics, and 12th
graders scored lower than those taking the test in 1996.
What a terrible reflection on the U.S. school system! High school
graduates (including those who get A's because of grade inflation) are
not qualified to take college courses in science, engineering and math.
The provost of Carnegie Mellon University said, "We have
tremendous difficulty in getting American citizens to apply for, enroll
and be qualified in many of our engineering and science areas."
Carnegie Mellon granted 47 percent of its doctoral degrees in 1999 to
The number of student visas should be drastically reduced and
controls tightened, and none should be issued to states that sponsor
terrorism. Student visas should also be conditioned on the applicant's
ability to speak English and a sworn disavowal of terrorism.