The Chronicle of Higher Education
Monday, September 24, 2001
By SARA HEBEL and RON SOUTHWICK
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat worried about reports that at least one man involved in this month's terrorist attacks entered the United States on a student visa, may propose legislation that would prevent the federal government from issuing any student visas for the next six months.
In a conversation with The New York Times on Thursday, Senator Feinstein, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said she has considered drafting legislation to impose the six-month moratorium or make other reforms to the ways students who enter the country on student visas are monitored, according to Jim Hock, the senator's press secretary. However, the senator has not made any final decision about whether she might decide to offer a bill, Mr. Hock added.
Senator Feinstein was "troubled," Mr. Hock said, by reports that Hani Hanjour, one of the suspected hijackers in the
September 11 terrorist attacks, entered the United States on a student visa issued so he could study English at Holy Names College, in Oakland, Calif. He never showed up for class.
Edward M. Elmendorf, vice president for governmental relations at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, said that Senator Feinstein's idea would go too far. "It's a wrong-headed move," Mr. Elmendorf said. "It's unnecessarily restrictive."
College lobbyists and advocates have previously expressed worries about the prospect of restrictions on the admission of international students. (See an article from The Chronicle, September 18, 2001.) American colleges and universities drew 514,723 students from other countries in the 1999-2000 academic year, according to the Institute of International Education.
California, Ms. Feinstein's state, drew 66,305 students from other countries, more than any other state, according to the institute's report.
Meanwhile, the Immigration and Naturalization Service is scheduled to develop a computer database to monitor foreign students by January 2003. Some college organizations had opposed that effort, but in the wake of the terrorist attacks, those protests have been dropped. NAFSA: Association of International Educators, the chief critic of the database, announced last week that it would no longer oppose the creation of such a database. "The time for debate on this matter is over, and the time to devise a considered response to terrorism has arrived," the group said in a press release.