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Iowa Watchdog

Politics let student-visa abusers go unchecked

9/12/2014

ON 9/11 ANNIVERSARY: Sen. Chuck Grassley wants to tighten up America’s loose student-visa program.

ON 9/11 ANNIVERSARY: Sen. Chuck Grassley wants to tighten up America’s loose student-visa program.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Responding to Watchdog.org’s report that the U.S. has lost track of 58,000 foreign students holding expired visas, U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley proposed legislation to tighten security.

But, once again, partisan politics stand in the way.

Grassley, R-Iowa, introduced the Student Visa Integrity Act to help reduce fraud and abuse in the Student and Exchange Visitor Program, which an immigration expert called “one of the sleepiest federal agencies in existence.”

“While there’s been a dramatic increase in the number of student visas granted, Immigration and Customs Enforcement hasn’t made it a priority to keep tabs on these visa holders,” Grassley said.

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“The 1993 World Trade Center Bombing, Sept. 11 and the Boston bombing should have taught us that this program needs vigilant oversight and reform, but instead the program has expanded without the proper safeguards in place,” the senator said.

The Student Visa Integrity Act:

  • Requires schools to be accredited to be enrolled in the SEVP program and to accept foreign students.
  • Provides authority to the secretary of Homeland Security to immediately suspend school participation and access to federal databases if they are not compliant with reporting requirements or there is reasonable suspicion of fraud.
  • Increases penalties for those who perpetrate fraud.
  • Requires background checks on Designated School Officials and a requirement that they U.S. nationals or legal permanent residents.
  • Permanently bars DSOs who commit fraud from filing future student visa petitions.
  • Ends a flight school’s SEVP participation if they are not FAA certified.
  • Requires DHS to implement an updated Student and Exchange Visitor Information System to replace what Grassley called “an antiquated tracking system.”

Grassley’s plan has bipartisan support from Democratic U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California and Chuck Schumer of New York.

“All agree, so getting it out of the Senate would be easy next year,” said David North, a policy analyst at the Center for Immigration Studies.

“The problem is the House,” North said.

North said the GOP-controlled House “would not want to touch any immigration bill for the balance of the year on the grounds that it might (resurrect) S 744” – the controversial border package produced by the so-called Gang of Eight.

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program and the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System are operated totally on fees, not taxpayer dollars. Schools must pay to be a part of the program, and foreign students pay a fee for visa processing.

Kenric Ward is a national reporter for Watchdog.org and chief of its Virginia Bureau. Contact him at (571) 319-9824. @Kenricward. This story originally appeared on Watchdog.org.

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