With a stroke of the pen last September, President Clinton
signed into law legislation that, according to Nicholas
Arrindell, director of the Office of International Student
and Scholar Services, will profoundly affect Hopkins
international students as well as the administrators who try to
help keep them focused on their studies rather than on
immigration laws and requirements.
The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 not only creates stringent new standards for international student and international researcher visas, but section 641 of IIRIRA mandates that universities collect data on- -and track the movements of--international students throughout their entire authorized stay in the United States.
International students and faculty members who do not prudently watch a visa deadline and extend their stay "on time" will have to return to their home country and obtain a new visa before they can resume their studies or research. Arrindell thinks the tenor of the new law seeks to discourage, or make more difficult, a return to study or research for a violator who must go home and get a new visa.
"If students maintain their legal status, it's business as usual," Arrindell said. "But if students do not pay attention to deadlines and grace periods, they can get barred from returning to the U.S. for up to 10 years. The consequences of missing such a deadline are of great concern because it can result in a serious disruption of studies and research projects."
Section 641 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 also mandates a "program to collect information relating to nonimmigrant foreign students and other exchange program participants." It means that universities, not the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, will be responsible for monitoring the movements of international students. Universities will, however, have to report regularly to the INS the whereabouts of their international students.
Arrindell is concerned that the new law casts university administrators as visa police. "It may mean that I become more directly involved with immigration than education," Arrindell said. "The monitoring aspects (of the new law) and the level of reporting are both significant." There are approximately 1,500 international students and researchers on Hopkins campuses. Maurice Berez, a senior immigration examiner for the Immigration and Naturalization Service charged with the operational aspects of Section 641, spoke March 21 to a gathering of international student advisors and administrators. Berez, who has initiated a task force of legislative and university-based players to facilitate the tracking mandate, clarified some aspects and presented a proposal for how international students can be tracked.
According to U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service senior immigration examiner Morrie Berez, who spoke to more than 100 international student advisors at a meeting on the Homewood campus on March 21, a pilot project to collect data on international students was under way before the Simpson Committee wrote section 641 into IIRIRA. "We started a process in June of 1995 following a request from the FBI and the U.S. Attorney General asking what we were doing to monitor foreign students," Berez told the gathering. "What we designed goes beyond the requirements of 641. We looked at the intent of 641 and what it would take to close the gaps."
Berez, who is charged with overseeing the pilot project and data collection to comply with section 641, explained how the INS pilot project will integrate the issuance of F-1 study visas with other student information accessible on a bar-coded ID card. "In this world we are moving toward, the major players will be registrars," Berez said.
The pilot project to test the effectiveness of the bar-coded system, to be activated at the student's point of entry into the U.S., is being conducted with 10,000 international students at 20 schools in four states.
'New Level of
"There is a level of xenophobia in this new law," says
Nicholas Arrindell, director of the Office of International
Student and Scholar Services at Homewood. "In the name of
national security, INS will more closely monitor the movements of
international students to gain a better sense of where they are.
If we, the nation, are now looking at international students as
threats to national security, the tone of the country is
certainly reflected in this law."
Not only will university administrators be charged with the responsibility of "tracking" international students, a job Arrindell thinks better left to federal agencies, the universities will also be responsible for fingerprinting international students and charging them a fee, which may be as high as $100, to cover the costs of monitoring their movements.
"Why can't the INS do this at the point of entry?" asks Arrindell. "As a welcome to the university, fingerprinting students and charging them $100 to follow their movements is not a good way to go about student development. International students are the most economically solvent group on campus. Once more, they pay rent, buy food, support the arts and participate in daily life. Yet, this is the group the country is concerned about."
Arrindell is also concerned that administrators charged with monitoring international students will strain their administrative resources. "We're a small office compared to many," Arrindell says. "To comply, we may need new computers and perhaps additional staff."
With questions unanswered about whether the INS will provide computer software for tracking students, or if universities will shoulder additional financial responsibility in order to comply with IIRIRA section 641, what is clear for Arrindell is that its passage marks a new level of federal intrusion into the life of the university.
"These changes are significant to anyone who is concerned about the encroachment of the federal government and how the encroachment will affect other parts of the university, such as admissions," Arrindell says. "Higher education is a major export item for the U.S., but, given these changes, other countries may start looking at the value of enticing international students and scholars. Meanwhile, we fingerprint them and charge them $100 to be followed while they're here."
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