Senators Seek Crackdown On Illegal Student Visas

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Five U.S. senators are calling for a federal crackdown on what they say are phony colleges handing out student visas to potential criminals and terrorists.

Sens. Diane Feinstein of California, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Jon Tester of Montana, Bill Nelson of Florida and Charles Schumer of New York say the colleges are fronts for people who pay to illegally enter the United States.

The Democrats are calling on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and Homeland Security to share information that could help identify the fake colleges.

The senators note several of the Sept. 11 terrorists entered the United States on student visas. They also cite recent incidents in California and in Florida where schools have been accused of being involved in the illegal visa scheme.

“Sham universities are not real institutions of higher learning, but rather operate solely for the purpose of manipulating immigration law to admit foreign nationals into the country,” the senators stated in the letter released Sunday. “When the student visa program can be manipulated by bad actors, it threatens the viability of the entire program for the large majority of bona fide participants.”

The senators will ask the federal departments to determine “high-risk factors” within 90 days and conduct site visits at schools that show a high risk factor through data — or the lack of data — that legitimate schools must provide to the federal government. The senators also seek stiffer penalties for “sham universities” that engage in student visa fraud.

“The existing penalties for student visa fraud are simply too low to deter bad actors who can reap large rewards by operating for-profit sham universities and charging foreigners thousands of dollars to come to the United States,” the senators wrote. “These new penalties will assist you in obtaining justice for the bad actors who compromise the system.”

There was no immediate comment from the federal departments.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

  • Trish

    Its sad that ten years after 9/11 it is still so simple to enter this country. Why don’t all the agencies speak to each other?? specially the Immigration Department, Education Department and Homeland Security?? Why don’t don’t they work as a TEAM?? The day I had my interview to become a naturalized citizen I noticed how the immigration officer perfoming my interview stopped my interview and granted entrance to someone who had been deported for criminal activities. Another officer simply ask for a signature and stated that the individual will never do it again. She also stated the type of crime that was previously committed and the reason the person had been deported. I could not believe it how simple it was, I thought that if a person who was deported for committing two felonies was never re-admitted again.

    • Auburn Dale

      Didn’t you know? Sharing information defeats the point of keeping information proprietary. Each agency must protect its own turf at ALL costs, and letting terrorists into the country seems to be a small price to pay.

  • Blueblood

    What are the names of the 9/11 high jackers, who entered into the U.S with a fake student visa? Furthermore, why aren’t there state procedures in place which, can distinguish between real institutions and there these so called sham institutions?
    The article does NOT mention the current legislation in place, but rather that a higher penalty will be sought by those in Congress, so as to deter future bad actors.
    I would like to see more information provided on the current legislation, to see, if in fact the penalties are too weak, and I would also like the names of persons who entered the country in this illegal fashion .

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