The Daily Tar Heel

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Tuesday October 26th

Dueling Proposals Seek to Limit Visas For Foreign Students

The Enhanced Border Security Act would track visa holders, while another bill would reject applicants from rogue nations.

Under both bills, the Immigration and Naturalization Services would receive extra federal funding to enforce current limits on student visas.

The Enhanced Border Security Act, proposed Thursday by Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., states that visa applications from citizens of nations that sponsor terrorism should be highly scrutinized by government officials.

It also mandates that student visa holders be tracked while in the United States, although officials have not yet decided how to do so.

An Oct. 15 press release from Kennedy's office stated that the INS should be more concerned with tracking foreign students who enter and leave the country.

"Gaps in the tracking program should be closed by requiring the INS to notify institutions of a student's entry into the U.S. and requiring institutions to report to the INS the nonappearance of any student reported and any student who leaves the program," the press release stated.

The Kennedy-Brownback plan is an alternative to a proposal introduced Oct. 25 by Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., and Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz.

The Feinstein-Kyl proposal requires the INS to perform background checks on all those applying for a student visa.

It also stipulates that university officials must notify the INS immediately if foreign students violate their visa restrictions. Missing class is considered a violation.

"September 11 pointed out clear shortcomings in our immigration and visa system," Feinstein stated in an Oct. 25 press release.

The Feinstein-Kyl plan rejects all applications from rogue nations -- like Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran, while the Kennedy-Brownback proposal will still allow applicants from those nations to study in the United States.

N.C. education officials had a mixed response to the congressional proposals.

Jean Hughes, associate director at the UNC-Chapel Hill International Center, said she thinks the new proposals and extra security could deter students from applying to study abroad.

"It's going to take much longer to get visas if the proposals for background checks go into effect," Hughes said.

She said there are 1,200 international students studying at UNC-CH.

But Bob Samors, UNC-system vice president of federal relations, said national security is the primary objective of all the proposals under consideration.

"Both the University of North Carolina and the higher education community at large want to do whatever they can to ensure national security is taken care of, first and foremost," Samors said.

"It should be possible to identify the right kinds of information without impinging on educational, cultural and societal benefits of foreign exchange."

The State & National Editor can be reached at stntdesk@unc.edu.

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