Past News Archive
DENVER (AP) - At least six Middle Eastern students studying in Colorado have been jailed in the past 10 days for failing to take enough college classes as required by their student visas.
The students ran into trouble when they showed up to register with U.S. immigration officials, as required by new rules to track foreign students.
When they reported, they were jailed and required to post $5,000 bonds for enrolling in less than 12 hours of college credit.
The Immigration and Naturalization Service says the students are being detained because under-enrollment is a violation of their student visas. The students are not suspected of any other offense.
``We're concerned about the heavy-handed nature of the enforcement and their lack of understanding of their own regulations,'' said Chris Johnson, director of international education at the University of Colorado at Denver. ``Students are being detained unfairly and callously.''
One University of Colorado at Denver student was jailed last week because he was one hour shy of a full load after receiving college permission to drop a course, Johnson said.
``I don't believe this is helping us with the war on terrorism,'' said Mark Hallett, director of international student services at Colorado State University. ``We're alienating people who could be our best friends and ambassadors once they return to their countries.''
The Middle Eastern students were jailed for up to 48 hours before posting bond. Three attend UCD, two study at CU-Boulder, and one attends Colorado State University.
College officials expect more to be detained during a second round of January registrations at the INS district office in Denver.
Congress ordered federal registrations by Dec. 16 for males 16 and older carrying temporary visas from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya and Sudan - countries identified by the State Department as having ties to terrorism.
A Jan. 10 deadline is for men from the United Arab Emirates, North Korea, Morocco, Afghanistan and nine other countries. Two more rounds of registrations will follow with the goal of tracking most foreign nationals by 2005.
``As far as the INS is concerned, this system was put in place in Congress to combat the war on terrorism. We're carrying out their wishes. This is a policy issue,'' said Nina Pruneda, INS regional public affairs officer.
The INS wants to ensure that international students are diligently pursuing
a degree, she said.
12/27/02 04:19 EST
The FBI is asking colleges and universities around the country to provide
the government with personal
information about all foreign students and faculty, prompting objections from some schools and higher
education groups that view the request as illegal.
The FBI says it needs the information to determine whether foreign students
or teachers have ties to
known or suspected terrorists. FBI and Justice Department officials say recent antiterrorism language in
the USA Patriot Act allows schools to provide the data without notifying those involved.
But one prominent higher education group has told its members that providing the information would violate federal law. The U.S. Department of Education also indicated in a general advisory this year that some of the information now sought by the FBI cannot be provided without a court order or subpoena.
The conflict has attracted the attention of Sens. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.)
and Edward M. Kennedy
(D-Mass.), who complained in a letter to Attorney General John D. Ashcroft last week that the "legality of
this request is not so clear." The two, who are members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the Patriot
Act approved after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks was specifically designed to limit government access
to student records.
"This law requires both a court order and a showing that the request
is specifically tailored to a terrorism
investigation," the senators wrote to Ashcroft on Dec. 18. "The FBI request does not appear to fulfill either
of these requirements."
The controversy serves as the latest example of tension between law enforcement
and academia since the
Sept. 11 attacks, carried out by hijackers who were trained at U.S. flight schools and took advantage of lax
oversight given to foreign students in the United States.
The FBI's request comes as schools are scrambling to provide similar information
to another agency, the
Immigration and Naturalization Service, which is building a database to track the more than 200,000 foreign students who enroll in U.S. schools each year. But unlike the INS, which is entitled to personal student information under immigration law, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies have a limited ability to obtain such information, legal and education experts said.
In the weeks following the Sept. 11 attacks, about 200 colleges acknowledged in a national survey that they had turned over information about foreign students to the FBI, most of the time without a subpoena or court order. But most of those requests were about specific students, and compliance was allowed under emergency provisions of federal privacy laws, officials said.
The new letters, sent from FBI field offices beginning last month, request that schools provide the "names, addresses, telephone numbers, citizenship information, places of birth, dates of birth and any foreign contact information" for teachers and students who are foreign nationals, according to a sample copy provided to The Washington Post.
The FBI declined to say how many schools have been asked for the information, or how many have provided it. But officials said compliance is voluntary.
"There's no requirement on the part of the colleges to provide this information," FBI spokesman Bill Carter said. "We can request it, and they can provide the information. They don't have to comply."
Before the Patriot Act took effect, the law governing the privacy of student records, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, allowed schools to provide only "directory information," such as names, ages and birthdates, to law enforcement officers. Even then, the law required schools to obtain students' consent for providing such information without a court order, legal experts said.
The FBI's position, as outlined in its letter to universities, is that amendments included in the Patriot Act allow schools to "release information to the federal government for use in combating terrorism," including a student's citizenship and foreign addresses.
But LeRoy S. Rooker, director of the Family Policy Compliance Office at the U.S. Department of Education, said in an interview yesterday that federal education officials have determined that, even with the changes made by the Patriot Act, citizenship and foreign address information cannot generally be provided to law enforcement agencies without a court order.
Rooker outlined the limitations in a guidance document last April.
After the FBI began sending letters to colleges and universities last month, the Association of American College Registrars and Admissions Officers issued a report to its 10,000 members saying that "a subpoena or court order MUST accompany all law enforcement requests for nonconsensual releases" of citizenship and similar information.
"Nonconsensual release of private student information, unless pursuant to a subpoena or court order or otherwise authorized under a separate provision of law, could expose institutions to significant legal consequences," the association said.
FBI officials said many schools have denied the request, but declined to say how many. The FBI has not ruled out seeking court orders or subpoenas to obtain the information, officials said.
The data obtained from schools will be compared with information compiled by the Justice Department's Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Force, which is building a classified database of suspected and known terrorists, sources said.
Not all education groups and legal experts agree on the disclosure issue. Sheldon E. Steinbach, general counsel for the American Council on Education, said he does not see any problem with the FBI's request.
"Does it cause some psychological discomfort for many people? I'm
sure it does," he said. "But we don't see any reason why a school
should not be able to honor this request if they choose to. . . . This is
part of the new landscape that we're all becoming accustomed to since September
* Last year (2001), 582,996 international students studied in the United
* Of the more than 30 million people admitted to the United States each year on temporary visas, approximately 2 percent hold student visas, and another 1 percent enter on exchange visitor visas.
* To apply for a visa, prospective students must meet the requirements that apply to all international visitors. In addition, they must gain admittance to an educational institution, demonstrate financial means, and provide proof of their intent to return home upon completion of their studies. Last year (2001), 28 percent of student visa applications were denied.
* International students comprise 4.3 percent of total enrollment in U.S. colleges and universities.
* Nearly 75 percent of international students are self-sponsored or fully funded by overseas sources. On 2001, international students and their dependents contributed more than $11.95 billion to the U.S. economy.
* India is the leading place of origin for international students (66,836), followed by China (63,211), Korea (49,046), Japan (46,810), Taiwan (28,930), Canada (26,514), Mexico (12,518), Turkey (12,091), Indonesia (11,614), and Thailand (11,606).
* The most popular fields of study for international students in the United States are business and management, engineering, and mathematics and computer sciences.
* The U.S. share of the internationally mobile student market has declined from 40% in 1982 to 30% today.
* California, New York, and Texas lead the nation in the number of international students enrolled.