Stop the Madness

by Robin Catmur | 5/6/02 5:00am

To the Editor:

As Advisors to International Students and Scholars for Dartmouth College, my colleagues and I are vehemently opposed to any potential limitations to international students' choice of field of study, and fully concur with Ryan Tan '05's statements in The Dartmouth ("International Madness," April 24). While the trends in United States regulations and pending legislation since Sept. 11 concerning non-immigrant students and visitors to the United States are disturbing, we would like to alleviate some of Mr. Tan's concerns.

First, to our knowledge, no new legislation calling for across-the-board restriction of international students' choice of programs has yet been passed by Congress or recommended as policy to U.S. Consulates. The Commission formed by the President in the fall of 2001 is disturbing in that it does not offer representatives from higher education any voice, but the commission has yet to offer any concrete recommendations or new restrictions.

Second, the major focus of any proposals concerning restrictions would be, in all probability, limited to a very small portion of the international non-immigrant student population; namely international graduate students from terrorist-supporting countries (defined as Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan, Syria and Somalia) applying to programs of study in a very few high-risk areas, such as weapons of mass destruction or biochemical warfare. The impact on most international undergraduate and graduate students, we believe, will be minimal. Most international students will receive student visas at the same rate they have in the past.

We also believe that these restrictions will not significantly reduce the number of international students coming to the United States to study. The number of international students in the United States has been rising since 1954, from 34,232 to a current high of about 547,867.

Historically, the numbers of international students from countries that are of concern to the United States, and who have come to study in the very limited fields that might in the future be targeted for extra security clearances, have been relatively low. In 1999 the total numbers of international students from "terrorist supporting" countries comprised only .85 percent of all international students. Unfortunately, accurate data is not available as to how many of these students might have been applying to study in sensitive fields, and were refused entry due to existing security clearances.

We have seen, and will continue to see, increased delays during visa applications and border inspections, as well as increased scrutiny of all documents and credentials submitted to a U.S. Consular officer or border official. New levels of care and attention to detail in documentation will be needed, as well as patience while new procedures and security clearances are put into place. For the vast majority of international students whose goals are to come to the United States to receive a high quality education, however, these new and potentially restrictive United States policies and/or procedures will not be likely to prevent them from ultimately coming and attending the institution and program of their choice.

We would encourage all international students and scholars, as well as interested community members to monitor the International blitz bulletin for any updates to issues concerning pending legislative changes.

Advertise your student group in The Dartmouth for free!