Moratorium on Student Visas Threatens Internationals
by Jake Brody

On Tuesday, the U.S. House of Representatives came to an agreement for a planned anti-terrorism initiative giving law enforcement agencies more authority to monitor the internet communications of suspected terrorists, and calling for a six-month moratorium on new student visas, a measure which directly affects Oberlin, as well as all other American institutions of higher education.

Initiated by Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA), the freeze will begin immediately after the legislation is passed and will prevent all foreign students from attending schools in the United States without a previously obtained visa.
Objections to the governement policy have been heard across many college campuses, including Oberlin. “A six-month moratorium on all student visas is unthinkable. A six- month moratorium in the issuing of new visas seems foolish. I think it is a bad idea,” College President Nancy Dye said. Oberlin plans to continue its tradition of admitting internationl students, allowing these students to defer as long as neccessary in light of the freeze on visas.
“Oberlin has always been a very cosmopolitan international institution, we will in no way weaken our commitment to the education of international students,” Dye said. She also remarked that she had sent a letter to Feinstein stating her disapproval of a freeze on visas.

While many questions of civil liberties and privacy rights have risen out of the pending legislation, the original Bush administration plan could have had even larger repercussions for the Oberlin community. Following Democratic opposition, a section of the anti-terrorism legislation requiring academic institutions to divulge the personal files of international students upon the request of local, state or federal authoriities was omitted.

This legislation has, for some students, raised larger questions of the values and motivations that guide U.S. policies.

“There is a big difference between national security and xenophobia,” junior David Levin said. First year Andrew Zilm had similar sentiments. “The policy is nothing more than an attempt by the bourgeois Bush administration to show their supposed commitment to national security, when it is nothing more than a xenophobic policy destroying the ideals of freedom upon which our country was based,” Zilm said.

In Congress as well, concerns about the constitutionality of this bill were raised. Many members of the House and Senate voiced anxieties about passing a bill which included the ability to hold suspected terrorists indefinitely without being charged. Tantamount to a suspension of habeas-corpus, the House instead amended the proposed legislation.

The newly reached agreement allows authorities to hold a suspected terrorist for up to seven days without charging the suspect with a specific crime. Although pleased with the amount of bipartisan support the final bill recieved, the Bush adminsitration voiced disappointment with the “sunset” feature of the legislation, which calls for a renewal of the legislation in two years by Congress or it will be terminated.

On the proposed, but later discarded law obligating colleges to turn over the personal records of foreign students, President Dye was quick to voice dissatisfaction.

If the Federal Educational Records Privacy Act were to be changed in the ways that Ashcroft wanted to change it, Oberlin must abide by the law, “ she said, “But happily it seems likely that a revised bill will go both to the house and then to the Senate which does not contain any provision that would change students’ privacy rights,” Dye said.

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