WASHINGTON — Foreign nationals from countries that support terrorist activity will still be allowed to enter the U.S. with student and vocational visas under President Bush’s plan to tighten immigration laws.
Bush’s proposal, outlined in more detail yesterday, calls for no changes in the existing visa policies other than to step up efforts to track foreign students to make sure they actually attend the schools they name on visa applications.
In 1996, Congress ordered the Immigration and Naturalization Service to create a database to track foreign students. The INS blames resistance from schools for delays in completing the database.
The Bush plan also sets up a task force to better coordinate federal efforts to deny entry to foreign nationals suspected of supporting terrorism.
Even so, the 19 Arab hijackers entered the U.S.
legally on tourist, business or student visas, and
none showed up on any terrorist “lookout” lists.
Fifteen of them got their visas in Saudi Arabia.
Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., has proposed a 6-month ban on issuing student visas to people who come from the seven countries on the State Department’s list of terrorist-sponsoring states. Those countries are Syria, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Cuba, North Korea and Libya.
A Bush spokesman did not rule out White House support for such legislation.
“The administration has not taken a position on this legislation,” said White House spokesman Christopher J. Orr.
Between 1999 and 2000, State issued 3,370 visas to students from the seven terrorist-supporting countries. Over the past 10 years, more than 16,000 students came from those countries.
On Oct. 14 and Oct. 15 – just over a month after the heinous Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S. by Islamic terrorists – the INS let in 14 Syrian men, all clean-shaven and in their mid-20s, like the hijackers, to train at Fort Worth, Texas, flight schools, as WorldNetDaily first reported Oct. 16.
Like the 19 hijackers, the Syrian applicants’ paperwork was in order, and they did not show up on the FBI’s terrorist watch list.
Some Texas lawmakers, such as U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, expressed outrage over the FBI’s decision not to at least detain the Syrians for questioning.
Residents calling into Dallas-area radio shows said they were shocked that the Bush administration is still honoring flight-school visas from applicants
from the Middle East, particularly ones from terrorist-sponsoring states like Syria.
Some noted that Fort Worth is approximately 60 miles from a nuclear power plant, which could be a possible target of would-be kamikaze student-pilots taking off on solo flights in single or twin-engine planes from Fort Worth’s Meacham field.
Bush recently vowed to do “whatever it takes” to protect Americans.
“We will do whatever it takes to protect our country, to protect the good American families,” Bush said Oct. 17 in a speech to California business leaders. “I urge Congress to act quickly to update our laws and procedures, so we can better protect our country.”