Now that ISIS has switched the focus of terrorism from coordinated attacks, which can frequently be picked up by intelligence surveillance, to hard-to-detect lone-wolf operations, it is our time to wonder why we let 127,000 students from Muslim-majority countries into the U.S. each year. The terrorist who savagely murdered four American Marines and one Navy sailor in Chattanooga was from Kuwait and came here as a high school student.
Of the student visa from Muslims-majority nations, 53,000 came from Saudi Arabia and 10,000 from Iran. Seven thousand came from Kuwait. It is a total fantasy to believe that we can sort through the applications for visas to determine who is and who is not a national security threat. In a nation like Saudi Arabia, we are not allowed access to that level of information, and in a nation like Iran, with whom we have no diplomatic relations, we have no ability at all to learn who wants to come into our country, much less what they will do when they get here.
In all, 14 percent of all student visas are given to people from Muslim-majority nations.
Each year the State Department designates a number of countries as terror sponsors, and another list names those who harbor terrorists. We should immediately stop the issuance of student visa to people from countries on either of those lists. It is just too big a risk to let them in.
Remember that the terrorist who flew his airplane into the Pentagon on 9/11 was here on a student visa (although he had never shown up for classes).
Why do we open our door to them?
The official reason is to expose students to our country and our way of life in the over-confident and misguided notion that it will kindle a respect and affection for us, which would inoculate these students from the lure of terrorism. In fact, the opposite appears to be the usual case. Exposure to our way of life often kindles a backlash against our “decadence” and a desire to return to traditional Muslim values, particularly as regards the treatment of women.
The more common process is that foreign students, particularly those from Muslim countries, radicalize while here, moved by peer pressure to confront the country that offers its hospitality.
But the real reason we let all these students in is the financial needs of our university system. These students, who normally pay full tuition, contributed $22 billion to the U.S. higher education system in 2012. Proportionately, the 14 percent from Muslim-majority countries probably account for about $3 billion of the total.
Particularly with state legislatures cutting back on subsidies to state universities at a rate of 28 percent over the past five years, these foreign students – and their parents’ checkbooks – are a welcome source of financial relief.
But they come at too high a price.
Some object to focusing on Muslim-majority countries for a visa cutoff – but the State Department’s list of terror nations has been the basis for differential treatment in a host of U.S. programs, and there is no reason not to apply the distinction to student visas.
It is almost impossible for federal agencies to spot all possible lone-wolf terrorists, much less to take effective measures to stop their potential for mayhem. Unless we resort to such intensive monitoring of the Net and Facebook as to invite strident criticism from the civil libertarians, we cannot hope to stop the lone-wolf operative. Especially when the type of attack no longer requires sophisticated weaponry or tactics and consists of just a suicide attacker spraying bullets around, the potential for infiltration and unmasking of these terrorists is very limited.
Some defend student visas because of the opportunity for our American students to learn about foreign cultures and viewpoints. We have ample evidence, for example, of the spread of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic views on campuses stimulated by students from Arab nations. We certainly don’t need more leftist influences on our children.
The time has come to put the needs of our country first. We must wean colleges and universities from dependence on student visas from Muslim-majority countries. China is by far the leading recipient of student visas and is the fastest-growing participant in the program. While China is no ally, there is no evidence of terrorism from Chinese students, and there can be no objection to increasing their numbers to offset the decline in revenues from students from nations that sponsor or harbor terrorists.
Let state legislatures adequately fund their state universities and not force the kind of hand-to-mouth finances on them that requires the admission of these dangerous young people year after year.
We must stop giving student visas to nations that are linked to terrorism.