WT - Bill aims to keep track of foreign students
Bill aims to keep track of foreign students
By Audrey Hudson
December 7, 2007
www.House.gov Rep. Gus Bilirakis, Florida Republican, wants colleges to report to the government when foreign students are unaccounted for in order to make sure they are "doing what they came here to do."
Legislation authored by Rep. Gus Bilirakis of Florida would allow for tracking and thorough background checks on foreign students to block those with terrorist ties from participating in the U.S. student visa program.
Mr. Bilirakis, a Republican, said his measure is a response to the indictment of two University of South Florida students from Egypt who were caught with pipe bombs near a Navy installation in South Carolina.
"I recognize it is very important to encourage and help to extend America's higher education system to students from other countries. I also believe that the existing guidelines for issuing and tracking foreign students need improvement," he said.
Mr. Bilirakis said he penned the legislation after conversations with Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff on the security procedures for the issuing of student visas and classified briefings on the Florida students.
Ahmed Abdellatif Sherif Mohamed and Youssef Samir Megahed were stopped by police on Aug. 4 in Goose Creek, S.C., and charged with possession of explosive devices.
Mr. Mohamed also is accused of teaching and demonstrating the making and the use of an explosive device. He produced an online video that shows terrorists how to use remote-controlled toys to detonate bombs.
The revelation prompted a new rule by the Transportation Security Administration prohibiting remote-controlled toys in carry-on luggage aboard commercial aircraft.
Under Mr. Bilirakis' legislation, colleges would be required to report prolonged absences and keep closer tabs on the activities of foreign students.
Schools must report when a foreign student quits attending classes later in the academic term for more than 30 days or when a student is not heard from for 60 days or more during a nonacademic period.
Colleges or universities will have to report to the Department of Homeland Security the names of foreign students who transfer to other institutions or programs.
Homeland Security officials also will be required to monitor school performance.
"Through stronger cooperation between the State Department and Homeland Security Department, the government can ensure that foreign students are here doing what they came here to do," Mr. Bilirakis said.
Ken Gullette, a spokesman for the University of South Florida, told the Tampa Tribune they have complied with regulations passed after September 11 "and will gladly cooperate with any modifications to those regulations."
"The legislation raises many questions — particularly relating to the observation of international students — that are difficult to address without more specifics," Mr. Gullette said.