By Tessa Hill
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday January 24, 2003
On the way back from visiting his family in Pakistan, Adeel Mysorewala, like many students returning to school after winter break, waited in the airport for a couple of hours.
However, his plane wasn't delayed; instead, he was waiting to register with the INS.
"I had to wait over two hours, and I missed my connecting flight to Tucson," Mysorewala, a civil engineering junior and president of the Pakistani Students Association said.
But Mysorewala believes the special registration requirement was acceptable and understandable, while others believe it is a violation of their rights and privacy.
"I think it's wrong," said Arman Navabi, a computer science senior and vice president of the UA Iranian Students Association. "No terrorist is going to register."
Under the USA Patriot Act, more than 3,000 international UA students may face background checks by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
International students entering American schools are required to sign a document that states certain information will be provided to the Immigration and Naturalization Service, said Joanne Lagasse-Long, director of International Programs and Services.
But now, the FBI wants to retrieve information about students directly from universities.
The current UA policy maintains that any information requested by the FBI must have a subpoena and the information must come from a request by the University Attorney's Office.
"If they don't have a subpoena, they don't have access to the records, period," Lagasse-Long said.
Lagasse-Long added that there have been no revisions to the current document foreign students must sign to allow the FBI access to personal and background information.
However, some international students, like Mysorewala, are willing to allow FBI more access to their records.
"If it's going to make the country safe, then it's worth it," said Thomas Opio, a political science student from Kenya.
Opio questioned whether or not foreigners should have the same civil liberties as American citizens.
"If we had the same rights as citizens, then a foreigner could be president," he added.
Other students, however, feel the FBI's accessibility to background information singles out foreigners and that the rule should apply to citizens as well.
"I think it's against their civil liberties," Navabi said. "Treating American citizens differently than foreigners will only fuel anger."
The latest application came in addition to the new regulations requiring foreign male visitors who are nationals or citizens of select countries to register with the INS as part of the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System.
NSEERS began with required registration for citizens of Iran, Iraq, Sudan and Syria and has grown to currently encompass 25 countries, with rolling deadlines for registration, according to the Tucson INS sub-office.
In addition to the many changes for international students, Lagasse-Long said that foreign students will soon have to use an electronic notification system, called the Student Exchange and Visitor Information System, which will access records through the barcode on an identification card.
International students will be required to swipe their SEVIS cards when entering and exiting the country.
SEVIS regulations require that UA electronically report any international students who fail to maintain status, change their legal name or U.S. address, graduate early or are cited with disciplinary action. The record of any of those incidents will then be available electronically on the students' cards.
UA is required to be certified with SEVIS by Jan. 30, and Lagasse-Long says they are waiting on the approval from INS.
Lagasse-Long is hopeful that SEVIS will increase the population of international students by allowing for faster visa approval and hassle-free compliance with new and coming INS regulations.