Arrest of Nafis sparks debate over student visas

A day after the arrest of Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis, a Bangladesh in the Unites States on a student visa, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer requested a tighter evaluation of international students applying for visas to attend universities in the United States.

Nafis was arrested in New York for trying to detonate a fake car bomb in an attempt to blow up the Federal Reserve building on October 17. Though he has not yet been convicted, the incident has sparked a movement to squeeze the number

“This foiled attack must serve as a wakeup call – we need to shut down gaping loopholes allowing foreign nationals, some of whom may wish to do us harm, from entering the country through the student visa program,” Schumer said in a statement.

In co-sponsoring the Student Visa Integrity Act, Schumer cited a Congressional investigation that shut down a number of ‘sham universities’ that allowed undercover agents to obtain student visas while paying tuition without attending any classes.

However, though Nafis attended classes at Manhattan’s ASA Institute of Business and Computer Technology, Schumer does not blame the university.

“There is no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of Nafis’s school,” he said a press statement.

As of January 2012, 850,000 foreign students study in over 10,000 approved schools across the U.S. through the student visa program according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

NYU is one of the top universities attracting international students, and the Class of 2016 has a new record of 16 percent of its students coming from other countries, 130 in total.

“Among the best people in the world come to NYU…and that makes for a very dynamic academic environment,” said David Austell, Director of NYU’s Office for International Students and Scholars.

He believes the Immigration and Custom Enforcement system that grants student visas does not need to be changed. “Its already pretty strict,” he said. “Making the system even more strict would only mean more delays [for international students].”

NYU Sociology Professor Michael Gould-Wartofsky agreed.

“For far too long, the burden of national security has been placed on the shoulders of our international students, who, with few exceptions, are guilty of nothing more than wanting to get an education in US universities,” he said. “Instead of welcoming them, our elected officials treat them as dangerous criminals and potential terrorists from the moment they get off the plane.”

Gould-Wartofsky also spoke harshly of Schumer’s bill. “[It] would only tighten the clampdown, punish the innocent, and implement a costly new system to ‘better track students.’”

CAS Freshman Ollia Reykhart, who had to apply for a student visa from the US embassy in Moscow, Russia, agreed that the current process is complicated.

“It’s already long and intimidating,” she said. “If stricter rules would make it any more tormenting than waking up at 5 am to spend six hours just to wait in line in the embassy, I wouldn’t want to know what those rules are.”

Andrew Karpan is a staff writer. Email him at cstate@nyunews.com.

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