Don’t restrict visas

Last week, the U.S. government readied for a giant, xenophobic step backward. In response to the recent discovery that one of the hijackers entered the United States with an expired student visa and four others stayed past their visas’ expiration dates, Attorney General John Ashcroft pushed through new rules aimed at tightening immigration security. But like most of Ashcroft’s recent proposals and actions, the new regulations will act more as a noose than a safety seal.

The attorney general intends to block admittance for members or supporters of 46 terrorist organizations which the State Department will designate. On the surface, the proposal seems sound. However, by tacking on the “supporters” provision, Ashcroft granted the Justice Department nearly unlimited authority to bar a foreigner from entering the country. And given Ashcroft’s demonstrated tendencies to sacrifice liberty for the illusion of security – his version of an anti-terrorism bill, for instance, which was too restrictive even for Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah – foreign contributions to American society are threatened.

The effects of this policy will be a detriment to this University and others around the nation. In recent years, foreign students have received more than 50 percent of the science and engineering graduate degrees earned in America. Jagdish Bhagwati and Milind Rao recently wrote in The Science Economist, “(Foreign students) make valuable contributions in university labs. And because they generally end up as immigrants they add to the supply of talented scientific manpower in the country, which can only help the United States.”

And with our stumbling economy, legislators should not encourage thinning the pool of those who, during the last decade, have contributed as much as anyone to the rebirth of American entrepreneurship. The CEO of Cypress Semiconductor, T.J. Rodgers, estimated that the 172 immigrants working for him have created 860 jobs, according to Auren Hauffman’s article “Don’t Starve U.S. Businesses for Skilled Workers” in The American Enterprise.

As President George W. Bush has repeatedly stated since the Sept. 11 attacks, America is a beacon of freedom. That beacon draws some of the best and brightest from around the world because they know the opportunities afforded to people here are unparalleled. Placing restrictions that would have kept Minnesota International Student Association President Sulieman Nader out of America clearly throws a blanket over that beacon.

Ashcroft should instead focus on enforcing current visa restrictions. If someone is here on a student visa, they should be going to school. And if someone wants to come here to learn and contribute to our country, they should be allowed to do so without the fear of harassment, jail time or deportation constantly hanging over their heads.