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Steps of precaution

For foreign students studying in the United States, the already difficult task of traveling and living in a different country has been magnified by the events of Sept. 11.

With this in mind, a lecture was held Wednesday as a part of International Education Week entitled, “Immigration in the Aftermath of September 11th.” Speaking at the lecture were David Austell, director for International Student and Scholar Services, and William Flynn, an immigration law attorney.

Austell said the government is implementing a plan, expected to be completed by January 2003, in which foreign students will be tracked. Among information universities will be forced to provide are records of academic penalties due to criminal misconduct.

“Up until now, that kind of information was never divulged,” Austell said. “Immigration law is loosening up the whole issue of what is reportable to get at illegal immigration issues.”

Austell said President George W. Bush has taken up the issue. Funding has now been provided, he said, for the tracking program. He said the country must be careful in that foreign students provide billions of dollars to the economy annually.

Austell said the importance of foreign exchange is in learning about other cultures. He said this is particularly important today.”Now more than ever, isn’t it time we should know more about each other rather than less about each other?” he asked.

Flynn, who Austell described as a leading attorney in the field of immigration law, addressed the audience of mostly international students after Austell’s remarks. He explained the difficult task that faces the students as they try to live and work in the United States.

Flynn said it will be interesting to see what kind of changes arise in the new political climate.

“I don’t think at the end of the day people like yourselves are going to have any problems as long as you keep up with the paper work,” he said. “I fear a little bit more for your brethren who are in high school now in a foreign country and who are going to be subject to much more rigorous conditions and regulations.”Flynn said foreign students must be very careful in traveling and in their behaviors. He said criminal behavior must be avoided.

“Any transgression, any criminal or other kind of problem you have could cause you some duress,” he said.

Flynn said foreign students must be careful not to unlawfully be in this country.

“Unlawful presence can jump up and bite you,” he said. “Any kind of extended absence once you get a green card can cause you to be ineligible to apply for citizenship.”

Flynn explained the complexities of living as a foreigner in the United States. The process for getting a green card and citizenship takes years, he said.

Flynn said there are a lot of problems that arise from even a simple arrest. He said he believes politicians have done a bad job in creating immigration laws.

“(Congress) has been greatly expanding definitions that were not meant to be expanded,” he said. “When the net is cast into the sea to catch the bad fish, a lot of good fish are caught by this widely expanding net.”

Flynn said the best way to handle all of the problems that arise with immigration laws is to hire a good immigration attorney.

He said such attorneys must be carefully selected and experienced in the field.

“As someone said, if you’re going to have brain surgery, you might not want to worry about the price,” Flynn said.

Student Atanas Jordanov, who is from Bulgaria, said this was the second time he had seen Flynn speak on the subject.

“I think that for me, their advice is for free, and they seem to lead you to know the process,” he said.

“But you still have to take the legal advice.”Jordanov said he is learning the process so that when he leaves USF he will be able to apply to stay in the United States. He said he will seek legal help when the time comes.

“Some people try to do it by themselves, but not me,” Jordanov said. “You see, all this stuff is too complicated.”

Austell said in the opening remarks of the lecture that few people will be able to forget the images of Sept. 11.

“Those images become some of the most important images of the beginning part of our century,” he said. “Related to internationals in the United States, it quickly became apparent that the perpetrators of the crime were not United States citizens.”

Austell said the attacks were the worst on the mainland United States since the War of 1812. Therefore, he said, before Sept. 11, the country had become isolated.

“The United States will never be the same again,” he said.

“Related to the presence of foreign nationals, it is certainly true that change is in the air.”

Austell said changes are continuously occurring in how foreigners living in the United States are seen by the government. Even more changes, he said, could be on the way.

“Will things be the way they were before? That remains to be seen,” he said.

“Today, we are going to talk about things we know are changing.”

  • Contact Rob Brannonat