International students are a big part of the fabric of campus life as they bring new ideas, perspectives and values into the university community. Yet, most non-international students are not aware that some of their international peers must submit to a rigorous federal system of registration based on racial profiling or risk deportation under the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS).
Student Government, under the leadership of Student Body President Omar Khan and Student Body Vice President Ryan Morris, are not only attempting to educate the public about the registration system, but are also trying to lobby for its removal at a federal level. Their efforts are commendable, even if their chances of persuading the government to abolish this flawed system are slim.
Since many of the hijackers involved in the Sept. 11 attacks came to the United States on a student visa, the requirement for foreigners to submit to some form of registration makes sense. There has to be a way for authorities to confirm that individuals here on a student visa are actually taking classes.
The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), a national system quickly put in place after the Sept. 11 attacks to track all foreign students coming to the United States, performs this task adequately. Students that drop classes or don’t sign up for 12 credits per semester are automatically flagged. Government officials, as well as the universities, can then easily track down students and see why they are in breach of their visa requirements.
Even though this effective system is in effect, the Department of Homeland Security is still insisting that students comply with NSEERS and the extra requirements it imposes, which makes their lives needlessly complicated. NSEERS is also being criticized by SG for being racist and sexist, as well as morally and fiscally irresponsible as it only targets males aged 16 or older that come to the United States from a designated list of countries. The people affected by NSEERS are not citizens, nonetheless they should be protected from being treated as suspicious because of their nationality and sex.
Many students have complained that they find the procedure intimidating and that it distracts them from their studies. Students from those countries are required to register where they are fingerprinted and be interviewed by Department of Homeland Security immigration officials. Some students were not even aware of all the requirements and faced deportation for rules they did not know they had broken.
It remains to be seen how effective the efforts of Khan and Morris are. For now though, it is commendable that they are trying to change an unjust system that needlessly puts certain students at a disadvantage. It is also significant that the determination to change the system originates from students who are not affected by NSEERS.