By Paul A. Anthony, Editor in Chief
The race for a more secure nation will have further effects on international students as the university begins complying with new federal regulations on tracking students who aren’t American citizens.
The new regulations do not require the school to gather any new information on its international students, said Kevin Kehl, associate director of the Center for International and Intercultural Education. “In some ways, it’s not new,” Kehl said. “I think what’s been so different and so surprising is that it’s been so easy and lax for so long.”
Before the regulations were enacted, the university was required to record international student data and have it ready should the Immigration and Naturalization Service request it.
Now, all colleges who receive federal funds and enroll international students must send on the info to a computer database, to which the INS, State Department and Homeland Security Department will have access.
Recorded information includes name, date of birth, country of origin, country of citizenship, major, date of attendance, anticipated completion date and statement of finances.
“In the past, some differences would be, I think, we didn’t place a premium on things like change of major,” Kehl said. “It’s also quite a challenge keeping up with change of address.”
The school has until Aug. 30 to enter its current international students into the database. ACU already is entering all newly enrolled students from overseas.
The new policies have already had adverse consequences for at least one student.
Vitoria Lao, freshman finance major from Macau, an island province of China, was detained briefly in January for giving a major different than what was written on her card, the Abilene Reporter-News reported earlier this month.
Kehl said the system works like this: accepted students receive a form they must turn in to the U.S. embassy in their home country.
The embassy official scans a code on the form that is entered into the IMS database. The code is scanned again upon entry into America, and then the school verifies the students’ enrollment when they arrive.
“Even before this came up, students understand they don’t have the same rights and privileges as citizens here,” Kehl said.
However, the new regulations have not been as controversial as last year’s policies requiring all males over the age of 16 who are citizens of certain countries to register with the State Department.
In California, several hundred people were detained on minor immigration violations after registering.
ACU students from Syria were required to travel to Dallas to register there, while another student was kept from re-entering the country for 30 days after visiting his parents in Indonesia so authorities could perform a background check.
“I can see where some [civil liberties] groups could be worried about that,” Kehl said.