International students will experience new inspections

MIT students warned by ISO about new protocol

Last Wednesday, international students received an email from Danielle Guichard-Ashbrook, director and associate dean of the International Students Office, warning them to be prepared for a new and potentially time-consuming border inspection process when re-entering the U.S. Guichard-Ashbrook stated that the new inspection process is a “direct response” to the Boston Marathon bombings.

On May 2, a senior official at U.S. Customs and Border Protection circulated a memo ordering border agents to verify that all international students entering the United States are traveling on a valid student visa. The order comes in response to the discovery that a Kazakh student accused of hiding evidence on behalf of the younger Boston bombing suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, entered the U.S. on an invalid student visa in January.

At present, international students’ comings and goings are monitored by the Student Exchange and Visitor Information System (SEVIS), an Internet-based system operated by the Department of Homeland Security. Previously, student visas were only verified by SEVIS if a student entering the country was selected for a second inspection by border agents. According to Guichard-Ashbrook’s email, going forward secondary inspections will be required for all foreign students entering the U.S. It is unclear how this additional inspection may affect wait times at the border but the ISO has warned students to expect delays.

Emily Eros, a Canadian and first year Master’s student in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning (Course 11), reacted to the news. “The news struck me as an unsurprising and ineffective reaction to the Boston bombings. The actions seem intended to show that the US is stepping up to prevent future attacks, but in reality, I doubt these measures will have any effect beyond making additional work for border agents and additional hassle for international students. We already have our documents examined, our retinas scanned, and our fingerprints taken each and every time we enter the country. Is an automatic secondary inspection really necessary? Will showing a self-printed course registration really step up security?”

In her email, Guichard-Ashbrook suggested international students travel with copies of their Spring 2013 and Fall 2013 class registrations to present to border agents as additional evidence of their student status.

Other students stated that they felt the change in the visa inspection process was a superfluous reaction to the bombings given that the Tsarnaev brothers, the primary suspects behind the Boston bombings, were not in the U.S. on student visas. Younger brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was a naturalized U.S. citizen. His older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who died in a police shoot out several days after the bombings, held a green card and was therefore considered a permanent resident of the U.S.

Guichard-Ashbrook’s email concludes with an apology to the international student body, “On behalf of the entire ISO staff, I want to let you know that we are so very sorry that you have to contend with these new, very strict requirements. International students in the U.S. are overwhelming compliant and law-abiding visitors to the U.S. through out their academic programs and beyond. These are challenging times for the U.S. as government wrestles with how to make our borders more secure, while at the same time making all of you feel welcomed and valued in the U.S.”

Andrew Farrell over 10 years ago

"""So, the only way they can gain ground is to instill fear that causes us to jettison our values, our way of life, for us to change. The moment we change, the moment we look inward, the moment we get on a crouch on our defensive, that's the moment when they win. What me -- what makes me so proud of this great state and the city of Boston and Cambridge and all those involved and the students on this campus, what makes me so proud to be an American is that we have not yielded to our fears. We have not compromised our values. We have not weakened our constitutional guarantees. We have not closed our borders."""

-- Joe Biden

April 24th, 2013

Anonymous over 10 years ago

We could learn a few good lessons from Australia as far as assessing immigration risks for student visas and handling refugees are concerned. Australia assigns assessment levels for each country based on the calculated immigration risk posed by students coming from that country. The calculated immigration risk for a group of students from a particular country is based on past experience of that group in complying with the terms of their visas and in any of their other risk indicators.

We should take a calculated approach, concentrating our suspicions on those coming from high-risk countries. It would even be better if US Customs and Border Protection ran like an insurance company with actuaries in charge. Those coming from high-risk countries should not just be inconvenienced with more scrutiny. They should pay a higher visa fee as a premium to compensate US citizens for having to take on more public risk.

"We will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come." - John Howard