Déjà Vu: Recent Reporting - And Then Corrections - on Student Visas

October 02, 2009

By Victor C Johnson

It’s good to see the news media set the record straight on the details of the case of Hosam Smadi, the Jordanian national accused of attempting to blow up a Dallas office tower and originally reported to have been in the United States on a student visa. Earlier this week, the Department of Homeland Security confirmed that, in fact, he was in the country on a tourist visa.

The Dallas Morning News made the correction only in a brief mention as part of a news round-up; to its credit, though, the paper took note of the importance of the distinction: “The difference is crucial: For foreign students, dropping out of school triggers a report to a central database and, often, a follow-up by immigration authorities. For those who arrive as tourists or workers, it's almost certain authorities won't take notice unless they apply for a driver's license, get pulled over or arrested or call attention to themselves.”

Unfortunately this information didn’t come in time to prevent the usual misplaced outrage from anti-immigration pundits equating the highly regulated student visa system with a lax process that is easy to exploit. What’s clear is this: Any person using any type of visa to enter the United States to do harm to Americans should be prosecuted. As far as the student visa itself goes, it is not easy to obtain, and student visa holders are exhaustively tracked. The reality is that visa status will never be able to tell us much about a person’s intentions. Only good intelligence and investigation can do that.


*Update* On October 6, NAFSA sent the following letter on this subject. The Center for Immigration Studies has since corrected its error in an Author’s note.

Ms. Jessica Vaughan

Director of Policy Studies

Center for Immigration Studies

Dear Ms. Vaughan,

I am writing to request that you update your blog post on the Center for Immigration Studies Web site, titled “The Case of Hosam Maher Husein Smadi: Déjà Vu All Over Again,” to reflect the updated facts of this case, which are that Smadi did not use a student visa to enter the United States. The Department of Homeland Security confirmed on September 30 that in fact he was in the country on a tourist visa. Corrections have appeared in a number of subsequent news articles that have been published about the case. Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

Ursula Oaks

Media Relations Director

NAFSA: Association of International Educators


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