On the 13th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, legislation was introduced that would require farrier schools to be accredited before accepting foreign students. While the bill never gained traction, it appears the bill will be reintroduced as the 14th anniversary looms a little more than a month away.
Although a timetable has not been determined, a representative in Sen. Charles Grassley’s office has confirmed to American Farriers Journal that the Iowa Republican intends to resurrect the Student Visa Integrity Act with the 114th Congress.
The text of the impending legislation isn’t known, but it’s probably a safe bet that it will closely resemble its previous incarnation. In fairness to Grassley, the senator’s intentions are noble. His bill was in response to an ABC News report that 58,000 foreign nationals were still in the U.S. after their student visas expired. More than 6,000 of them have vanished and are considered a “heightened concern.”
Without a doubt, this is a serious breach of national security. After all, some of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorists exploited the lax security to unleash their devastating attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C. Yet, by all indications, the chasm can be closed simply by enforcing the laws that are on the books. In fact, Grassley said as much when he introduced the initial bill, calling the Student and Exchange Visitor Program “one of the sleepiest federal agencies in existence.”
“While there’s been a dramatic increase in the number of student visas granted,” Grassley said at the time, “Immigration and Customs Enforcement hasn’t made it a priority to keep tabs on these visa holders.”
So why, pray tell, is new legislation the answer when the government isn’t enforcing existing laws? It leaves Kash McAnally scratching her head.
“It’s shocking to me that someone could get away with failing to report a foreign student who did not show up for school or left early,” says McAnally, who handles foreign student visas at Oklahoma State Horseshoeing School in Ardmore, Okla. “I have to keep in contact with the federal government throughout the entire process. If a student doesn’t show up, then I notify the government.”
It’s shocking because it’s such a detailed and strict process for any school to admit a foreign student.
When a foreign student wishes to gain an education in the U.S., the school must enter their information in a computer database and provide the appropriate paperwork. The student must validate the visa online and pay the fees involved. The student must present the paperwork to federal officers at the border before being permitted into the country. School officials must notify the government whether the student arrives and leaves.
“You can get in trouble really fast if you are not on top of it,” explains Chris Gregory, owner of Heartland Horseshoeing School in Lamar, Mo.
Indeed, three people are facing charges for allegedly operating a handful of California schools for Korean and Chinese students who did not attend classes, nor did they live in the same state. Prosecutors say the trio collected approximately $6 million in tuition from 1,500 foreign students. They face charges of conspiracy to commit immigration fraud, money laundering and other immigration offenses.
Under Grassley’s previous legislation, if fraud or misuse of immigration documents takes place, the guilty party will face a fine and 15 years in prison.
If the Iowa Republican is successful in passing the bill into law, becoming compliant to accept foreign students most likely will be more trouble than it’s worth for the nine unaccredited farrier schools like Gregory’s.
“It’s quite a few hoops to jump through already,” says the Hall Of Fame farrier. “It would take a lot of resources to become accredited for 10 potential students per year.”
If you truly want to solve this problem, Sen. Grassley, heed your own words and ensure that current law is enforced.