Two objections to the administration's effort to deport Iranian students -- that it bears down on a single nationality and is "offensive and redolent of bad days gone by" and that it has taken on the quality of "mob" behavior -- were stated succinctly in The Post's editorial Nov. 15.
But there is more to be said about what makes a student, Iranian or other, an "illegal alien" and about the virtually unnoticed drive by the INS against all other Iranians in the United States.
Not widely known is the fact that it has been the restrictive policies of the INS that have led to the "illegal conduct" of foreign students, so widespread that the General Accounting Office estimates that 45 percent of all foreign students from every country have violated their status.
In 1974, the INS reversed a previous policy of uniformly granting permission to foreign students to accept summer employment. It made the standard for permitting employment so strict that only those whose funds from abroad were virtually cut off completely could receive permission to work. Since students must pay for tuition, a place to sleep and food, the result was that any self-respecting person gave little regard to INS policy and went to work. "illegal aliens."
Those who are given permission to work are limited to 20 hours per week during the school year. As witness to the rigidity of INS, there was the spectacle in Washington several years ago when the manifests of foreign-student cab drivers were checked to detect overtime employment. As a result, deportation proceedings were begun against students who had worked 21, 22, 23 or 30 hours per week. "Illegal aliens."
Failing to attend school full-time or changing schools also has made "illegal aliens" out of foreign students. INS compels foreign students to attend the schools designated when approvas has been granted to come to the United States by an American consul abroad. Frequently, upon arrival in the United States, the students discover that the intended schools are not suitable. INS regulations forbiid the students to change to other schools. The students change schools anyway. "Illegal aliens."
An undergraduate student is required to take 12 semester hours. Frequently, on the eve of flunking a course, a student will drop it, thus taking less than the required load. "Illegal aliens."
The vice of Carter's program to deport Iranian students is not that they will be deprived of due process procedures. The Constitution, the Immigration and Nationality Act and the conscientiousness of immigration judges and the courts ensure those protections.
The evil is that bona fide, well-meaning and well-behaving students will be deported because of violatons of immigration regulations that would not have occurred if the foreign student program were administered with common sense. The evil is made uglier because it is making Iranian students in the United States the scrpegoat for the outrageous seizure of the Americans in Iran, with the result being only a "show of strength and leadership" on the part of the president of the United States.
No mention has been made of the INS order on Nov. 13 that may result in the expulsion from the United States of thousands of Iranians -- not students, but persons who have come here as visitors to wait out the Khomeini regime.
After the collapse of the shah's government, the INS announced that persons "who fear return to Iran" could remain in the United States until June 1, 1980, pending "clarification of the situation in Iran." That order has now been revoked. Notices are being sent to all Iranians who had been granted permission to remain in the United States until June 1, 1980, to leave voluntarily in 30 days; otherwise, they will be placed under deportation proceedings. The exact number is unknown, but thousands of persons -- former government officials, high and low, business men and women, professionals, those who are retired, and their children -- are now subject to mass deportation. They have invested millions of dollars in the United States in businesses and in homes; they have stored their savings in banks and in investments. Yet they are given 30 days' notice to leave this country.
INS says that those who believe that they will be subject to persecution can apply for asylum. It is an empty gesture. Most of the Iranian settlers are apolitical, are Moslem and have no legitimate basis to claim, as INS requires, that they will be singled out for persecution.
Of the many others who have such claim -- Jews, Christian Armenians, Bahais -- the past policies of INS require proof that the "foreign government" engages in persecution. In Iran, the action against the Jews, the Christians and the Bahais, like the physical attacks on Iranian students in Houston, Los Angeles and other places, has been by mobs, not the government.
And where is the State Department? It must advise INS of its views on the claim of persecution. Yet since the downfall of the shah, that department has refused to give any advice even as to former high government officials who have been targeted for execution by the Iranian government.
President Carter, who is well known for giving second thoughts to his policies, would be well advised to call off the program he has started against Iranians living peacefully in the United States. Its effect will long outlast the problem of securing the release of the hostages in Iran. If not stopped, it will be another page of shame in the history of the United States to match the hysteria against Germans during World War I and the internment of Japanese, American citizens and aliens alike, in concentration camps during World War II.