The Immigration and Naturalization Service has proposed regulations that reverse a year-old policy and will again require all foreign students in the United States to report to authorities annually to prove they are properly enrolled in school.
Acting INS Commissioner David Crosland told The Washington Post last month that the proposed regulations would allow the immigration service to "tighten up the whole control process for students." The formal proposals were published Wednesday in the Federal Register.
There are an estimated 235,000 foreign students in the United States, a Justice Department spokesman said last night.
It was little more than a year ago that INS changed its policy of requiring yearly reporting because it was considered a waste of time and manpower.
The Justice spokesman said the reversal was prompted by an administration decision to take a new look at other foreign students in the aftermath of the crackdown last fall on Iranian students who had violated the terms of their visas.
David Carliner, a Washington immigration lawyer who challenged the constitutionality of the campaign to find illegal Iranian students, said last night that he found the new paper-generating proposals ironic, "coming from a president who has announced a hiring freeze and budget cuts. It serves no useful purpose.
Carliner predicted that the policy reversal won't find many of the students who might be living and working in this country in violation of their student visas. He noted that the vast majority of the nearly 57,000 Iranians who reported to INS last fall were found to be here legally.
INS is still looking for an estimated 10,000 Iranians beieved to be here illegally. So far they have found about 700.
Carliner said the other foreign students who are "out of status" aren't likely to report, just as most of the illegal Iranian students didn't report.
In explanation of its proposed policy reversal, INS said in introducing the regulations: "Events during the past year have focused on nonimmigrant students and caused the service to reevaluate its position. We believe that effective controls on students are required in order for INS to fulfill its statutory responsibilities."
Under the proposals, foreign students will not be allowed to change schools or take jobs without INS permission. The program would require students to report in groups, month by month, for the first six months after the regulations are final. Comment is permitted until May.