For 2013-2014, 127,000 visas went to foreign nations from predominantly Muslim countries. Saudi Arabia headed the list with 53,919 visas, followed by Iran, Nigeria, Indonesia and Kuwait.
In all, 14 percent of student visas go to Muslim nations.
In 2005, only 2,500 Saudis matriculated at U.S. colleges. Even though 15 of the 19 9/11 terrorists were Saudis, the number of F-1 student visas given to Saudis has more than quadrupled in a decade.
The Wall Street Journal estimates that 81,000 Saudis are currently enrolled in U.S. universities. Unless an individual is on a watch list or connected to someone who is, the State Department doesn’t require students to undergo a national security check. No process exists to check who the students are.
Saudi national Khalid Aldawsari, for example, came to the United States on an F-1 visa to study chemical engineering at Texas Tech University. Authorities arrested Aldawsari in 2011 after authorities learned he had purchased bomb-making chemicals. One Aldawsari target was former President George W. Bush’s Dallas home.
Although the background regarding Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, who killed five unarmed U.S. military service members last month in Chattanooga, Tenn., is still unfolding, the FBI knows that he was born in Kuwait, attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and graduated in 2012 with a degree in electrical engineering.
According to the Institute of International Education, 79 percent of Iranian students and 42 percent of Saudis are enrolled in science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs, the so-called STEM fields. Congress and Silicon Valley executives constantly lobby for more STEM workers even though their presence might mean heightened security risks.
Most observers consider that granting student visas to nationals from terrorist-sponsoring nations and avowed U.S. enemies is suicidal insanity. Apparently, the practice doesn’t bother Congress or President Barack Obama.
But it does trouble retired FBI special agent and counterterrorism tactical expert Tim Clemente, who told Fox News that there’s “no doubt” the student visas need to be carefully scrutinized — especially in light of the hundreds of thousands who keep coming. Clemente said the FBI has its hands full with potential terrorists already living in the United States and cannot, as FBI director James Comey warned, efficiently monitor the danger a continuing influx poses.
Last year, about 58,000 student visa holders overstayed. Of these, 6,000 were referred to federal agents for follow-up because they had been identified as persons of concern. As of today, immigration officials are unable to find them.
Since the F-1 visa has no caps, unlimited numbers enter freely. Potentates from oil-rich Middle Eastern countries can easily afford the tuition, and university administrators lust after the higher fees that overseas students eagerly pay.
Unless Congress gets serious and cracks down on visas issued to nationals from suspect nations, America will remain an easy target for more terrorist attacks carried out by enemies invited by the federal government.
— Joe Guzzardi is a senior writing fellow for Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS) who now lives in Pittsburgh. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.