The recent executive order on immigration has caused quite a lot of controversy both within and outside of higher education. In international education, especially those working with international students, knowledge of immigration law is crucial. While I’m no immigration expert or scholar, I think there are some laws that we all should be familiar with as student affairs professionals.
Firstly, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) is worth mentioning because it establishes surveillance for national security purposes. You’ll notice that the act defines “foreign power”, “agent of a foreign power” and “international terrorism” right. Much of immigration law can trace it roots for national security concerns and this law is no exception.
One law passed after 9/11 was the Enhanced Security and Visa Entry Act , which also called for closer surveillance. In section 501, this law discusses a foreign student monitoring program. FISA would later be amended and called the Patriot Act after the wake of 9/11. The Patriot Act (particularly Section 416) would call for stricter surveillance of international students through a government online database that would come to be known as SEVIS (Student Exchange and Visitor Information System) that is used by international student advisors daily.
Immigration and Nationality Act and IIIRA
The Immigration and Nationality Act and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIIRA) are also integral to know in the realm of immigration law. Both attempt to streamline immigration matters in the United States.
Fulbright Hays Act and Code of Federal Regulations
The establishment of the J-1 exchange program can be traced from the Fulbright Hays Act. This seeks to “increase mutual understanding between people of the United States and people from other countries by means of educational and cultural exchange.” And lastly, the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) is also one of the most cited laws in the international student advising side of higher education.
You’ll notice that all of these laws focus on the surveillance of foreigners due to national security concerns (especially fear of terrorism). It is interesting that, in the legal perspective, foreign students are viewed as a threat before they even set foot in the US. With the recent immigration executive orders just signed, the current administration continue to perpetuate this viewpoint to the general public. It will and already has dire effects on the international student community that is here in America.