Because of a new foreign visitor checking system launched by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Dec. 31, international students will now face a series of checks at customs.
Most of the 1,712 international students destined for Temple University are now required to have two of their fingers scanned and a digital photograph taken at 115 airports and 14 seaports upon their arrival into the United States.
The system, called U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology, or US-VISIT, requires every non-immigrant visa holder such as a student or a tourist to record two index fingerprints and a photograph when he enters into the United States. Students who are under the visa waiver programs are excluded from this system.
Upset and surprised students did not know what would happen at the airports when they arrived in the United States. They accepted it and followed custom officers’ instructions anyway.
“I was not upset about the fingerprint, and it did not bother me at all because almost every student does it,” Amanda Struer, a graduate student from Denmark. “And, with my student visa, the United States already knows a lot about me. So a little fingerprint does not really change the situation. However, I do find it strange that [the U.S. government] only assumes non-visa holders can be terrorists. Why not immigrants?”
Senior Louis Pradel from France said that he just cooperated with US-VISIT. “I did not know that I would have to give my fingerprints or take a photo of me. I just shut up and cooperated because, well, what else could I do? Protest and be searched by custom officers?”
Martyn J. Miller, the director of Office of International Service at Temple, said international students do not need to be afraid of US-VISIT, and he predicted no serious change in the number of international applications to Temple in the future.
“We have not seen any specific and severe effect on our students because of US-VISIT as long as they have the right paper work,” Miller said. “I don’t think this new system itself is having a serious impact on them. I also do not think there would be significant reduction of the number of prospective international students coming to Temple in the future because of it.”
Tom Ridge, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, wants to enhance the security for U.S. citizens, permanent residents and visitors from terrorism and to solve the congestion at immigration through US-VISIT, according to the Department of Homeland Security’s Web site. It would require about 15 to 30 seconds to complete the process.
“US-VISIT is an important new element in the global war against terrorism and will serve as a catalyst in the growing international use of biometrics to expedite processing of travelers. We want to show the world that we can keep our boarders open and our nation secure,” Ridge said on Web site.
However, Pradel doubts US-VISIT is the effective against the terrorism.
“I felt that what they are doing to combat the terrorism is not the good solution, and they are abusing of the situation,” Pradel said. “This is their country. They decide the image they want to give. And, if I am not happy, I can always leave.”
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement estimates 28 million non-immigrant visa holders enter and leave the United States every year.
Toshi HoriuchiJosephine Munis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org