Middle Eastern Students Jailed For Cutting Course Hours

INS Says Students Violated Visa Requirements

College advisers say they are furious over the way immigration officials are treating foreign students who fail to take enough classes under requirements of their student visas.

At least six Middle Eastern students studying in Colorado have been jailed in the past 10 days for failing to take enough classes.

They got into trouble when they showed up to register with U.S. immigration officials, as required by new rules. Upon reporting, they were jailed and required to post $5,000 bonds for enrolling in less than 12 hours of college credit, making them less than a full-time student.

The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service says the students are being detained because under-enrollment is a violation of their student visas. The students are not suspected of any other offense.

About six Middle Eastern students were jailed for 10 days for failing to take enough course work -- which is a violation of their student visas. Is this fair?Yes. They violated the law.No, this seems too extreme. Why not jail foreign students from England or China?

"We're concerned about the heavy-handed nature of the enforcement and their lack of understanding of their own regulations," said Chris Johnson, director of international education at the University of Colorado at Denver. "Students are being detained unfairly and callously."

One University of Colorado at Denver student was jailed last week because he was one hour shy of a full load after receiving college permission to drop a course, Johnson said.

The students are allowed to drop classes for academic or medical reasons with university approval and if they are doing so on the advice of college counselors and professors, Johnson said.

"I don't believe this is helping us with the war on terrorism," said Mark Hallett, director of international student services at Colorado State University. "We're alienating people who could be our best friends and ambassadors once they return to their countries."

The Middle Eastern students were jailed for up to 48 hours before posting bond. Three attend UCD, two study at CU-Boulder, and one attends Colorado State University.

College officials expect more to be detained during a second round of January registrations at the INS district office in Denver.

Larry Bell of the Office of International Education at CU-Boulder told 7NEWS that they have learned something from this.

"We will thoroughly be looking through student files before they go to register. If there's anything that may be a discrepancy, we will advise students to take an attorney with them," Bell told 7NEWS.

He said that students, scholars, researchers and faculty at schools all around the country are worried about these measures, and are concerned what "the next step" would be.

"What they're doing, it seems to me, is creating more haystacks rather than finding needles ... People who are terrorists are not going to go in and register. The people who are going to go in and register are the people who are legitimately here," Bell said.

Congress ordered federal registrations by Dec. 16 for males 16 and older carrying temporary visas from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya and Sudan -- countries identified by the State Department as having ties to terrorism.

A Jan. 10 deadline has been set for men from the United Arab Emirates, North Korea, Morocco, Afghanistan and nine other countries. Two more rounds of registrations will follow with the goal of tracking most foreign nationals by 2005.

"As far as the INS is concerned, this system was put in place in Congress to combat the war on terrorism. We're carrying out their wishes. This is a policy issue," said Nina Pruneda, INS regional public affairs officer.

The INS wants to ensure that international students are diligently pursuing a degree, she said.

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