Months ago, I resolved to read as few newspapers and watch as little television as possible between September 1 and September 15th.My intention was to avoid the inevitable over-kill on 9/11 stories and tributes. I don't need endless media coverage to help me "remember" or "cope". I was way too optimistic on my dates. I should have targeted the period beginning with July 4th and ending on Christmas. "America Remembers" shows have already aired on CNN and NBC. Most major networks plan daylong coverage on 9/11.
The networks are bidding against each other to sign up special consultants like former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik to add "color" commentary throughout the day. Throughout New York's five boroughs, dawn to dusk tributes, readings, odes, prayer sessions and commemorations will take place. The day's first event will be a march to ground zero led by bagpipers and ending with a reading of the names of the dead. Apparently sorrow is more heartfelt if expressed in public.
I'm deeply conflicted about these outpourings of grief. On the one hand, many mourners are no doubt sincere. But others—the television networks and the politicians—have their own sub rosa agenda. One thing I am clear on: President Bush's scheduled appearances at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and Shanksville, PA. are offensive to the memory of those killed and their families.
All the bagpipers and orators in the country cannot do the one thing that President Bush could do. To help the nation cope and recover, Bush could have spent the last year developing a plan to keep America safe.
Instead the best Bush has been able to come up with is the fiasco known as Homeland Security and a half-baked concept to wage war with Iraq. Despite the saber rattling toward Baghdad, the reality remains that stronger ties exist between Al Qaeda and Saudi Arabia—whom we refuse to challenge—than Al Queda and Iraq. To implement a meaningful plan that will protect America, Bush would have to do more than talk tough. He'd have to be tough—something he has repeatedly shown no stomach for. Real presidential courage would require ending politically correct but inherently dangerous programs that threaten the U.S. every day.
The foreign student visa program is a good place to begin. For an in-depth look at this long abused program, see the recently released report issued by the Center for Immigration Studies (www.cis.org) titled "An Evaluation of the Foreign Student Program" by Harvard Professor George Borjas.
Over the last three decades, the number of F-1 academic visas and M-1 vocational visas has increased from 65,000 to 315,000. Many were issued without merit. And thousands of "students" overstayed their expiration dates. One of the terrorists, Hani Hasan Hanjour, entered the U.S. on a student visa to study English as a second language. Mohammed Atta received his visa to attend flight school post-mortem.
During the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis, when President Carter wanted to know how many Iranians were enrolled in U.S. universities, the Immigration and Naturalization Service could not provide the answer. And after the 9/11 attacks, the INS still does not know how many foreign students are in the U.S. let alone how many of them come from terrorist sponsored nations.
According to Borjas's findings, in 1998 the INS reported that 599,000 foreign students entered the country but that the State Department issued only 280,000 visas. Who knows how the other 319,000 entered the country, where they are or what they are up to?
The U.S. has approximately 4,000 colleges and universities, 6,000 state-accredited vocational schools and 24,000 secondary schools for a total of 34,000 legitimate learning institutions. But the INS, which must approve all schools as qualified to accept visa holders, has certified the amazing total of 73,000 schools. Golf academies, beauty schools, acupuncture colleges and, of course, flight training centers are among those who can accept foreign students. Those institutions actively recruit abroad for pupils.
Said a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Visa Services "Unfortunately, schools that actively recruit foreign students for primarily economic reasons and without regard to qualifications or intentions, may encourage high-risk underachievers to seek student visa status as a ticket to the U.S."
For the complete accounting of the rampant corruption and fraud found in this taxpayer subsidized program that doesn't benefit U.S. citizens to nearly the extent advertised, download the C.I.S. report online.[PDF]
In the meantime, I submit to you that any country that permits shams like the student visa program to continue post 9/11 is not, regardless of presidential protestations, serious about protecting Americans.
Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It currently appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel.