An internal Department of Homeland Security memo has instructed border agents to automatically verify the visa status of every international student “effective immediately.”
The enhanced student visa security comes after authorities discovered that a student from Kazakhstan in the United States on an invalid student visa was accused of aiding in the disposal of Boston terror suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s backpack three days after the bombing. Azamat Tazhayakov, 19, was dismissed from the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth on January 4, 2013. Another student from Kazakhstan, Dias Kadyrbayev, has also been arrested.
Lawmakers have criticized the laxity of U.S. student visa procedures and called for stricter rules in the wake of the Boston terror bombings that claimed three lives and injured over 250 people.
Since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the number of Saudi Arabian students studying in the United States has jumped over 500%–climbing from 5,579 students in the 2001-2002 school year to 34,139 in 2011-2012. Saudi national Hani Hanjour was in the U.S. on a student visa when he flew American Flight 77 into the Pentagon.
More recently, in 2011, authorities arrested Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari, a 20-year-old college student from Saudi Arabia, on federal charges of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction to blow up dams, nuclear plants, or the Dallas home of former president George W. Bush. Aldawsari was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
An estimated 40% of the 11 million to 20 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. came here legally through a student visa but overstayed after it expired.