International Students Face INS Scrutiny

Jennifer Bear
Campus/Federal Politics Reporter
Oregon Daily Emerald

A new wave of international students will be required to interview with the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, formerly the Immigration and Naturalization Service

The thought of a job interview often injects fear into the hearts of students. But many students in the University’s international community face a tougher interview: registration with the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, formerly the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Unlike a job interview, where the worst possible consequence is not getting hired, failing the special registration interview can earn international students a one-way ticket out of the country.

Fears about the registration process have been escalating as country after country is added to the Immigration Special Registration list. Journalism instructor and member of the Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation Micky Lee said new developments with special registration are especially troubling because they will affect a significantly higher number of University students than previous registration phases.

“It is simply unfair to ask them to go up to Portland and be questioned by the (immigration agency),” Lee said. “A lot of international students don’t even have a car.”

Males 16 or older from Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan and Kuwait are the latest batch of temporary foreign visitors required to take part in special registration. Students from these countries must register with BCIS between Feb. 24 and April 25. Ginny Stark, director of International Student and Scholar Services, said Indonesian students make up the sixth-largest population of international students at the University, as 75 students were enrolled in fall 2002.

Rahmat Rahmat, an Indonesian graduate student in physics, said he believes the registration process is discriminatory because only certain countries are required to register. He added that he feels vulnerable because interviewees must answer all immigration officials’ questions in the interview, regardless of the language barrier or the potentially intrusive nature of the questions.

“Anything can happen because they have full right to detain me, arrest me and deport me,” Rahmat said. “The victims of registration cannot have the right to remain silent.”

Some students said the process has been relatively simple.

University students Talal Al-Rahbi and Khaled Ishaq said the registration process was not hostile, even though they had to provide a great deal of information under oath and were photographed and fingerprinted. Al-Rahbi registered in early January, while Talal registered in late December, but both said their interviews only took 20 to 30 minutes.

“The process wasn’t like an interrogation, it was more like what you’d go through to apply for a job,” Al-Rahbi said.

He added that the wealth of information required for registration — such as proof of address, proof of registration for classes, credit card numbers, parents’ names, birth dates and contact information — would deter dangerous individuals from actually registering.

Although both Al-Rahbi and Ishaq said the procedure itself was not intimidating or uncomfortable, they felt the prolonged scrutiny of their personal information was troubling.

“It certainly doesn’t feel good to know that all your personal transactions might be used against you, just because it would look suspicious at the outset,” Ishaq said. “And those who are less proficient in English would find the interview a very stressful process, since what they say might be misunderstood easily.”

Lee said GTFF is ready to provide moral support to University students who are concerned about special registration, and the group is planning on organizing a car pool to provide international students with transportation to the Portland District Office of BCIS. Students interested in this service can contact GTFF through Sebastian Zwicknagl at [email protected].