ISIS fighters could be hiding in plain sight on American college campuses. Florida Representative Gus Bilirakis said that government security officials are worried about Islamic State fighters posing as foreign students in the United States.
A total of 58,000 foreign students have overstayed their visas, and more than 6,000 of the individuals cannot be located, according to the Florida Republican.
“These gaps in the student visa system pose serious security threats to the United States and exploit the laws that allow for legitimate academic and cultural visitors, which I support,” Representative Gus Bilirakis said.
Approximately 4,000 ISIS fighters, with about 300 of the militants stemming from the United States, are of college age. Bilirakis is concerned that some of the Islamic State jihadists could also be among those missing 6,000 foreign students. The lawmaker also maintains that the Department of Homeland Security, the federal agency which holds jurisdiction over visas and immigration, has not been diligent in looking for and deporting the college students with expired visas.
“The threat is real. Some of the terrorists responsible for the 9/11 attacks and the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center entered the country through the student visa program,” Bilirakis added.
Since September 11 a total of 26 foreign students have been arrested on terror-related charges, the Representative revealed.
The foreign students as terrorists possibility hits home for many constituents in Bilirakis’ district, the lawmaker noted. In 2007, two foreign students were arrested with multiple pipe bombs and other explosives-making materials in the trunk of their car. The two Egyptian students were attending the University of South Florida.
“The student visa system is a gaping hole, and it must be addressed. That is why I have introduced the Student Visa Security Improvement Act every Congress since 2007. This important measure would ensure foreign students and exchange visitors enter the country for legitimate purposes. It would provide additional scrutiny for applicants, and put mechanisms into place to ensure students are attending classes in which they are enrolled. Congress must act with haste to strengthen student visa security and bring proper oversight to the Student Exchange Visitor Program. 9/11 proved the security flaws in the student visa program, and ISIL cannot be allowed to exploit them. It is time for Congress to act,” Bilirakis said.
The United States Student and Exchange Visitor Program most recent statistical report (July, 2014) reveals that there are currently 966,333 students studying in America, and 232,988 exchange visitors also in the country. Twenty-eight percent of all foreign students come from China. Compared to the annual report issued last year, the number of foreign college students and exchange visitors has increased by eight percent. There are currently 70,366 foreign students originating from Saudi Arabia. California, New York, and Texas play host to the bulk of the foreign students and exchange visitors.
There is also a significant population of foreign college students at the University of Illinois, the University of Iowa, the Transpac Aviation Academy, U.S. Aviation Academy, and the IASCO Flight Crew Training Center. The most popular majors chosen by the foreign students include biological and biomedical sciences and engineering.
[Image via: Shutterstock.com]