Union Tribune

September 19, 2002 

INS tracking system flawed, official says

By Joe Cantlupe 
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE 

WASHINGTON The Justice Department's inspector general told
Congress yesterday that the immigration service's plan to launch
a new foreign student tracking system is flawed and won't meet a
Jan. 30 deadline.

The Immigration and Naturalization Service has begun enlisting
thousands of schools for a new electronic tracking program to
plug a gaping hole in the national security system.

A top INS official, testifying before the House Judiciary
Committee, acknowledged that although the new Student
Exchange and Visitor Information Program will be available to
thousands of schools, it will not be fully implemented by Jan.
30.

Earlier, Assistant Commissioner Janice Sposato insisted that the
program was on track to meet the deadline imposed by
Congress.

But she backpedaled after the Justice Department's inspector
general and school officials expressed doubt about the INS'
ability to meet the deadline.

Though the program may be "technically operational" by the
deadline, "we have concerns about whether the INS will be able
to complete all the steps necessary to ensure full and proper
implementation," said Glenn Fine, the inspector general.

Fine said the INS apparently lacks training programs to ensure
that thousands of schools are properly certified to accept
foreign students. He said the INS also lacks procedures to
uncover fraud at some questionable schools.

Officials have difficulty keeping track of the estimated 500,000
foreign students in the United States. The number of schools
ranges from 10,000 to 70,000, with many out of business since
the last INS nationwide count 20 years ago.

Nearly a year ago, Congress ordered the INS to overhaul its
antiquated paper tracking system after it was revealed that at
least three of the Sept. 11 hijackers including Hani Hanjour of
Saudi Arabia, who lived in San Diego were in this country on
student visas.

The University of California system and San Diego State
University expect to participate by the Jan. 30 deadline,
officials said.