God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen - Jars of Clay - listen now

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Cry Me A River Ahmed

Here's a link to a story by Angilee Shah on AlterNet. She really lays it on thick about how foreign students now feel unwelcome in the US because of the stricter standards imposed for getting and keeping a student visa after 9-11. Here are some tidbits from it:
Because so many of the terrorists entered on visas and were not screened in personal interviews, new laws require most travelers be interviewed. Interviews take a massive amount of manpower, which manifests itself in long waits for visa interview appointments with U.S. consulars around the world. For example, the Saudi Arabia consular advises travelers that they will face a minimum six-week wait, but security checks could take several months; in Seoul, the wait is, on average, thirty days.
I'm sorry if a wait inconveniences them, but there is something more precious at stake than their travel plans or education.
International students who are male and between the ages of 16 and 45 and from certain countries face another security clearance hurdle in Visas Condor. Among these countries are those considered "state sponsors of terrorism": Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Syria, and Sudan. A student or scholar can be subject to both Mantis and Condor and thus experience incredible delays. The Los Angeles Times cites the case of an "Iranian nuclear physicist" who took seventeen months (and a much-delayed academic plan) to get his student visa to come to the United States.
Why the HECK would we let an "Iranian Nuclear Physicist" come study in the US!
Recent University of California, Berkeley graduate, Imad Ahmed, is an English citizen who left Pakistan before his first birthday. Last December, at the advice of UC Berkeley counselors, he registered with the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration in a program called NSEERS. The program required non-citizen males from twenty-five countries to come forward under the threat of deportation for noncompliance. Any male between 16 and 45 whose nationalities were from any of these countries had to register by May and April deadlines. Ahmed says that the experience was humiliating; officials took his photograph, fingerprinted him, and requested contact information for his friends and family in the U.S. He recalls a woman who was processing registrants; she said that if he missed a single deadline, "We'll come get you."

Yet NSEERS made Ahmed more fearful than embarrassed. He said that when special registration began, he "was waking up in cold sweats" and had many sleepless nights wondering about what would happen to him. His parents in England told him to keep a low profile; Ahmed did not really know how to do that. He was not speaking out about registration, but he says, "I was afraid to be on my own computer to look at [alternative news] websites. I was afraid that just by default, by being a Muslim and being an international student, I would be blacklisted." Of course, Ahmed was not referring to any specific list (there are so many lists (Visas Condor and Mantis, TAL, no-fly lists, etc.) -- but of an overall fear of the FBI and of a country that seemed to fear him.
I for one am tired of the silence of the so-called majority of Muslims who are "peaceful" and supposedly do not agree with the acts of barbarism committed in their name. To them I say: if you don't speak out against the islamofacist terrorists, then you support them. If you don't help root out the evil in your community, then you share their guilt.

My answer to Ahmed's night sweats, wailing and gnashing of teeth? Don't blame Americans for trying to protect ourselves from a known and quantifiable threat. Blame those who took advantage of us and turned our hospitality against us. For pete's sake BLAME THE TERRORISTS! Someone? Anyone?


Imad 11/16/2004 06:54:00 PM  
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Imad 11/16/2004 06:54:00 PM  
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Imad 11/16/2004 07:01:00 PM  

You really should get your facts straight before you make false claims.
I didn't come here to study physics, I graduated with a B.A. in Economics and I'm a British Pakistani, not Iranian. Nice google skills.

I denounced the acts of terrorism on September 11th, 2001. A crowd of 3000 congregated on Upper Sproul on the UC Berkeley campus witnessed it.

I chose to come to Berkeley because it symbolized the ethos of American democracy that the rest of the world looks on with envy: dissent - dissent that has lead to the recognition of civil rights for those not accorded them - women and ethnic minorities. You can check out the work that I did for my part as a Senator of Berkeley's student government on http://webdisk.berkeley.edu/~imad/asuc.htm
Now the attack is on the civil rights accorded to immigrants by the Bill of Rights and the Constitution as well as non-hetrosexual people. You, as a person who isn't accorded the same civil rights

Kevin 11/17/2004 01:48:00 PM  
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Kevin 11/17/2004 01:52:00 PM  

Yeah! My first piece of hate-mail.

Imad (Ahmed, perhaps?), please note - immigrating to America is a PRIVILEGE, not a right.

Also, as it says in my header, I'd rather be gay and live in America under a constitution that bans my right to get married to the person of my choice, than be gay and live in Saudi Arabia under a Shari'a Law death penalty that bans my existence.

Imad 11/17/2004 02:55:00 PM  

First of all, this is not hate mail - you wrote about me, not the other way around. You're not important enough for hate mail.

Secondly, your header point is irrelevant to my comment. You weren't born in the Middle East; you were born in the United States. You should be offended that a nation that proclaims to value equality denies you it and you should work for your equality.

Finally, I entered the University of California, Berkeley as an international student. Only 2% of all international applicants are admitted and we are offered no scholarships or loans. We pay our full way through the undergraduate program, even though we are the cream of the Berkeley undergraduate population.

The Optional Practical Training is a program that is offered to basically all international students after they graduate from a four-year college in the United States - it's basically a part of the deal - you bring $90 000-$120 000 into a U.S. college and you'll be given the right to work in the United States for at least a year afterwards.
The USCIS authorized my Employment Authorization Document so that I could go ahead with my Optional Practical Training, but then lost it. They refused to reissue me a new EAD free of charge and immediately. I'd have to apply for another EAD and wait for upto another 3 months while not earning money and not being allowed to leave the country. This is all nonsense. You shouldn't be opposing my stay and right to earn money for the tireless work that I do here. You should be ashamed of the USCIS's incompetency and faceless unaccountability.

Kevin 11/18/2004 08:16:00 AM  

On the contrary Imad/Ahmed (??), I can fully understand why you want to study in the US and probably want to live here too. At our absolute worst, the Western Democracies are infinitely better than any other nation in the world.

I know you think its far too difficult to gain entry into the US, but quite frankly I don't care. I think we should make it even harder for people to immigrate or come to study. The world is too dangerous, and there are too many crazy zealots around; open borders and easy immigration are simply out of the question. Period.

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