Educating Our Adversaries

Why educating foreign STEM students is bad for American workers and national security.

On September 3, 2015 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued an important news release, “SEVP releases quarterly report on international students studying in US: 9 percent increase in international students, 32 percent increase in students from India since 2014.”

Here is an excerpt from that news release: 

Based on data extracted from SEVIS July 7, there are more than one million international students, using an F (academic) or M (vocational) visa, enrolled at nearly 9,000 U.S. schools. This marked a nine percent increase when compared to July 2014 data.

Seventy-six percent of all international students were from Asia. The top 10 countries of citizenship for international students included: China, India, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Canada, Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam, Mexico and Brazil.

India and Vietnam had the greatest percentage increase in students studying in the United States at 31.9 and 25.9 percent, respectively, when compared to statistics extracted from SEVIS July 2014. The University of Southern California, New York University, Columbia University, the University of Illinois and Purdue University ranked one through five among U.S. schools with the most international students.

More than 400,000 international students pursued STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) coursework in July 2015, an increase of nearly 17.7 percent from July 2014 data (more than 60,000). Sixty-six percent of international students studying STEM fields were male. Eighty-six percent of international students studying STEM coursework were from Asia. More international students studied engineering than any other STEM field of study, with 29 percent of those engineering students coming from India.

There are several issues pertaining to this ICE new release that must be considered:

1.  The H-1B Visa Program which all too often enable foreign high-tech workers such as computer programmers, scientists, engineers and other STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) professionals to displace American STEM professionals has sparked outrage among displaced American workers who have the requisite education, abilities and experience, but lost their jobs to H-1B visa holders.  Providing STEM degrees to foreign students floods the pool of foreign professionals who compete with American students who are pursuing STEM degrees and American STEM professionals who are already working in these high-tech fields.

Even American STEM workers who retain their jobs suffer wage suppression.  This coincides with the Strategy articulated to achieve “wage equality” by Alan Greenspan when on April 30, 2009 he testified before a hearing conducted by the Senate Judiciary Committee that was chaired by Senator Chuck Schumer on the topic, “Comprehensive Immigration Reform in 2009, Can We Do It and How?

During his prepared testimony Greenspan stated, in part:

The second bonus (in accelerating the influx of skilled immigrant workers) would address the increasing concentration of income in this country. Greatly expanding our quotas for the highly skilled would lower wage premiums of skilled over lesser skilled. Skill shortages in America exist because we are shielding our skilled labor force from world competition. Quotas have been substituted for the wage pricing mechanism. In the process, we have created a privileged elite whose incomes are being supported at non-competitively high levels by immigration quotas on skilled professionals. Eliminating such restrictions would reduce at least some of our income inequality.

I referenced this hearing in my July 22, 2014 FrontPage Magazine article, “Immigration ‘Reform’: Engineered Destruction of the Middle Class.”  

2.  Currently tens of millions of Americans of working age are not working.  Middle class wages have been stagnating for years, especially in the high-tech industries.  It makes no sense to continue to increase the number of foreign students who are educated in America while ignoring the plight of American workers and the high levels of poverty in the United States, especially among America’s minority communities.  The best way to combat poverty is to educate American kids and then provide them with the opportunity to take jobs in their chosen fields of study.

3.  Foreign workers in the United States – both those working legally and those working illegally – send huge sums of money home.  Estimates about the size of the remittances run as high as $200 billion annually.  When the multiplier effect is taken into account, the remittances alone account for the annual increase in the U.S. national debt.  Increasing the number of foreign workers in the United States would serve to increase the amount of those remittances.

4.  Many politicians have lamented that when foreign students graduate from our universities that we require them to return to their home countries.  They have called for providing such foreign students to be granted lawful immigrant status.  As permanent resident aliens they would not only be permitted to work in the United States on any job for which they qualify, but as resident aliens they would be permitted to file petitions to accord their spouses and minor children lawful immigrant status as well.

5.  ICE is already unable to effectively maintain control over the hundreds of thousands of foreign students who have failed to maintain their immigration status by either failing to report to the schools for which they were admitted to attend or by dropping out of their schools and then going missing in America.  Inasmuch as there are more than 9,000 schools that are eligible to enroll foreign students, there is no way to know if all of these schools actually exist or any are “mills” that operate purely to facilitate the entry of aliens into the United States.  Consider that while most of America’s most prestigious schools enroll foreign students, there are also many highly questionable trade schools that also admit foreign students from halfway around the world, who pay tens of thousands of dollars to learn how to train dogs, give haircuts or acquire some other such skills.  

The bottom line is that not unlike the entire immigration system, the Student and Exchange Visitor (SEVIS) Program that is supposed to track these students, lacks integrity.

6.  There have been a series of worrying reports about foreign students who used their education and access to the United States to engage in espionage against the United States.  Even terrorists have received training in the United States, including flight training.

Consider what was arguably the most confounding and egregious of all immigration foulups relating to the terror attacks of September 11, 2001 – the discovery that precisely 6 months after the terror attacks of 911, two of the dead terrorist-hijackers, Mohammed Atta and Marwan al-Shehhi, had been granted authority, by the former INS, to change their immigration status to enable them to attend a school in the United States.  Incredibly, compounding this obvious glaring example of ineptitude and incompetence, that school these two terrorists sought permission to attend was a _flight school _for which they applied to receive pilot training.  

By then the entire world knew that these two individuals were terrorists – indeed, dead terrorists – who had participated in the deadliest terror attack ever carried out on U.S. soil and that as a part of that plot, some of the hijackers had managed to gain access to the cockpit and slaughtered or otherwise disabled the pilots and first officers to gain control of the airliners to use them as de facto “cruise missiles.” 

On March 19, 2002 the House Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Immigration and Claims conducted a hearing into this monumental screw-up.  The title of the hearing was: “INS’s March 2002 Notification of Approval of Change of Status for Pilot Training for Terrorist Hijackers Mohammed Atta and Marwan al-Shehhi.”

I was one of four witnesses called to testify at this hearing that was covered by C-SPAN.  Every member of Congress should be required to watch that  C-SPAN video.  Virtually none of the promises made at that hearing to remedy the failures of the immigration system that were behind that glaring example of incompetence have been effectively addressed to this very day.  Indeed, in many ways, our nation has moved in precisely the opposite direction. 

Consider that on September 2, 2014 ABC News reported, “Lost in America: Visa Program Struggles to ‘Track Missing Foreign Students’.”

Here is how this report began:

The Department of Homeland Security has lost track of more than 6,000 foreign nationals who entered the United States on student visas, overstayed their welcome, and essentially vanished – exploiting a security gap that was supposed to be fixed after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.

“My greatest concern is that they could be doing anything,” said Peter Edge, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement official who oversees investigations into visa violators. “Some of them could be here to do us harm.“ 

Homeland Security officials disclosed the breadth of the student visa problem in response to ABC News questions submitted as part of an investigation into persistent complaints about the nation’s entry program for students. 

ABC News found that immigration officials have struggled to keep track of the rapidly increasing numbers of foreign students coming to the U.S. – now in excess of one million each year. The immigration agency’s own figures show that 58,000 students overstayed their visas in the past year. Of those, 6,000 were referred to agents for follow-up because they were determined to be of heightened concern. 

“They just disappear,” said Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla. “They get the visas and they disappear.” 

Coburn said since the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, 26 student visa holders have been arrested in the U.S. on terror-related charges. 

Tightening up the student visa program was one of the major recommendations made by the 911 Commission, after it was determined that the hijacker who flew Flight 77 into the Pentagon, Hani Hanjour, had entered the U.S. on a student visa but never showed up for school. 

Edge said ICE agents are trying to locate every one of the 6,000 missing students, but acknowledged that “we really have a lot more work to do” to tighten up the student visa program. 

Despite repeated concerns raised by Congress, federal immigration officials have also continued to grant schools certification to accept overseas applicants even if the schools lack accreditation, state certification, or any obvious measure of academic rigor. 

There are now more than 9,000 schools on the government approved list. The list includes such top flight American colleges as Harvard and Yale, but it also includes 86 beauty schools, 36 massage schools and nine schools that teach horseshoeing. Foreign students can enter the U.S. on a visa to study acupuncture, hair braiding, or join academies that focus on tennis and golf. 

Once the student arrives in the U.S., it is up to the schools to keep track of the visa-holder’s whereabouts – and report to the government if they repeatedly miss class. 

That is a serious concern, Coburn said, because a number of for-profit schools appear to have been operating with a primary goal of selling visas, not educating students. 

In some instances, foreign nationals engaged in terrorism have been well-educated in American schools and universities, acquiring the very skills that they can use to create weapons of mass destruction.

Consider the case of Aafia Saddiqui. This Pakistan-born scientist with a PhD in neuroscience was educated in the United States at MIT and Brandeis University.  She was subsequently convicted of attempting to kill U.S. soldiers and FBI agents in Afghanistan.  On September 23, 2010 CNN published a report about her case, “Pakistani scientist gets 86 years for Afghan attack” that began with the following excerpt:

A federal judge Thursday sentenced a Pakistani scientist convicted of attempting to kill Americans in Afghanistan to 86 years in prison.

A jury in Manhattan convicted Aafia Siddiqui on seven charges, including attempted murder and armed assault on U.S. officers, in February. She will serve her sentence at a facility in Texas where she was previously held while awaiting trial.

Prosecutors said Siddiqui picked up a rifle and shot at two FBI special agents, a U.S. Army warrant officer, an Army captain and military interpreters while she was being held unrestrained at an Afghan facility on July 18, 2008. The agents returned fire shooting her in the abdomen.

Afghan police had arrested her outside the Ghazni governor’s compound in central Afghanistan after finding her with bomb-making instructions, excerpts from the “Anarchist’s Arsenal,” papers with descriptions of U.S. landmarks, and substances sealed in bottles and glass jars, according to the charges.

The indictment said Siddiqui had “handwritten notes that referred to a ‘mass casualty attack’” listing several locations in the United States and “construction of ‘dirty bombs.’” Upon her conviction, the American-educated neuroscientist, blasted the decision as “a verdict from Israel, not America.” Siddiqui’s family said she had been unjustly convicted.

At her sentencing Thursday morning, the 38 year-old MIT graduate shook her head in defiance and wagged her finger in a “no” gesture as U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman laid out the case against her.

About two weeks after the media reported on the case of Aafia Siddiqui, the media turned its attention to another terrorist who was born in Pakistan.  On October 5, 2010 Fox News, in conjunction with the Associated Press, published a report, “Times Square Bomber Sentenced to Life in Prison,” about Faisal Shahzad, a 31-year-old man who had first entered the United States on a student visa when he was 20 years old.  He ultimately became a naturalized United States citizen and then, less than one year later, attempted to detonate an SUV packed with explosives in the heart of Times Square, “the crossroads of the world,” with the goal of killing as many innocent victims as possible.

On September 3, 2014 I was interviewed on the Newsmax-TV news program “America’s Forum” by J.D. Hayworth and his co-host, Francesca Page.  The focus was on the concerns those missing 6,000 foreign students generated.  Newsmax published a report about my interview under the title, “Ex-INS Officer: Hire More Agents to Find Missing Visa Holders.”

On December 6, 2014 Fox News published a report, “Saudi-born US naval engineer allegedly gave undercover agent info on how to sink carrier.” The report focused on Mostafa Ahmed Awwad, the defendant in this case, who was educated in the United States, became a resident alien, and then acquired U.S. citizenship.  He agreed to provide an FBI undercover agent with the plans of the Gerald R. Ford, a $13 billion aircraft carrier that is still under construction and has brand-new unique innovations.  Allegedly Awwad even told the undercover agent where the ship would be most vulnerable to being sunk by a missile strike. 

On December 22, 2014 a far more extensive report about Awwad’s case was published in the online newspaper, the Virginia Pilot,Engineer’s arrest shows weakness with security checks.“  The last few sentences of that report contains a very interesting statement made by the defendant, himself:

The Ford is the lead ship of the Navy’s first new aircraft carrier class in nearly 50 years. Scheduled to sail by 2016, the ship is packed with cutting-edge systems, from catapults to radars to electronics.

Obtaining that technology could help a nation with a developing navy shave off years of research and development, the official said.

In a Dec. 10 hearing in federal court, prosecutor Joseph DePadilla said Awwad told an agent he turned down a better-paying job with Lockheed Martin so he could work at the shipyard and sell its secrets to Egypt.

DePadilla said Awwad, believing that he was talking with an Egyptian intelligence officer, mocked the U.S. government for hiring people like himself.

“I don’t know what is wrong with this government,” he cited Awwad as saying. “They hire the Chinese. They hire the Russians. They hire us.”

The Awwad case is still unfolding. In the meantime, he’s been denied bond, indicted for crimes that could send him to prison for 40 years.

China sends us the greatest number of foreign students, followed by India which comes in second place.  South Korea comes in third.  Saudi Arabia is in the top ten list of countries whose students are studying in the United States.

China has been rattling its military sabers of late, and a recent CBS/60 Minutes news report, “The Battle Above: U.S. and China are locked in a high stakes contest over satellites that are critical to national security and everyday life,” focused on the ability China now has to launch anti-satellite missiles that can take out satellites in low earth orbit and even at the somewhat higher orbit where our GPS satellites are positioned.  The report noted that it may not be too long before China will have the capability of taking out satellites in geo-synchronous orbits.  These are satellites that appear to be stationary over one spot of the earth because their orbits are so high (22,300 miles up) that it takes them as long to orbit the earth as it takes the earth to rotate.

Our military has parked some its most valuable satellites in that orbit along with satellites that are used to provide global communication.

The nagging question is: Did the Chinese engineers who have been building these anti-satellite missiles as well as their engineers building their nuclear navy and highly advanced fighter planes study in the United States?

On May 20, 2015 Newsweek published an article, “A New Cold War, Yes. But It’s With China, Not Russia“ that ends with this excerpt:

There is, of course, tremendous irony in that. For decades, U.S. policy was to help China succeed economically. We had convinced ourselves that through trade and prosperity, political change would come in Beijing (just as it had in South Korea and Taiwan, former authoritarian economic success stories turned vibrant democracies). That notion is now long gone. The Chinese Communist Party, and its one-party rule, doesn’t appear to be going anywhere. It’s also playing a long game; its military is just a regional player now, but by 2049, when the party expects to celebrate its 100th anniversary in power, it may well be able to project force globally. That, anyway, is the intention of the more hawkish elements of the party and its military.

Washington had earnestly hoped that the days of a global struggle against a powerful adversary were gone, the stuff of history books. That it’s now waking up and acknowledging a different reality is step one in what Liu Mingfu calls the central “fight” for the 21st century.

Much is being made about the ill-conceived negotiations that the United States is conducting with Iran about that country’s nuclear program.  The question never raised in the media or by our political “representatives” is how did the Iranian scientists and engineers, who are working on that program, acquire their education.  It is entirely possible – indeed, plausible – that they studied in the United States.

We are now training our adversaries and little if anything is being done to stop this self-destructive and potentially suicidal practice.

The obvious question is: What will it take to educate our political leaders to end this lunacy?