Lost in America: Visa Program Struggles to Track Missing Foreign Students

Brian Ross and Matthew Mosk, ABC News, September 2, 2014

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 9/11 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.


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.

“We know we have a lot of non-accredited universities that are using this system to bring people in, collect money, and not educate them at all,” said Coburn, who is part of a bi-partisan group of senators that has been trying to tighten controls on student visas. “To me, it’s a mess.”


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  • MekongDelta69

    The DHS is not ‘struggling’ to find ANY illegal alien.

    • 1stworlder

      Maybe they are like the IRS, the job is too difficult for an affirmative action but a white guy can go in and find where the missing emails are.

      • If the NSA spying hoopla has a shred of truth these missing students could be found in a minute.

        • 1stworlder

          The NSA is too busy looking for sext pictures sent by schoolchildren.

  • james AZ

    Dictator Obama want to destroy America there no ?…………

  • “Federal officials have continued to grant schools certification to accept overseas applicants even if the schools lack accreditation, state certification or any obvious measure of academic rigor.”
    –Original article.

    That’s because the whole system is a charade.

  • Publius Pompilius Quietus

    It’s very comical that Senator Colburn here states that these immigrants on visa “disappear.” That’s his way of opposing this situation without attacking immigrants, I suppose, because that would be an unforgivable sin. If he were honest, he’d call these immigrants what they are: con-men.

    • Sometimes it is the students themselves getting conned. One of my sister’s friends bit off a lot of student loan debt studying hospital radiology and ultrasound, graduated, and then discovered that the program she had been in wasn’t accredited. She’s working as a secretary at a medical office, struggling to pay her student loans and barely making ends meet.

      • John Smith

        Even people who’ve graduated from accredited schools are struggling to pay their student loans and working as secretaries at medical offices. We get our radiologists from India as they’ll work only for a green card.

  • I was a college professor for 30 years at a university that advertises around the world to bring in foreign students, especially from Mexico, China, and India. The university’s website is one of the most popular websites in India of all places. The area surrounding campus is flooded with Hindus. In many programs at the university, you never see a white person.

    The traitor at the top, a Mexican president named Ricardo Romo, never once sent a memo or spoke of any need for the professors to monitor whether foreign students actually attended class. All he wanted was enrollments that paid money to the university which could be used to pad administrative payrolls and salaries. I’m reasonably sure that some of the foreign profs were passing foreign students whether they attended class or not, but I can’t prove it.

    Until the traitors like Romo are cleared out of higher ed, we’re all in danger. Just because of these greedy, unpatriotic money grubbers, higher ed has been ruined and along with it the future of the country. BTW, although he has a PH.D., Romo’s IQ is typical of his race. Maybe he’s just too stupid to understand what he’s doing.

  • Humvees, billions of dollars, human beings.

    I think it’s possible to run a small country based on just the things I’ve read about in the last two days that the Federal government loses or loses track of.

  • They’re just here to commit the crimes Americans won’t.

  • phorning

    “Foreign students can enter the U.S. on a visa to study acupuncture, hair
    braiding, or join academies that focus on tennis and golf.”

    These aren’t all the same. The students coming to focus on tennis and golf are potential future professional athletes and are usually going to places like the IMG academy in Florida. That isn’t the same security risk as a student applying to diploma mill to “study” hair braiding.

  • dd121

    Why would anyone assume that Obama even wants to look?

  • willbest

    It isn’t hard. Photograph, DNA swab, and fingerprint every foreigner that comes into the US.

    Repurpose all the traffic cameras that are just merely harassing people, and tie them into facial recognition software.

  • “Some of them could be here to do us harm.”

    Be afraid. Be very afraid.

    Pssh. Washington DC does more harm to us than any terrorist could do.

  • A Freespeechzone

    The FBI and lettered agencies are working to find those who obtained nude pictures of liberal celebrities. Their privacy overshadows their stupidity of having that on their smart phones and PCs.

    Remember that these ‘dreamers’ make better Americans than the generations who actually built this country.

  • Who Me?

    “My greatest concern is that they could be doing anything, some of them could be here to do us harm.”

    Why, whatever gave you THAT idea, they’re just here to do the jobs Americans (real Americans) won’t, dontchaknow?

    • SentryattheGate

      Check out your local university for IOC (Islam on Campus); during our local group’s Islam Awareness Month (February-to attract American blacks/Black History month) they brought in motivational speakers who even promoted suicide bombings (which earns you the highest level of paradise)!

  • Biff_Maliboo

    I expect ICE to raid all of the study rooms in public and university libraries soon.

  • LHathaway

    ‘blacks have an incomplete picture, and incorrectly believe whites have been behaving in some gruesome racist way”.

    This is completely insane. Maybe I’m someone who has been exposed to too much diversity and vibrancy, but this is insane. A look at American in 1970, or in 2014, and the issue is to point out that it is WHITES who are or are not (in this case not) behaving in a racist way and need to defend themselves from charges of racism? This could not possibly be more backwards from any reality with racism I’ve experienced. .

    I remember Jared Taylor describing one of his appearances on the Donahue show by saying someone called in and thanked him saying, ‘My God, I had thought I was insane until I heard you talk on the show”

    We now need someplace for therapy a little more intensive than AmRen. At least I do.

    Jared’s voice sounds really good.

  • Dale McNamee

    I expect moronically stupid America to get hit by one of these “students” that they ” lost track of “just like the Boston Bombers…

    But, THEY SURE CAN TRACK those Tea Partyers, 2nd. Amendment backers. concealed & open carry supporters, “Kwazy” Conservative Christian believers,etc. !