Questions about the Foreign Student Attempting to Breach Marine Corps Base Quantico

By Jon Feere on May 25, 2024

Two Jordanian foreign nationals are in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody after an alleged attempt to breach Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia earlier this month. Fox News has confirmed the rumors that have been swirling around D.C. for the past week that one of these individuals was in the United States as a foreign student. ICE and the Biden White House have been very quiet about the immigration status of the two Jordanians and have not disclosed their names, originally saying only that there are “pending removal proceedings”.

Now, Fox News is confirming that one of the Jordanians illegally crossed the border on April 8, 2024, in the San Diego sector and was released with a Notice to Appear (NTA) and that the other was already in the country as a foreign student, raising many questions about why two individuals with very different modes of entry were in communication and decided to attempt entry onto military base together. The case illustrates how every part of the nation’s immigration system is susceptible to fraud and how the Biden administration’s border policies and interior enforcement policies are a clear threat to national security. To be clear, these arrests were the result of the military base detaining the Jordanian nationals and alerting ICE to the attempted breach, and not the result of a proactive ICE operation.

After days of inquiry, Fox News obtained additional information from ICE, specifically that the Jordanian foreign student entered the United States on September 11, 2022, and had his foreign student status terminated approximately four months later on January 14, 2023. Presumably the Jordanian national never actually showed up to the school that enrolled him, or he quickly dropped out. After wandering around the country for over a year, he recently met up with the Jordanian national border-crosser that the Biden administration released into the country in April.

Many follow-up questions should be asked of ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) division, which oversees the foreign student program called the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). Among them:

  • What school did the Jordanian student attend? A well-known university or some small, poorly run school that shouldn’t be certified to enroll foreign students? What type of a degree was he pursuing and in what field of study — a PhD in nuclear engineering or an undergraduate degree in English literature?
  • Did the student drop out of school or otherwise fail to go to class? If so, did the school alert HSI through the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), the most significant post-9/11 database, which requires schools to report any foreign student “who has failed to maintain status or complete his or her program”? If the school didn’t report the student’s change in status as required by regulation, is HSI planning to decertify the school so that it can no longer enroll foreign students? Under law, schools must be certified by ICE-HSI to enroll foreign students and that certification lasts for a period of two years.
  • Why was the Jordanian foreign student allowed to wander around the country for over a year? Was HSI actively looking for him? Foreign students have a lot of information on record — from home addresses to financials — and it’s all contained in SEVIS, so they are an easier population to locate than random illegal border-crossers. Yet HSI apparently either had difficulty locating the individual, or chose not to look for him at all. What exactly was going on with his case and immigration status?
  • What does the school have to say about this? It’s the school that chose to enroll this person and invite him or her to the United States. Media should be seeking a quote from the school about their enrollment processes and why they thought this Jordanian national was worthy of a spot on their campus. The school could also provide information about what the foreign student was studying, whether he had any problems with his records, etc.
  • Was the Jordanian student participating in the controversial Optional Practical Training (OPT) program, which allows foreign students to obtain employment for up to three years beyond graduation? If so, for which employer was he allegedly working, and did he actually show up to work? The student told the military base that he was associated with Amazon, which raises the question of whether he also reported such employment to HSI in OPT paperwork. The OPT program is full of significant fraud, with many foreign students claiming to work at jobs they don't actually have.
  • How many foreign students has HSI arrested and removed over the last three years? HSI oversees SEVP and foreign students and exchange visitors have one of the highest overstay rates of any visa category. Rates and total numbers are different from country to country — as outlined in this DHS Overstay Report — but for Jordan the overstay rate was 11.58 percent in 2022, which was more than double the average overstay rate for all countries under this visa category (which was 4.44 percent).

The rate and total number of foreign student overstays varies among countries. In 2022, a total of 3,341 Jordanian foreign students were expected to depart that year, but 387 did not, resulting in that total overstay rate of 11.58 percent. To compare, a similar number of Austrian foreign students were expected to depart in 2022 (a total of 3,619 expected departures) and all but 51 failed to depart, resulting in a total overstay rate of 1.41 percent.

It’s important to look at both overstay rates and total overstay numbers when analyzing the foreign student overstay problem. For example, China has a total overstay rate of 2.80 percent, which may seem like a less significant issue compared to countries with higher overstay rates. However, that percentage is quite significant considering that there were 321,058 expected departures of Chinese students in 2022. This means that in 2022 alone there were 9,005 overstays of Chinese students. As another example, the overstay rate for Eritrean students in 2022 was a whopping 72 percent, but in real numbers there were only 93 students expected to depart that year, and 67 of them overstayed. Still, both total numbers and percentages are problematic and the United States needs to put an end to this disrespect of our laws and sovereignty if the country is ever going to have control of its borders and reduce illegal immigration. And, as this case in Quantico appears to indicate (like many cases before it), failure to ensure that foreign students depart when they are supposed to can result in a threat to national security.

Bottom line: HSI needs to arrest and remove foreign students and publicize this effort if the United States is going to be successful in driving down illegal immigration and reducing the terrorist threat. There’s a reason that Congress tasked HSI with overseeing the foreign student program — they are solid investigators with an international footprint and broad law enforcement authorities. And though I’ve heard there is apparently some work being done behind the scenes, HSI hasn’t had anything to say about their efforts in this area since President Biden was sworn in over three years ago. (The last HSI press conference on foreign students happened at my recommendation as ICE’s senior advisor to the director in the fall of 2020 as part of Operation OPTical Illusion.)

There remains significant fraud within the foreign student program and when something truly horrific happens at the hands of foreign student, it will be HSI that will be called before Congress to answer why they failed to protect the nation. It would be good for HSI to be able to show that they are tightening up their foreign student program and making every effort to return foreign students home at the first available opportunity — long before any national security incidents occur.