A Handful of ICE Agents Supervise Vast Numbers of Foreign Students

By David North on November 26, 2014

There's an immigration enforcement agency that is supposed to keep track of more than 1 million temporary foreign residents.

From that particular alien sub-population comes the third largest group of illegal aliens — after only border-jumpers (illegal entrants) and tourists who abuse their visas.

The Border Patrol, the agency that worries about the illegal entrants, has something like 20,000 agents on duty.

How many field agents do you suppose are assigned to watching over the 1 million-plus, most of whom behave themselves, but many of whom self-convert to illegal status?

Would you believe 1,000? Or maybe 500?

You would be wrong.

The part of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that looks after the burgeoning foreign student population, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), has 28 people in the field. Nationwide.

That's 39,643 foreign students for every field rep.

There are about 9,000 institutions licensed by SEVP to admit foreign students, so each one of the 28 staffers has about 320 entities to supervise.

There is a point to these ridiculous workloads — the Obama administration really, really is not interested in trying to control illegal immigration within the foreign student flows. What I find interesting is that the administration thoughtlessly allowed the numbers shown above to be published, thus exposing the sham of law enforcement in this field.

All this comes to mind because SEVP released, in the last couple of weeks, two totally separate publications (which I suspect are NOT designed to be read together).

There was its 31-page quarterly report that announced a total foreign student population — 1.11 million. The report, which has the shape of a kid's coloring book, and lots of colorful graphs, looks like a power-point presentation.

Then there was a modest little ICE press release proclaiming that SEVP had doubled its field staff from 14 to 28.

Nowhere in the release do you see the numbers 14 or 28 juxtaposed with 1.11 million.

It is also clear from the release that the agents will not be playing the vigorous enforcement roles that one might expect:

Key successes from the first class [of field agents] include:

  • A field representative in Oregon helped a local public school district understand and comply with government reporting requirements. Four of the district's high schools incorrectly issued a government form from the school district's main office, instead of the individual schools, as required.
  • A small, private high school in Minnesota issued a required government form to their sole international student, but failed to register that student in SEVIS in the necessary timeframe. As a result, the student's SEVIS record was automatically terminated, which placed the student out of status.
  • In Georgia, the field representative assisted a private K-12 school to better understand reporting requirements. The school was not in compliance with regulations because the designated school officially failed to register the records of several of its new and returning students in SEVIS.

SEVIS stands for Student and Exchange Visitor Information Service, SEVP's database. All these clerical problems were worked out in favor of the schools — and aliens — in question.

What the agents might do is to help round up and deport F-1 and M-1 visa dropouts, or close down visa mills, which provide apparently legal status in the United States without asking for actual class attendance, but such activities were not mentioned. As described in an earlier CIS report SEVP does not rely on taxpayer funding. It is completely supported by fees paid by the foreign students and could use more of these fees to enforce the law, but has chosen not to do so.

The SEVP quarterly report, similarly, did not whisper of any illegalities among the massive collection of foreign students, but did provide some interesting numbers:

  • About 840,000 of the foreign students are from a single continent, Asia, with only about 271,000 from the rest of the world;
  • China, with 330,000, and India, with 134,000, are the leading providers of foreign students to the United States;
  • About 56 percent of the foreign students are men; and
  • About 36 percent of them are concentrated in California, New York, and Texas.

That most college and university educations are subsidized, either lightly or deeply, by U.S. endowments, or by U.S. taxpayers, is another factor not mentioned.

Perhaps the most significant fact not reflected in the SEVP report was that these foreign student enrollments keep breaking records.

Another report, using a different database and dealing only with college-level enrollments, was issued this month by the Institute for International Education, an advocacy group; it estimated a total of nearly 900,000 foreign students, which it regarded as an all-time high.

The SEVP report also covers K-12 education and vocational training, such as pilot training, cosmetology, and horseshoeing, but most of the students it covers are in colleges and universities. That report noted that the numbers were higher than the previous year, but did not report this as record-breaking.