ICE Offers Social Work Services to Foreign Students

By David North on September 27, 2012

You probably think of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) as a law enforcement agency — and it is — but recently it started providing social work services to foreign college students.

As background, an arm of ICE, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), works with the F-1, J-1, and M-1 nonimmigrant students and with the institutions where they study, and is also charged with rooting out visa mills, which it does with no perceptible enthusiasm, as reported in a recent blog.

In a Senate hearing this summer an ICE representative explained his agency's lackluster work vis-a-vis the visa mills as a result of, among other things, a lack of resources.

But if a foreign student has trouble getting a driver's license or a Social Security number, ICE does have the resources needed to help that student with such matters, even though it is perfectly possible to study in the United States without driving or holding an SSN.

This was reported in the September 10 issue of Interpreter Releases, the immigration bar's trade paper ( p.1695), and is spelled out in full in this ICE document, which states:

If an F, M, or J nonimmigrant applies for a driver's license or ID and officials at the DMV are unable to issue a product, the DSO … should e-mail SEVP … for assistance.


DSO stands for "designated school official", the person at a university who deals with ICE and with foreign students.

Another option is for the foreign student to call the SEVP Response Center at (703) 603-3400 to seek assistance. I called that number recently, could not get through to a live human being, was told to leave a message, which I did, but never heard from them. I tried again later, same response. So maybe ICE is not devoting a lot of resources to this service.

I think a distinction should be made regarding the provision of government-funded services to different groups of aliens. People admitted because they have problems, like refugees and crime victims, should be helped by the government, as the government should provide assistance with English language and civics courses to legal immigrants; but when aliens are admitted because of their elite status — such as students who are expected to have the financial and intellectual capacity to complete a course of education — they should have to fend for themselves.

These may be the musings of a grumpy old man, but when I went to college (in the United States) I was on a campus where you (citizen or alien) would be expelled if you garaged a car anywhere near the university. It was a sensible rule, virtually everyone lived on a historic campus that was designed for walking, not driving.

More pertinently, when I was a graduate student on a Fulbright in New Zealand, no arm of that pleasant country's government offered to intervene for me were I to have difficulties with local rules and regulations.

Somehow I survived both experiences.