The Trump Travel Ban: Let's Define "Bona Fide" Students Carefully

By David North on June 28, 2017

Now that the Supreme Court has ruled on President Trump's proposed travel ban from six nations in the Middle East and Africa, as my colleague Andrew Arthur has reported, let me suggest a careful definition of one of the populations excluded from the ban.

The Court allowed part of the ban to go forward, but accepted the future entry of several groups of persons who have a "bona fide" relationship with someone, or some institution, in the United States.

My focus here is those "attending a university" in the United States, to quote from an article in Wednesday's New York Times.

Before detailing my suggestion, let's look at the numbers involved. According to Open Doors, the annual Institute for International Education survey of foreign students at American colleges and universities, in school year 2015-2016 there were the following numbers of students in the United States from the six nations subject to the ban:

  • Iran: 12,269
  • Libya: 1,514
  • Somalia: 35
  • Sudan: 253
  • Syria: 783
  • Yemen: 599
  • Total: 15,453

My suggestion is that the State Department should use the term "attending a university" strictly and allow the admission of only foreign students admitted to the United States by the date of the decision, June 24, and who had, additionally, started attending classes by that date.

That population, by definition, has not, or perhaps has not yet, done us any harm. They do have a "bona fide relationship with the United States because they have attended classes here.

The proposed definition would not cover those who have been admitted to a U.S. college, but who have not yet come to the United States, and it would prevent any further admissions of foreign students from those countries until such time as the Supreme Court could make a substantive decision about the proposed travel ban.

While we are at it, let's also define "university" in an appropriate way. Most universities, except a few visa mills or near-visa mills, have been accredited by an organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education; that should be the standard used in this case.

As we reported some months ago, the Secretary of Education ruled that a particularly lax accrediting agency, the Accrediting Council of Independent Colleges and Schools, was no longer empowered to accredit schools.

That decision, which indirectly impacted 50 to 100 questionable schools, should be used to deny legal presence to any student from the six nations who were attending those fourth-rate institutions. There would not be many in this particular excluded class, but the precedent would be useful in the on-going battle with visa mills, a subject of a forthcoming CIS Backgrounder.