Although it has drawn harsh criticism from many legislators, a federal plan giving individual schools more authority over foreign students has Harvard's support, a University.
Two months ago, the U.S. Investigation and Naturalization Service (INS) proposed a change in federal regulations allowing advisors to foreign students to grant certain permits for employment and visa extensions, rather than forcing those people to apply for INS permits.
Thomas Simmons, Deputy Assistant Immigration Commissioner, downplayed the proposal as merely "a streamlining of various processes."
But several congressman, including Sen. Paul Tsongas (D-Mass.) and Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), have voiced strong opposition to the plan, arguing that it would cede federal powers to private institutions. immigar 2.
Harvard, however, is pleased with the change. "On the whole, it's very positive," said Jennifer J. Stephens, director of the international office. She added that presently, some applications take up to six months to process because of "understaffing at the Immigration Service."
Opponents of the proposal say that it would promote a conflict of interest in enforcing immigration laws. "Responsibility for enforcement of that section of the Immigration and Nationalization Act would be removed from the Immigration Service and put in the hands of the institutions being regulated," explained Theresa Theobald, an aide to Tsongas.
Tsongas has written Immigration Commissioner Alan C. Nelson stating his opposition to the proposal. He has also asked Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.) to schedule public hearings on the proposal in his Senate Immigration subcommittee.
Stephens denied the chance of a conflict of interest. "All this is just a question of complying with existing government regulations," she said.
Because the INS would no longer handle the individual applications, Simmons said the agency would concentrate on reviewing how the institutions carried out their new-found responsibilities.
If approved, the proposal would require the institutions to increase the amount of information they keep on foreign students. Stephens said that Harvard presently maintains the essential data, but would have to "centralize the information a bit more than sow."