Sham Schools as an Emerging Threat to National Security: Implications of a Deficient Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) Certification Process and the Necessity for Comprehensive Reform Open Access
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Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) certified schools that exploit U.S. immigration laws are an emerging threat to national security because these schools provide legal cover for foreign nationals to enter the country under the guise of a student. The alarming nature of this problem is apparent by the raids conducted by federal agents in 2011 on Tri-Valley University in Pleasanton, California and the University of Northern Virginia in Annandale, Virginia. Specifically, the recent investigation into Tri-Valley University demonstrates how questionable schools are able to attain SEVP certification. These "sham schools" are a fraudulent enterprise that can cause a diplomatic relations nightmare, harm the integrity of all legitimate U.S. educational institutions, and present a national security threat.In 2009, the United Kingdom experienced the epitome of a national security threat that sham schools can present when several foreign students who were enrolled at a "sham college" were arrested over an alleged al-Qaeda bomb plot. The U.K. has undertaken major immigration reform in the past several years, which includes an aggressive approach to regulating schools that wish to enroll international students. The events that unfolded in the U.K. demonstrate just how sham schools can also pose a threat to U.S. national security. The United States must adopt measures immediately to counter the threat sham schools pose by reforming the SEVP certification process to prevent questionable schools from attaining certification to enroll foreign students.