A CSU student was among six Colorado students of Middle Eastern origin arrested when registering with the Immigration and Naturalization Service in December. They were arrested for not registering for 12 hours of college credit per semester, an INS requirement.
Iranian Yashar Zendehdel, an economics major at the University of Colorado at Boulder was one of the students sent to jail.
“I really get mad thinking about what happened to me,” Zendehdel said. “Those guys in there were criminals. They had already been in county jail for drug dealing and robbery. They had done their time and were in the INS jail for deportation. It was stupid, I was in there for having two credit hours less.”
CU advisors recommended that Zendehdel drop a class for academic reasons, which left him with only 10 credit hours during the 2002 spring semester.
The CSU student’s situation was similar to Zendehdel’s. University officials stated that the CSU student had an inconsistency in his transcripts because of improper paperwork. The student’s name and specifics of the case have not been released.
Mark Hallett, director of International Student and Scholar Services at CSU, accompanied by friends of the CSU student waited eight and a half hours to get the student out of jail. Hallett posted the $5,000 bail.
“Throwing the student in jail is a severe punishment,” Hallett said. “I understand that national security measures need to be taken to keep this country safe, but these international students could become America’s friends. We need to find the right balance between security versus civil liberties.”
The arrested students are currently waiting for their hearing in front of an immigration judge. Zendehdel’s case was dropped due to efforts from Larry Bell, director of International Student Services at CU-Boulder.
The judge will look at each case to decide if each student’s reason for not taking the required load of 12 credit hours per semester is legitimate. If the judge does not approve the reason, the student would then face deportation.
“The INS prosecutes any foreign visitor that is in violation of the law. Everyone has the right to review their case with an immigration judge and decide if deportation is necessary,” said Nina Pruneda, public affairs officer for the INS.
CSU is taking action and providing help to international students in hopes of preventing this ordeal in the future.
“We are making sure each international student has all the paperwork needed in order to show the whole truth when registering with the INS. Here at CSU we are also providing workshops, immigration attorneys and individual meetings with each student,” Hallett said. “Each international student must check with the International Office when dropping a class that takes the student below 12 credit hours.”
Students from Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are required to register before Feb. 21. There are 900 international students at CSU.
“International people need to register with the INS. The registration process involves getting fingerprinted and being asked a series of questions,” Pruneda said.
Some people need to follow different registration procedures than others. Non-immigrants from specific countries and other individuals that the INS or Department of State assign on a discretionary basis are required to be processed under special registration procedures due to the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System. In order to find which countries and individuals need to special register the information is located on www.ins.usdoj.gov.
This Web site also describes the procedure a person will undergo when registering. Help with the registering process can also be found at the International Programs Office at 491-5917.
This situation has shattered Zendehdel’s views of American education.
“I came here because of the higher standards of higher education,” he said. “But if they want to continue like this, I’m not sure I want to go on.”
Hallett believes international students are assets to the classroom.
“International students are thought provoking and bring with them many academic and cultural values.” Hallett said. “As a world leader, America needs to lead with wisdom, which is extremely difficult.”