This amounts to a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist, since the federal government has had ample monitoring mechanisms in place since the 9/11 attacks to keep tabs on foreign students and reporters. But that has never been enough for Kenneth Cuccinelli, the acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, whose signature is on the proposed changes. A hard-core foe of immigration whose title is “senior official performing the duties of the deputy secretary of homeland security,” he accused Mr. Trump of being too soft on immigrant workers before signing on to lead the administration’s war on immigration.
The new rule, stretching to 256 pages, was quietly introduced on Sept. 25, with a 30-day comment period, which ends on Sunday. After that, the immigration agency will have to review the comments, draft a final rule and sent it to the Office of Management and Budget for review, a process that would stretch past the election.
The new rule has different implications for the different visa categories. For foreign journalists, a relatively small group not previously targeted by the administration as a whole, the rule would limit their stay in the United States to 240 days before a journalist had to get an extension. That amounts to a major impediment for reporters who bring their families and tend to spend several years in the United States, and knowing that a renewal always lies a few months ahead would put a serious constraint on honest reporting. The current visa time limit for foreign correspondents is five years.
Journalist visas, moreover, are often based on reciprocal agreements, and countries where American journalists are based — including allies — would be likely to retaliate for any limits on the stay of their national correspondents. That has already begun in a tit-for-tat war with China of expulsions and unextended visas.
Students and exchange visitors are by far the largest group affected by the proposed rule, accounting for more than two million visas. Most of those come from Asia, with China sending about 370,000 students, India 202,000 and South Korea 52,000. Under the new rule, students would be limited to two or four years, depending on their plan of study, instead of the current arrangement allowing them to remain in the United States so long as they are studying. Students from countries on the state sponsors of terrorism list and from countries whose citizens have a high rate of overstaying their visas — many African countries — would be restricted to two years.