Trapped in a recidivist post-Sept. 11 mindset, the FBI began a program six months ago that embodied xenophobia in its worst form. The FBI has begun trying to recruit Chinese students at U.S. universities to find out information about attempts by the Chinese government to attain military technologies from the United States through open-source information. This recent development showed that the FBI does not only dictate unfair policies toward Muslims and Arabs working and living in the United States, but now also toward Chinese students. This has serious implications for the United States’ position as a place where thousands of students from all over the world are attracted for learning and research.
Not allowing foreign students a place to study in the United States or using students for ulterior purposes would be a black smudge on our nation and cause even greater international consternation toward the United States. This will only make foreigners angrier at a time when we most need and want their support. Sending open-source information back to a country of origin is not illegal and should not prompt FBI monitoring.
The FBI says that one of the reasons it wants contacts with Chinese students is because it thinks the information students are asked to obtain for the Chinese Communist Party could shed light on the industrial, political and military situation in China. This is terribly presumptuos. No international student should be asked by the law enforcement agency of the country in which he or she is studying to betray his or her own country. The United States would be rightfully outraged if China asked an American student about such information or tried to coerce him or her into becoming a spy.
Just because a foreign student is studying in the United States, he or she is not obligated to work for Uncle Sam. If such an obligation existed, the number of foreign students who contribute to American research institutions, would plummet. International students are an important contributor to diversity at American institutions and their research at graduate schools across the country add to our body of knowledge as well.
This attitude of distrust from the FBI seems to be part of a disturbing trend of restricting our borders and making the United States uncomfortable to anyone without the right citizenship.
While it is possible that some of the Chinese students in the United States may have ill intentions, the likelihood is small, and no greater than for anyone else. The FBI cannot distinguish between CCP agents and real students wanting to learn. Targeting all Chinese students is racial profiling. There were 63,211 Chinese students in American degree programs in 2000-2001, making up 11 percent of all foreign students. They contribute a great deal to centers of learning, and many of them remain in the United States after finishing their degrees. This FBI policy will hurt America’s position in the research world and contribute to the unfair system of racial profiling in our country.