Phi Beta Cons

Checking Up on Cho

CNN reports authorities are having a hard time getting information about Cho Seung-hui, the gunman who carried out the massacre at Virginia Tech and then shot himself. Cho was a 23-year-old South Korean and resident alien who, a department of Homeland Security official says, came to the United States in 1992, through Detroit, Michigan. He had lawful permanent residence, via his parents, and renewed his green card in 2003, the official said. Cho is described as a loner by Harry Hincker, associate vice president for university relations.  
Elusive campus loner or not, our government granted Cho a visa, and records backing up the rationale for that decision should exist. Several vital questions arise: How much checking up on visa applicants do those responsible for granting such visas actually do? That is, just how effective are these officials at identifying signs that an applicant may prove to be dangerous? In the case of Cho, were any such signs missed? And, are campuses encouraged or required in some systematic way to be vigilant about the conduct of students who enter on visas?
Eli Lehrer, writing at NRO, may be right that “the real tragedy at Virginia Tech appears to have stemmed from bad police work.” But it strikes me that this tragedy should also prompt a full examination of the quality of work of those responsible for granting permission to aliens to live in our midst and for excluding madmen like Cho.
We have a right to demand that these officials be very nosy indeed about visa applicants. We need more assurance that government officials adequately vet them and that campus authorities make it their business to know their students – especially in this era of terrorism.

Candace de Russy is a nationally recognized expert on education and cultural issues.

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