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Bush Seeks Tighter Entry Rules President Aims for Measures That Would Restrict Student Visas

By Mike Allen and Eric Pianin

President Bush, changing the direction of his immigration policy, said Monday that he wants to tighten immigration laws and the issuing of student visas to make it harder for would-be terrorists to enter the country.

Lawmakers working with the administration said the measures under consideration include using technology to track foreign students as they travel around the United States and to check the palm prints of immigrants at airports and border crossings.

Sixteen of the 19 terrorists who hijacked planes last month were visiting the United States legally, according to a Justice Department official. One of the other three hijackers had a student visa but was not attending school.

Bush outlined his immigration policy in general terms, avoiding detailed proposals, at the maiden meeting of his Homeland Security Council, which he said would be responsible for protecting “the American people from any threat whatsoever.”

Charging that some aliens have “taken advantage” of America’s “generous” immigration rules, he named a Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Force to recommend specific changes in laws and procedures.

“We’re going to tighten up the visa policy,” Bush said. “That’s not to say we’re not going to let people come into our country; of course we are. But we’re going to make sure that when somebody comes, we understand their intended purpose and that they fulfill the purpose.”

Bush singled out student visas, saying that some recipients never attend classes, and perhaps never have that intention.

“We’re generous with our universities, we’re generous with our job opportunities, we’re generous with the beautiful system -- that is, that if you come here and you work hard, you can achieve a dream,” Bush said.

“Never did we realize then that people would take advantage of our generosity to the extent they have, Bush said.

The review of immigration laws is the latest wave of legislation to arise from the Sept. 11 suicide hijackings.