Questions raised about legal status of Tsarnaev’s college friend - ABC6 - Providence, RI and New Bedford, MA News, Weather

Questions raised about legal status of Tsarnaev’s college friends

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By: Melissa Toupin

When the three college friends of suspect #2 in the Boston Marathon bombings, Dzhokar Tsarnaev, were accused of getting rid of evidence, several of them were in the country despite not having a valid student visa. Two of them are international students.

Azmat Tazhayakov and Dias Kadyrbayev have been held in jail for more than a week on those allegations. They are accused, along with another teen, Robel Phillipos, of throwing away a backpack containing empty fireworks from Tsarnaev's dorm room at UMass Dartmouth in the days following the attack.

According to a federal law enforcement official, Tazhayakov, a native of Kazakhstan, was allowed to return to the U.S. in January despite not having a valid student visa. It's a costly breakdown that is now highlighting a bigger problem.

 "We could have prevented some of these kids that are now in the so-called cover up from even being here at this point," said ABC6 legal analyst Ken Schreiber.

Students who come to the United States are monitored by their respective college and by the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, or SEVIS.

"If any of them are not enrolled full time, which is twelve credits or more, in any given semester, so this would be twice a year, their visa would be canceled," explains Rhode Island College Vice President of Academic Affairs, Holly Shadoian, Ph.D.

It's unclear where the breakdown happened.

"Somewhere down the pipe this is going to end up in Washington, and you are going to see changes. Radical changes," said Schreiber.

Homeland security hopes to better monitor these students with a new system that provides real time updates on their status to federal agencies.

ABC6 reached out to UMass for comment, but so far they have not responded.

Information in this story was provided by the Associated Press.

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