Federal officials have opened an investigation into what happened to several Saudi Arabian students who were accused of committing serious crimes in the United States and then disappeared.
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., confirmed to The Oregonian/OregonLive he was informed of the probe by Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan.
“I am confident that he is taking this issue seriously,” Wyden said. “I urged him to proceed aggressively.”
In Oregon alone, five Saudi Arabian nationals who were enrolled in U.S. colleges and universities went missing after they were arrested on charges spanning from rape and hit and run to possessing child pornography.
Officials believe the students, who have gone missing from several states, might have been picked up by Saudi Arabian diplomats and returned to the Kingdom to avoid prosecution — despite some of them being forced to surrender their passports after they were arrested.
The number of Saudi students in the U.S. has surged since 2005, when the oil-rich nation created a generous scholarship program for those seeking to study abroad.
The program covers full tuition, provides a monthly living stipend, and offers other perks to those who attend American colleges or universities.
More than 44,000 Saudis studied in the U.S. during the 2017-2018 academic year, according to data from the Institute of International Education. About 1,000 of them are at Oregon colleges and universities — second in the state only to China, figures show.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.