December 18, 2006

The Case of the Vanishing Student

Immigration issues have captured the interest of government leaders and citizens alike as bills related to the subject are debated in Congress.

Over the years, because of its large international student population, Hopkins has had to deal with many immigration issues. One incident is recorded in a letter the university received from the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service’s district director on Ellis Island, N.Y., written on June 22, 1938.

The letter, now in the university’s Hamburger Archives, said that “the following person arrived on the SS Laconia, September 22, 1936, and was admitted as a temporary visitor for a period of one year, destined to your address.”

His name was Viswanathan Krishovier, or at least that’s what the INS thought. At Hopkins he was registered as Dharmavedhani Krishnier Viswanathan, and he had come from Madras, India, seeking a certificate in public health.

The INS letter continued: “As no word has been received that he has left the country, it will be appreciated if you will advise whether such departure has taken place, giving us the date, manner and port of departure. If the person has not left the country, will you please inform me of his present address?”

After consulting registrar Irene Davis, university secretary P. Stewart Macaulay wrote to the district director that “our information goes no farther than this. He left Johns Hopkins, reporting that he was going to sail for home on August 4, 1937. The port of departure and other details are unknown to us.”

Mr. Macaulay could have added that the gentleman received his certificate in public health before departing for Madras.

There is no indication whether the INS ever found him.