Trump vs International Education: The Ban on Muslims

This is the second post in my series about elements of President-elect Trump’s platform that could affect International Education.

In my last post, I mentioned that I was inspired to write this series because of an exchange I had on Facebook with an old friend, in which I addressed some of my concerns about the proposed ban on Muslim immigration. 

It happened a week ago, when, in honor of International Education Week, NAFSA released its most recent International Student Economic Value Tool. They found that, in the 2015/16 academic year, over one million international students contributed over $32 billion and over 400k jobs to the American economy. 

I posted this information on my Facebook page, with a comment saying that I hoped that President-elect Trump would take this type on information into account before putting policies into place that could adversely affect immigration and student visa regulations. A person that I greatly respect commented on my post, asking if I realized that no one was targeting student visa regulations, and that illegal immigration is the problem.

I decided to share my response here because this exchange is what inspired me to write this series.

Here we go:

“I agree that illegal immigration is definitely the predominant issue; however, in his 100-day plan, I read several items that could have an adverse affect on our student visa/exchange visitor programs. 

For example, let’s look at the “temporary ban” on Muslims. 

Muslim students make a HUGE impact on our economy. I actually have their most recent data in front of me: the MENA region sent 53,638 undergrads; 32,201 grads; 17,256 non-degree-seeking students, and 5,132 students on OPT (OPT is basically work after completion of a degree program). This is the fastest-growing sending region of international students to the US. 

Each of these students spends thousands of dollars on tuition, room/board, books, living expenses, fees, etc. while here, not to mention what they spend in restaurants, grocery stores, coffee shops, automobile dealerships, gas stations, etc. That’s not to mention the revenue that the ones on OPT are generating for the American companies that they are working for. 

So, for this one region (and note that it doesn’t include places like Indonesia or areas in Asia and Europe that have large Muslim populations who travel to the USA to study), we are talking about an impact of millions of dollars on the American economy, not to mention an immediate impact on jobs in International Education. 

This impact would also have significant consequences, as well; in my field, ESL, it took around 8-9 years to really recover after 9/11 happened and the student visa system essentially shut down. 

Another example: last year, the Saudi scholarship system changed, and it resulted in a major decrease in enrollments in Intensive English Programs across the USA, leaving many ESL teachers and administrators without jobs.

We shouldn’t exaggerate the potential impact of our government’s policies, but, as International Educators, we do have a responsibility to advocate for ourselves and for our students when we think that a policy could put us on the wrong path.”

There are clearly so many ways that a ban on Muslim entry into the US would be detrimental to our field–and to our society. We have to do all that we can to make sure that this does not happen.

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