By Matheus Maynard
After their failed attempt last July, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is taking another shot at international students. Their proposal gives foreign students limited-term visa duration, and an even shorter duration for specific countries.
Foreign students, who are mostly on F-1 or J-1 visas, have been granted an indefinite stay in the United States as long as they actively remain studying and show satisfactory progress toward their studies. The proposed new ruling would set fixed terms, and grounds for a visa extension are now extremely narrow and risky.
This ruling proposes that international students are granted a four-year term for their visa, even though the proposal acknowledges that most students take longer to complete their programs. With this ruling, foreign students will have to apply for a visa extension mid-program with the risk of having their extension denied and having to leave the country right away under the new rules. ICE justified this new ruling on trying to limit visa overstays and frauds, but they seem to totally disregard the economic and cultural impact of this decision, which will make the United States less attractive than it already is to prospective foreign students.
Perhaps the direst consequence under this new rule is the granting of only two-year visas for students of specific countries. This decision, based on country of birth alone, excludes foreign students from these countries from pursuing any level of education higher than an associate’s degree.
The foreign nationals affected by this limited-term visa provision are from poor and undeveloped countries including most African nations, some Middle Eastern and Asian countries, Caribbean nations, and some island nations in the Pacific.
ICE argues that these countries have the highest rate of visa fraud and overstays. However, ICE can argue and justify all they want, but what they can’t hide is the racist nature of this policy.
By limiting the stay of certain foreign nationals, the cultural diversity that these people can bring to the table will also be limited. In times where Black Lives Matter has become one of the most pressing issues in our society, limiting access to education for international students from black and brown countries is a clear demonstration of the anti-immigrant and anti-diversity stances of the Trump administration.
This July, ICE tried to impose restrictive regulations on foreign students by trying to require them to be enrolled in at least one in-person class during the pandemic, which was revoked after many lawsuits and protests throughout higher education institutions.
Now, ICE tries again to make the lives of those students harder than it already is. Student visas are one of the most stringently regulated visas that the United States has and the country has already seen a decline in its foreign student population through the years as other countries are more welcoming and less strict. Not to mention that foreign students compose 5.5% of the higher education student body, and account for an economy estimated at $41 billion.
If this policy goes through, the United States will start experiencing further decreases in its foreign student population, and all they bring with them: The cultural diversity that opens and allows dialogue, the language diversity, the ethnic diversity. Also, the exceptional scientific, academic, and talents that many of these individuals bring into this country will be discouraged.
Many will choose more welcoming countries like many already have. Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and the United Kingdom are some of the anglophone countries that have become popular destinations for foreign students in the past few years. They do, in fact, welcome them, and understand the importance of their presence on their college campuses.
It’s time for America to decide where they stand with their immigrants.
SIDEBAR: National foreigners of the following countries will be restricted to a two-year visa term by new ICE ruling
Afghanistan, Benin, Bhutan, Burkina Faso, Burma, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Republic of the Congo (Congo-Brazzaville), Democratic Republic of the Congo (Congo-Kinshasa), Côte d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, the Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Iraq, Kenya, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Liberia, Libya, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Moldova, Mongolia, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Rwanda, Samoa, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Togo, Tonga, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Uganda, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Yemen, and Zambia.