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Trump Administration’s Assault on Foreign Students: Cruel, Counterproductive, and Cynical:

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“With respect to our nation’s immigration system, it seems increasingly evident that Trump and Stephen Miller are burning it all down on their way out the door.”


The Trump administration’s decision to strip international student visas and deport those who don’t attend class in person is the latest assault on America’s tradition of openness and global competitiveness. Here are the three main factors behind their decision:

  • Cruel: Trump’s animus is not directed at so-called “illegal” immigration; it’s directed to all immigrants – legal immigrants, workers on temporary visas, those with DACA, those with Temporary Protected Status, essential workers without papers, refugees, those seeking asylum, undocumented immigrants in general, family reunification applicants, inter-company transfers, and now, students. It is another front in the administration’s relentless effort to kick out and keep out all foreigners. As The New Yorker’s Jonathan Blitzer noted today, “even some WH stalwarts concede that Trump is in a kind of free fall. And what we’re seeing is Miller and his cabal trying to force through as much as they can before the music stops.”
  • Counterproductive: The announcement will hurt not just foreign-born students, but all American students. Many colleges use the fees from foreign students to make school more affordable for the rest of their student body. And as the Washington Post editorial board notes, the approximately 1 million foreign students “contributed more than $40 billion to the U.S. economy in the 2019-2020 academic year. They provide a steady stream of energetic, talented youth, some of whom make key contributions to the U.S. economy and form lifelong ties with U.S. businesses and scientific and cultural institutions. None of that matters to Mr. Trump, who has made it a personal and political crusade to rid the nation, to the extent possible, of foreigners.” Experts predict that turning away foreign students will result in growing numbers opting for Canada, Europe and Australia. 
  • Cynical: The ICE announcement regarding international students is the latest anti-immigrant measure cynically and opportunistically justified by citing public health in the context of a pandemic (see this excellent CNN piece for more examples). Moreover, it is a decision aimed at forcing more colleges and universities to re-open this Fall. Why? Because President Trump is obsessed with the optics of “business as usual” ahead of the election, despite the thousands of preventable deaths that are directly caused by his mishandling of the crisis. And Republicans in Congress care more about kissing the ring of Dear Leader than in protecting the health, education and reputation of the districts and states they represent.

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice: 

With respect to our nation’s immigration system, it seems increasingly evident that Trump and Stephen Miller are burning it all down on their way out the door. The Trump administration never misses the chance to take an immigrant hostage or to single out someone ‘foreign’ to advance its agenda. 

This White House doesn’t care about our public health. They don’t care about strengthening one of America’s greatest assets – the global attractiveness and reputation of our nation’s universities. They don’t care about drawing distinctions between authorized and unauthorized immigration. They don’t care about the foundational notion of America as a nation made up of people from all nations. 

Nope. Trump and Miller are animated by a much uglier and insidious desire to keep out and kick out immigrants and foreigners, even if it means dealing a deeply damaging blow to a critical part of our nation’s competitiveness and international standing – America’s universities and colleges. 

Now we wait to see if any Republicans in Congress stand up for their communities, colleges and states, or if, once again, they hide under their desks for fear of a tweet.