Immigration

Trump's Visa Wall Against Foreign Students Is Making Other Countries Great Again

Canada and Australia are scooping up the talent that America is spurning.

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A company that spurned talent it badly needed couldn't thrive. The same is true for a country.

But that isn't stopping the Trump administration from blithely driving foreign students into the open arms of other countries with its ill-advised immigration policies.

For three years in a row, the number of new foreign students enrolling in American universities has fallen. In the 2015-16 academic year, 300,743 new foreign students enrolled. That number dropped to 269,383 in 2018–19, a decline of 10.4 percent as per the data of Open Doors, the Institute of International Education's (IIE) annual report that tracks university enrollments. Nor is the situation likely to improve in the academic year currently underway given that a snapshot survey of 500 universities by the IIE this fall found declining enrollment—although full stats won't be available until later in 2020.

When enrollments initially started plummeting, many people blamed external factors like better educational opportunities at home or Saudi Arabia's decision to yank government scholarships from Saudi students studying abroad rather than this administration's anti-immigration agenda. While other things might have had an effect on the margin, if they were the main cause, then other countries would be experiencing a decline too. The opposite is the case.

National Foundation for American Policy's Stuart Anderson points out that Canada has been attracting a record number of international students in recent years. In 2017, it experienced a 20 percent spike and then another 16 percent the following year, a phenomenon that Canadians call the "Trump bump." Meanwhile, Australia experienced a whopping 47 percent increase in new foreign students between 2015 and 2018.

In particular, America is losing Chinese students while Australia is gaining them. One likely reason is that Trump has called them all spies (an absurd accusation given that that nine out of 10 would prefer to stay on and work in America rather than return to the Communist dictatorship) and threatened to ban them from the country in a naked bid to force Beijing to succumb to his trade demands. Trump didn't make good on that threat. However, since 2018 the State Department has been capping the visa stay of Chinese students in sensitive fields to one year rather than allowing them to stay for the maximum time allowed. This not only made Chinese students feel unwelcome in the United States but also perhaps made it more precarious for them to pursue an education here lest they lose their visas before finishing their program.

In addition, his travel ban has subjected foreign students from Iran and various Muslim countries to extreme vetting.

He has also proposed rules that would make it easier to brand foreign students as being "unlawfully present" and to ban them from the country for 10 years. The courts have put this rule on hold for now but the uncertainty can hardly make American universities attractive.

Trump has also doubled down on sting operations to crack down on visa fraud. Last year Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested 250 foreign students, mostly from India, whom it lured into the University of Farmington, a fake university that it set up in metro Detroit. For tuition fees much lower than normal, this university handed these students transcripts to satisfy the terms of their visas and, more importantly, obtain CPT (Curricular Practical Training) status. This status lets the foreign students sign up for a paid internship off-campus and helps offset their steep tuition costs, a tempting deal because it enables them to work for more than 20 hours and get off-campus jobs. Many foreign students quit legitimate universities to join this fake one only to get caught in ICE's dragnet.

But it's not just draconian enforcement tactics that are turning away foreign students. The administration's immigration policies are also making an American education an unattractive value proposition compared to other countries.

Trump is doing everything in his power to make it more difficult for foreign students to work in America after they graduate, making the high cost of an American education a bad investment. Right now, international students in highly-coveted STEM fields can obtain something called the Optional Practical Training visa to work in the country for 36 months after graduation. This allows them to recover some of their tuition costs before returning home. Trump is proposing rules to cut this back dramatically.

Likewise, his administration is also making it more difficult for foreign techies to work in the country long-term by rejecting new H-1B visa applications at a historically high rate. And he is making it much more difficult for those who have these visas to renew them.

This is the exact opposite of what Sen. Mitt Romney (R–Utah) said the country should be doing when he ran for the presidency in 2012. He had promised to staple green cards—not just H-1Bs—to the diplomas of foreign graduates, especially in STEM fields, because it made no sense for America to lose American-trained talent to other countries. Instead, it is Canada that is running with Romney's suggestion. It is handing foreign graduates from Canadian universities many additional points when they apply for permanent residency so that they just stay in Canada rather than return to their native countries.

Turning away foreign students is particularly stupid—not only because we need their skills but also their tuition dollars. Over 66 percent of them, especially undergraduates, pay top dollars for their education from out-of-pocket or through outside sources, allowing universities to subsidize tuition costs for American students. Many international graduate students, meanwhile, provide teaching and research services in exchange for a tuition reprieve, especially in STEM fields, something that allows universities to offer a more cost-effective education than if they had to hire faculty for the same jobs.

Furthermore, foreign students contribute $37 billion to the American economy and create or support 450,000 jobs, according to NAFSA: Association of International Educators, an outfit that promotes the professional development of American college officials. Indeed, without them, the shortage of Americans in STEM fields would become even more acute because there wouldn't be enough people to train Americans, generating a downward spiral of STEM scarcity.

But the most vital contributions of international students are intangible. Had it not been for them, America may not have spearheaded the information technology revolution. That's because 57 percent of Silicon Valley's STEM workers were born outside the country and many of them came to the United States as students and stayed on. Many iconic IT companies such as Microsoft and Google are currently being headed by foreigners who came to America as graduate students.

Instead of draining the swamp, Trump is draining talent from America that other countries are eagerly sucking up. This is a formula for making them great, not America.

A version of this column originally appeared in The Week.

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  1. Other countries need to keep their smartest and most ambitious people at home to make their own countries great.

    Thus article is good news for those places.

    1. ‘America First’ didn’t last long.

      Neither did that ‘Deep State’ crap. Fox News was crying this morning because some Americans are questioning the government about military action involving Iran — ‘why can’t Americans just trust their government?’

      Clingers need to invent some new hollow slogans.

      1. Clingers need to invent some new hollow slogans.

        How about “No blood for oil”
        Or “Hope and change”
        Or “Yes we can”

      2. Hollow slogans? How about “carry on, clingers”?

      3. Carry on, Klinger Kirkland.

  2. Cue the Shikha derangement in five… four… three…

    1. No kidding. It’s disappointing that there are actually people here who don’t appreciate a constant stream of billionaire-funded open borders advocacy.

      It’s like, what are they even doing on Reason.com anyway? What do they think this place is?

      #BillionairesKnowBest

    2. It’s cute how you have to cop the phrases and memes of the right because you are too unintelligent to create any of your own.

    3. Too late. The Shikha derangement was posted at 1.6.2020 12:30 PM

  3. Great! Let Canada and Australia pay for their educations, so when these people want to immigrate to the USA, Americans dont have to pay for their educations and get the talent.

    1. Your understanding of finance in the context of higher education is inadequate. Foreign students constitute a highly profitable market for American colleges and universities.

      1. That’s why the “Aramco Kids” never got expelled from my university when caught cheating. Repeatedly.

      2. His/her understanding of anything is inadequate.

      3. Foreign students constitute a highly profitable market for American colleges and universities.

        Most American universities and colleges are non-profit institutions receiving massive taxpayer subsidies; so the idea that foreign students are a “profitable market” for them is absurd since they can’t be “profitable” in the first place.

        As usual, you prove yourself to be an ignorant bottom feeder, Kirkland.

  4. Maybe skyrocketing tuition has something to do with this? Foreign nationals typically pay full tuition.

  5. Think of all the food trucks we are missing out on!

  6. You know, one of the criticisms of libertarianism is that it inherently appeals to only a very narrow demographic. I believe we can rectify this. And Shikha Dalmia has provided a useful blueprint for widening our appeal.

    We libertarians should talk much more often about how seats at American universities should go to foreign-born students. This message is guaranteed to resonate with middle- and working-class American families. Particularly African American families.

    #OpenBorders
    #ImmigrationAboveAll

  7. Well fuck! Now we won’t have any OPT applicants who can work for 3 years at American companies with both the applicant and the employer exempt from payroll taxes. What’ll we doOoooOOoooooOOOoo!!!!!!!!

  8. In particular, America is losing Chinese students while Australia is gaining them. One likely reason is that Trump has called them all spies (an absurd accusation given that that nine out of 10 would prefer to stay on and work in America rather than return to the Communist dictatorship) and threatened to ban them from the country in a naked bid to force Beijing to succumb to his trade demands. Trump didn’t make good on that threat.

    So, according to Shikha’s theory, Trump made some mean, empty tweets and the frightened prospective Chinese students all ran to Canada? Must be Journalism majors.

    1. blah, or Australia rather. I read Canada in the previous paragraph

    2. Australia has resources that China needs. And it’s got a much smaller population to overwhelm. Not really much bigger than the staff of the NYT or Wapo which have already been bought and paid for by China’s central committee.

      Say, doesn’t Reason like to cite those fully discredited publications?

  9. //Trump has also doubled down on sting operations to crack down on visa fraud.//

    Pure evil.

    //In addition, his travel ban has subjected foreign students from Iran and various Muslim countries to extreme vetting.//

    More pure evil.

    //Turning away foreign students is particularly stupid—not only because we need their skills but also their tuition dollars. Over 66 percent of them, especially undergraduates, pay top dollars for their education from out-of-pocket or through outside sources, allowing universities to subsidize tuition costs for American students. //

    One would think if our colleges and universities were so adept at churning out productive citizens in exchange for all those tuition dollars, we would have plenty of skilled individuals right here at home. Hmm.

    Seems like everyone is getting ripped off here, which is a very odd basis to argue in favor of more immigration.

  10. Shame. I’d trade some of the morons here for educated immigrants.

    1. If people like you succeed in running the US, educated immigrants like myself will stop coming; if we wanted to live in failing progressive sh*tholes, we wouldn’t have had to come to the US.

  11. “”Making Other Countries Great Again “”

    How can our kids compete when liberal crap like meritocracy and math is racist, is a thing in the US? I expect every country will soon kick our asses in STEM.

  12. Good, now many American students who go into STEM can actually get decent jobs and not have to compete with H1-B visa holders.

    And maybe American students will have an easier time of learning STEM because half their classes are no longer taught by grad students who don’t speak English

    1. You have a problem with “wave wackers?”

  13. People who entrust the management of commerce to the government will regret it. Regulation of immigration to make it difficult for foreign students to study in the U.S. is a really stupid idea which will cost the U.S., but it does resonate with Trump’s xenophobic base. Trade and immigration restrictions are good ways to restrict economic growth. Hopefully, resourceful and creative people will find ways to escape the destructive consequences of Trump’s attempts to suppress people and trade.

    1. “Being colonized by the CCP is sure to work out well.”

  14. Finally Shikha is letting go of uninspected entry, getting back on the ball with the brain drain. Fascist kleptocracies burdened with constitutions comprising 80 thousand words of gibberish are losing their educated citizenry. What remain behind are the sort of morons recruited into Antifa or other anarcho-collectivist idiocracies. Faced with an impregnable wall of congealed looter drool, given the force of law to prohibit forming a libertarian party, podo-voting makes more sense than Sisyphean ballot access drives to overcome stacked Nixon subsidies for looter parties. “Our” exportation of nationalsocialist prohibition laws could cease and not be missed.

  15. In particular, America is losing Chinese students while Australia is gaining them.

    As the situation grows yet more tense, the impact is also being felt overseas, particularly among the hundreds of thousands of mainland Chinese and Hong Kong students studying in Australia.

    At the University of Queensland, the tensions spilled over into violent clashes last week, when a group staging a support rally for the Hong Kong demonstrators were confronted by pro-Beijing protesters.

    Hundreds of protesters faced off against each other, yelling insults and abuse as the Chinese national anthem was blasted from a speaker.

    Videos posted online showed pro-China supporters ripping posters from the hands of opponents, prompting shoving and physical confrontations.

    Security officials quickly arrived to separate the groups but tensions remained high, said Nilsson Jones, a student journalist who filmed some of the clashes.

    “Overwhelmingly, the [mainland] Chinese students were the aggressors,” he said, adding that they had also turned out in greater numbers.

    Oh, you mean those Chinese students that we can’t afford to lose?

    …all spies (an absurd accusation given that that nine out of 10 would prefer to stay on and work in America rather than return to the Communist dictatorship)

    Who wants to tell her?

    Over 66 percent of them, especially undergraduates, pay top dollars for their education from out-of-pocket or through outside sources, allowing universities to subsidize tuition costs for American students.

    Just like subsidized student loans makes college more affordable.

    Seriously, this is what we get from Reason’s best and brightest.

    1. #CulturalEnrichment courtesy of the CCP.

  16. may the world be in a peaceful and comfortable state
    e-learning

  17. But that isn’t stopping the Trump administration from blithely driving foreign students into the open arms of other countries with its ill-advised immigration policies.

    I used to try to persuade foreign students to come to the US; these days, I tell them to go to Europe instead. I also recommend that US students go overseas.

    US educational institutions are overpriced, have given up on traditional liberal arts educations, are anti-Western, ideologically intolerant, and illiberal. European institutions are fairly cheap, cost of living for students is low, and people receive better a better education.

    It’s not Trump that keeps away foreign students, it’s the American left and their takeover and destruction of US educational institutions.

  18. Let Canada and Australia be colonized by children of the CCP. The *smart* children of the CCP. That’s sure to work out well.

  19. In particular, America is losing Chinese students while Australia is gaining them.

    Australia can have them. They can have the Iranian students, too.

    Right now, international students in highly-coveted STEM fields can obtain something called the Optional Practical Training visa to work in the country for 36 months after graduation. This allows them to recover some of their tuition costs before returning home. Trump is proposing rules to cut this back dramatically.

    Fuck that, why are US Taxpayers subsidizing foreigners? They pay their own way.

    Many international graduate students, meanwhile, provide teaching and research services in exchange for a tuition reprieve…

    Dalmia, have you ever taken a course taught by one of these poor, oppressed students? One suspects not. Their diction and pronunciation just sucks. I would think you’d need to understand what the instructor says to get value from the course.

    I guess we’ll just have to get by with fewer int’l students. Somehow, I think we’ll manage to make it.

  20. Oh no, what ever will we do without those foreign robots, I mean students, who take school seats from Americans who need them, deplete our educational resources, subvert our political systems, and then return home when its convenient to do so?

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