Tuesday, November 23, 2004

The Bush Administration’s restrictive student visa policy is misguided.

Why you're right:

1. Since 9/11, foreign student visas to the United States are at record lows. 2003-2004 international student enrollments at U.S. colleges and universities fell for the first time in more than three decades, driven by increasingly intrusive and cumbersome application procedures. Graduate applications from China dropped 45% and from India, 28%. As of 2003, applicants must now pay $100 for the U.S. government to track them through the Student Exchange Visitor Information System. This system tracks immigration violations, addresses, identities, and even the grades of the students. A timeline of a year or more is not unusual to obtain a visa. (North Jersey Herald News, India Tribune, World Peace Herald)

2. The United States is the ultimate loser with fewer foreign students. Foreign students bring in to the higher education industry $13 billion a year. They tend to major in the sciences, which American students are doing less frequently. The National Science Board last year found that 38% of the doctorate holders in America’s science and engineering workforce are foreign born. The United States now ranks 17th among developed nations in proportion of college students majoring in science and engineering. In 1975, the United States ranked 3rd. Fewer foreign students may take away America’s edge in scientific innovation. (World Peace Herald, Washington Post)

3. The Bush Administration is once again focusing on the short term and ignoring the long-term implications. While tracking foreign students and making regulations stricter may seem to be in the name of “security” right now, it is turning a future generation of leaders against an unwelcome United States. The United States cannot hope to spread its ideas of democracy and justness without contact with students. Fareed Zakaria, in the Washington Post, points out that, “The hegemony of ideas is often a greater and more lasting source of power than brute force. When historians write about our times, they will certainly note that America dominated the international agenda for decades through this distinctive form of power.” (India Tribune, Washington Post)

Why they’re wrong:

Most foreign students acknowledge that some security measures are necessary, but they do not want to be treated like criminals. The Department of Homeland Security claims that tighter application procedures are necessary to prevent terrorists from abusing the visa for entry into the United States, but only one of the 9/11 hijackers had entered the United States through a student visa. The administration has put an unjust burden on the rest of the foreign student population, by focusing the bulk of its attention on this type of visa. (Illinois State Journal-Register)