While campuses were celebrating the best of what international education has to offer during International Education Week, troubling events (and many troubling responses to those events) were dominating the media. Just over a week ago, we witnessed horrific attacks in Paris and Beirut, and last Friday, more tragic deadly attacks took place at a hotel in Mali. Every day, there seems to be breaking news of violence somewhere. As the co-chairs of the 9/11 commission, Lee Hamilton and Thomas Kean, wrote in a joint op-ed last week: “Absolute condemnation is the only possible reaction to these abominable attacks by those who embrace the universal values of life and liberty. But faced once again with innocent lives taken by a murderous, radical foe, we must re-examine and re-energize our response.”
Archive for the ‘Advocacy’ Category
We are gripped by the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Europe as a seemingly unending number of people seek refuge away from countries wracked with war and terrorism.
It can be easy for Americans to look across the ocean and call for swift action to address the suffering of those seeking safety and a better future for themselves and their children. It is harder for us to deal with the similar tragedies in our own backyard. The number of refugees at the U.S. southern border fleeing from violence and narco-terrorism in Central America has declined dramatically from last year. But it isn’t because those countries have gotten safer, it is because the United State has worked closely with Mexico and other nations to turn people away before they get to the U.S. border.
Those who sought protection in the United States were sent in large numbers to detention centers – jails – to be held for months at a time. Mothers and children—babies—were held in jails for months without knowing what would happen to them. The stated goal of the Administration putting them in jail was to deter others from seeking protection in the United States. Only recently did a court order the swift release of families from detention while they await decisions on their requests to remain in the United States.
During President Obama’s recent travels to Kenya and Ethiopia, he had the opportunity to meet a 16-year-old girl named Linet Momposhi Nenkoitol during a civil society roundtable held at Kenyatta University in Nairobi. She shared with the President her efforts to pursue education as a girl in Kenya, compared to one of her primary school friends who, unlike Linet, was forced to be married off at age eleven and had undergone horrific female circumcision. Linet avoided this same fate because she had the fortune to grow up in the same village as Dr. Kakenya Ntaiya, the founder and president of the Kakenya Center for Excellence. Dr. Ntaiya paved a path for girls like Linet by being the first girl to leave her village and earn both her undergraduate and graduate degrees in the United States, with a promise to return and build a school for girls.
As a member of the first group of girls studying at the center starting in 2009, Linet said:
Being at the center ensured that I was away from men who could have shown interest in me. I was also able to focus my mind on class work now that I was not performing domestic chores. The only way to make sure that girls are safe and remain in class is to have them in such centers. This way, we can give millions of girls freedom to excel and in the process bring participate in society development.
As we mark the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act tomorrow, it would be natural to assume that securing the right to vote for people of color could be crossed off America’s to-do list. Instead, it has become clear that the law’s roots are beginning to wither, threatening the integrity of the principles on which our democracy was founded.
A Problem in Need of a Solution
In 1870, the 15th amendment to the United States Constitution ensured (male) citizens of their right to vote regardless of their “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” It gave Congress the power to enforce the right. Nevertheless, for the next 95 years, some states imposed hurdles such as literacy tests and poll taxes to prevent African-Americans, not to mention Latinos, Native Americans and other people of color, from exercising their right to vote. When those tactics failed, law enforcement looked away—or tacitly sanctioned—threats, intimidation and actual violence against non-whites trying to vote.
At 10:30 a.m. on Monday, July 20, the Cuban flag was raised outside of the newly official Cuban Embassy in Washington, D.C., for the first time in more than 50 years. The crowd erupted into applause and cheers of “iViva Cuba!”
Nearly ten hours later, I walked up to the embassy on my way home from the NAFSA office and was happy to see that the celebrations had not died down. A large crowd was still chanting, singing, drumming and dancing on the sidewalk. Colorful signs calling for the end of both the travel ban and trade embargo were still weaved through the posts of the fence in front of the embassy building. I was proud to personally witness such a historic moment.
The opening of the Cuban and American embassies on Monday is an important step forward toward fully normalizing relations between the governments of the United States and Cuba. As NAFSA Executive Director and CEO Marlene M. Johnson said at the recent NAFSA conference in Boston, “Engagement, not isolation, is the best way to work toward human rights, prosperity, and security for all.”
Could you use an elixir for disillusionment with the U.S. political system or the hand-wringing about the future of the United States? Listen to “Abdi and the Golden Ticket,” a story broadcasted on NPR’s “This American Life” about Abdi Nor, a Somali refugee living in Kenya who won the Diversity Visa (DV) program lottery.
The goal of the DV lottery, when it was created by Congress in 1990, was to diversify the immigrant population by allowing people from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States to apply for one of 55,000 green cards available annually under the program. Unlike the vast majority of others who apply to live permanently in the United States, DV applicants aren’t required to have family already here or an employer sponsoring them.
The Supreme Court delivered a victory to representative democracy today, ruling in Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission that under the Constitution’s Elections Clause, an independent body, and not only a state legislature, has the power to create voting districts.
In 2000, the people of Arizona voted by referendum to create an independent redistricting commission to draw voting districts, taking the process away from the legislature and outside of the political pulls associated with redistricting efforts. The Arizona legislature sued to overturn the results of the referendum in order to regain its authority to draw voting districts.
Today’s decision ensures that independent commissions remain an option in the fight to eliminate partisan gerrymandering and begins to reverse the trend in which “representatives choose their voters instead of voters choosing their representatives.” For too long, the United States’ inability to address political gerrymandering has sullied our reputation as a standard bearer of democracy.
President Barack Obama recently announced that the United States and China will increase the validity of student and exchange visitor visas from 1 to 5 years, and the validity of short-term tourist and business visas from 1 to 10 years. This is really great news and I’m glad to share why this agreement is important from a student perspective.
To begin with, it saves time, money, and energy for Chinese students studying in the United States. Previously, Chinese students applying for an F-1 visa were only granted an entry visa that was valid for a year. If our visa expired and if we planned to travel outside the United States (perhaps for an internship or study opportunity, or to visit family back home for the holidays), we needed to renew our visa annually, outside of the United States, either in China, Mexico, or Canada, before returning to continue our studies.
Because it’s difficult to figure out the visa renewal process in Mexico without having a strong command of Spanish, and also this year, Canada temporarily suspended processing of all non-Canadian visa applications, we have to go back to China and start the visa application all over again, including paying the $160 visa application fee and waiting hours outside of a U.S. consulate for an interview. Depending on the time of year, it can take up to a month to get your visa renewed. Therefore, most students choose to get their visas renewed during summer vacation. However, it costs at least $1,000 to get a round-trip air ticket to China, and the summer is a precious period of time to gain additional education and professional experience in the United States or somewhere else in the world.
Earlier this week, I made the quick three-block trip from the NAFSA office to the White House for an energizing afternoon with government officials, media representatives, and travel bloggers. As an important driver of public opinion, the media have the ability to use their influential voices to educate readers about the importance of study abroad and encourage more U.S. students to engage in meaningful travel. This was the goal of the White House Summit on Study Abroad and Global Citizenship, to raise awareness of the benefits of cross-cultural education and cultural exchange, while boosting international student mobility across borders.
Study abroad is one of the best ways to provide students with the foreign language and cross-cultural skills necessary to compete and thrive in today’s global economy. Data from a recent MetLife survey show that 65 percent of Fortune 1000 executives identified global awareness as “very important” or “essential” in order to be ready for a career.
International experiences not only prepare students to succeed in careers, but also collectively strengthen our cultural diplomacy, national security, and the economy.
Reports of death have been greatly exaggerated at least since 1897, when Mark Twain told the New York Journal that contrary to reports, he was in fact alive. So it is with immigration reform which, these days, is the subject of repeated obituaries. You only die once—unless, apparently, you’re immigration reform, which dies in our newspapers and on our TV screens with monotonous regularity.
One reason these frequent death reports are getting boring is that we always know the culprit—there isn’t even any suspense. In the case of immigration reform’s most recent demise, a hitherto unknown politician named David Brat holds the bloody dagger. His defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the Virginia seventh district primary supposedly proves that the tea party is again ascendant and that all hope for immigration reform is gone.