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Archive for the ‘Public Policy’ Category

By Richard Papale

On February 22, NAFSA Executive Director and CEO Esther D. Brimmer, DPhil, gave the keynote address at the Association of International Education Administrators (AIEA) annual conference. With the befitting title, “The Best of Times, the Worst of Times,” Brimmer emphasized that the work, unity, and resilience of international educators is more important than ever as we look to the challenges and opportunities ahead.

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statue_of_liberty_200x150In a year-end bipartisan near miracle, Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) have come together to propose a bill to provide protection for young immigrants who have been granted or are eligible for protection from deportation under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. DACA is an executive order implemented by the Obama administration. Because it is an executive order, and not a bill passed by Congress and signed into law by the president, it could easily be rolled back by the incoming administration. That is why bipartisan congressional action is so essential for young immigrants who want to continue to contribute to America, the only home they have ever known.

Senator Durbin and Graham’s bill, Bar Removal of Individuals who Dream and Grow our Economy Act or the BRIDGE Act, will be introduced in the new year in the new Congress to protect immigrants brought to the United States as children without documentation. These are our children; they played by the rules attending school with our children, graduating from our high schools. Mirroring DACA, BRIDGE applicants would be required to pay a fee, undergo criminal background checks, and be determined not to pose a security threat.

These young people did nothing wrong, and have contributed to our communities. They want to continue their education and legally work in the United States. They need Congress and the American people to make it possible.

We applaud Senator Durbin and Senator Graham for working together to protect those young people who have or are eligible for DACA. Let this year-end bipartisan act be a harbinger of a new year and a new Congress brimming with bipartisan bills that bring Americans together. Only then will we be able to tackle the underlying issue: create a bipartisan bridge to an immigration system that works for the United States with a path out of the shadows for undocumented immigrants who want to get in a line for legal immigration status.

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votingPresident-elect Donald Trump’s fabricated claims that undocumented immigrants have voted in numbers large enough to sway the popular vote undermines citizens’ trust in our democracy, undercuts the legitimacy of U.S. democracy abroad, and demonizes undocumented immigrants while diverting attention from legitimate concerns about our democracy, including money in politics, suppression of U.S. citizens’ right to vote, and gerrymandering.

Rates of voter fraud of the type President-elect Trump is alleging are miniscule, ranging from 0.00004 percent to 0.0009 percent, according to a seminal report by the Brennan Center for Justice. However, by making unfounded claims of voter fraud involving millions of people, President-elect Trump sows deep distrust of our elections and challenges the fundamental right of every American to have a voice in our democracy through his or her vote. At best, his contention could result in voter suppression if enough people think the system is so flawed they decide not to participate. At worst, it damages the foundation of our democracy by calling into question the validity of our elections.

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By Fanta Aw

On October 31 at 3:56 p.m., I reported to the designated voting center to cast my early vote. Given what is at stake during this election for both my adopted country the United States, and for the world, I was not about to take any chances and miss my opportunity to exercise my right to vote. As I entered the civic center this beautiful Monday, I found close to a hundred people in the polling area poised to cast their vote. It brought a smile to my face, warmed my heart, and sustained my hope for this country.

Looking at the faces around me, I believed that many of these other voters, like myself, understood that much is at stake in this election, and that we cannot afford to be silent or sit on the sidelines. We were not going to be bystanders. I was especially hopeful when several people ahead of me were identified as first-time voters. They reminded me so much of myself when I cast my important first vote in 2008. It was a historic vote for our first African-American president. Once again, I was about to cast another historic vote, a vote that would ensure that this nation stands for what is right, and a vote that would ensure our collective future is not jeopardized.

Find U.S. election resources at www.connectingourworld.org/elections.

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The United States must foster policies and practices that welcome international students to our institutions of higher education. Misstating the facts about immigrants in this country not only distorts the policy debate, but also makes those who are born outside our borders less likely to feel they are welcome here and that their contributions are appreciated.

In his much anticipated immigration policy speech, Presidential candidate Donald Trump distorted facts about immigrants. By stating that, “62 percent of households headed by illegal immigrants used some form of cash or non-cash welfare programs, like food stamps or housing assistance,” Trump implies that undocumented immigrants receive federal government assistance. In fact, the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, commonly known as welfare reform, effectively barred undocumented immigrants from receiving any federal benefits. (It also severely curtailed access to federal benefits programs by legal immigrants.) Similarly, undocumented immigrants are not eligible for benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as the food stamp program until 2008.

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statue_of_liberty_200x150This week, the United States welcomes the 10,000th refugee fleeing the violence and turmoil in Syria, thus following through on a promise made by the Obama Administration last year. More could and should be done. NAFSA urges Congress and the next administration to amplify efforts and provide security to as many as 100,000 refugees from Syria in the coming year. As NAFSA CEO Marlene M. Johnson noted in her congressional testimony last year, we have the ability and duty to open our doors to an even greater number of people in need.

In addition to providing security and hope to those fleeing terror, we also urge the administration to streamline the visa process for refugee students in order to ensure that Syrian students seeking higher education in the United States have a path to do so. The administration could, for example, ease the requirement that foreign students demonstrate they have no intent to immigrate to the United States. The administration could also address the severe logistical challenges foreign students face by allowing required in-person interviews to take place in locations other than U.S. consulates.

The United States is viewed by the world as the leader in international education. We not only have the capacity to provide refugee students with an education that begins to reshape the future that was stolen from them, but also the moral obligation to do so.

Incoming refugees are properly and thoroughly screened prior to their arrival in the United States in order to ensure our own safety. By taking the steps to further the education of victims of war—especially in higher education—and providing them opportunities to rebuild their lives and contribute to their new campuses and communities, we foster greater global peace and security as well.

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UPDATE: Adding to the string of recent victories for supporters of voting rights, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals struck key provisions of North Carolina’s discriminatory Voter ID law. The court said, “The new provisions target African Americans with almost surgical precision” and “impose cures for problems that did not exist.” Echoing decisions in previous cases, such as those below, in which laws deemed to prevent alleged voter fraud were struck down, the judge went on to note that, “the asserted justifications cannot and do not conceal the State’s true motivation” of disenfranchising minority, mostly democratic voters.

Following the decision, at least one political candidate tried to stoke fears about how this recent victory for democracy might affect the November presidential elections, raising unfounded assertions about the possibility of people voting 10 times. In fact, studies have shown that the type of voter fraud that is supposed to be addressed by voter ID laws doesn’t exist. One study found that out of one billion votes cast, only thirty-one showed evidence of voter impersonation. Likewise, there is absolutely no evidence that multiple voting will occur, and there are already safeguards in place against such fraud short of the modern-day poll tax that was attempted in North Carolina.

Fortunately for America, we know better than to believe soundbites that would conveniently have us deny the right to vote to our fellow citizens. Our democracy depends fundamentally on protecting everyone’s right to vote, and these recent court decisions are the next logical step in our way toward a more perfect union, following hard-fought battles of the suffragettes and the Civil Rights movement to ensure the right to vote for all Americans.

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International students and professionals are critical to the strength and well-being of communities across the entire United States, yet their impact is too often overlooked or taken for granted. By delaying meaningful immigration reform, we risk losing the valuable contributions made by these immigrants.

Our Healthcare System Relies on Foreign-Born Professionals

Our healthcare system relies on foreign-born workers, and the demand for medical professionals from outside our borders will only increase. Currently, twenty five percent of physicians and surgeons working in the United States–plus comparable portions of other healthcare positions–were born elsewhere.

As the baby boomer population ages, they will increasingly need more medical care. In addition, their retirements will create a deficit of doctors, surgeons, nurses, health aids, dentists, pharmacists, and clinical techs. As a result, the ability to provide healthcare will be significantly strained, furthering a need for immigrant healthcare professionals.

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Last Thursday, the Supreme Court, deadlocked at 4-4, rendered a terse, nine-word, one-sentence non-decision on the executive actions known as DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans) and DACA plus (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). The absence of one Justice on the bench deprived more than five million people of the just recognition they deserve.

It took courage for people to step forward to ask for temporary relief from the threat of deportation for themselves and their family members. Their goals were to be recognized, to be heard, to go to school and to earn a living, and to demonstrate their desire to keep their families together. That courage was met by a Congress and Supreme Court that are incapable of action, and politicians using people as political footballs, kicking the vulnerable back to the shadows.

Our country has suffered through fractious debates over the past decade on several issues, perhaps none as contentious as immigration. This has caused paralysis. When Congress had the opportunity to address comprehensive immigration reform, the House failed to act and permitted the issue, and those affected, to languish. The administration then announced efforts to prioritize enforcement efforts, with mixed results.

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As international educators, we understand that global learning leads to a more engaged and welcoming United States, and a more secure and peaceful world. To be fully realized, these goals require a functioning immigration system. Our immigration law is the face the United States presents to the world. When it is broken, when the welcome mat is only out for some or pulled away entirely, the world takes note.

Immigration law impacts international education by dictating who may come to the United States, for how long, and what they can do while they are here. International education suffers when the law makes it difficult for international students, scholars, researchers, and others to come to the United States to learn and work. Additionally, by prohibiting the family members of international students from working or studying while they are in the United States, we send a message that they are not welcome, and add additional burdens for international students and scholars to endure.

Perhaps even more troubling is the way our current immigration law impacts the story we tell the world about ourselves. Our story is one of a nation of immigrants that welcomes new people who aspire to work hard and become Americans. Too frequently, in too many places in the world, our aspirational story has been eroded by a perception of anti-immigrant rhetoric and laws targeting immigrants for capricious or harsh treatments. As a result, our ability to achieve the goals of international education are crippled. Reforming immigration law supports the mission of international education, advancing global engagement by welcoming people from around the world to live, work, and study in our communities.

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