International students seek opportunity in the U.S., face restrictions

Updated: Oct 19, 2021

As new legislation continues to be passed, restrictions seem to arise for international students studying in the U.S.

International students are usually drawn to the U.S. because of career-related opportunities.

Many usually have short-term opportunities to work, although they may be limited, taking place during and immediately following coursework. There are some opportunities to stay longer in the U.S. to work, largely through the H1-B visa program, and for a select few, to work toward permanent residency.

International students make up 5.5 percent of the total U.S. higher education population and that percentage continues to grow.

One analysis showed that international students studying at U.S. colleges and universities contributed $41 billion during the 2018-2019 academic year, and supported more than 458,200 jobs.

It is believed that American education has the greatest impact on individual success, because many famous world leaders have studied in the U.S. For example, the current prime minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, president of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, and Prime Minister of Thailand, Yingluck Shinawatra, have all gotten degrees from American universities.

International students in the past have been viewed as beneficial because they contribute to the diversity and internationalization of their classrooms, campuses, and communities. These students were accepted, as they add different perspectives in the classroom and enhance the mutual understanding and appreciation of the differences found around the world.

But recently, international students have faced backlash, as people say that they will steal future jobs. Many people come to study in the U.S. with hope that they will receive a much higher quality of education than they would elsewhere, but with constant backlash, immigrants may have a hard time blending in.

Many Americans believe that after students finish their education term, they should be sent back to their country, but others believe that foreign graduates should be granted work permits.

On July 6, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that international students who are pursuing degrees in the United States will have to leave the country or risk deportation if their universities switch to online-only courses, but only days later, rescinded their decision. ICE faced a lot of backlash in those few days, which may have led to them reversing their decision so quickly.

Sumana Kaluvai, an international student from India who graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles last year, created a website to help international students find in-person classes.

“It [The reversal of the policy] makes me feel so relieved, and I think it’s just proof that universities have a lot more power than we realize, and I’m glad that they took such quick action,” Kaluvai said to NPR reporters.

Especially since the public health situation is continuing to escalate and flying in airplanes has become less practical, it wasn’t ideal that this directive would be put in place so quickly.

Many students come to the U.S. only for education and then return to their home country, as an effort to better their country. Others stay in the U.S. as they learn about the numerous opportunities that they are offered in the country.

As ICE is capable of threatening to remove international students at any time, many international students may fear studying in the U.S. as it is riskier. The reversal of ICE’s policy may just be the beginning of more uncertainty for international students, as online learning becomes an easier medium of education. Future international students may be expected to leave the country if schools are able to properly transfer curriculum to a fully-online platform. ICE would then have more reasoning for removing international students from the U.S.

Through Teen Lenses: What are your opinions on the international college student situation in America with ICE? Do you believe that they made the right decision by reversing the declaration? How does this affect people around you?

I personally think that it was a very stupid idea in the first place, to try and stop international students from living in the US due to the online status of there college. What many people are failing to realize, especially the Trump administration, is that COVID19 is a serious issue that has caused a lot of colleges to switch to online so saying people who have worked hard to come live here and study here have to leave is just plain ridiculous. Trump himself tweeted in 2015 about how wonderful it is that international students come to study here and “should not be thrown out of our country,” so for him to make/attempt to make a law forcing them to leave was just horrible and plain hypocritical. I believe it was absolutely the right decision to reverse the law in process because it would’ve been extremely discriminatory and not even remotely kind or helpful in any way, especially since I and many others know so many International students whose families worked hard for the opportunity to study abroad. Prasidha Padmanabhan, 15, Rising Sophomore at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Chantilly VA
Based on my knowledge of the international college student plan suggested by the Trump administration and carried out by ICE, it is clear that the goal is to send out as many foreign students as possible. Although this proposal aims to benefit the country, it accomplishes nearly the opposite. International students have invested themselves in their education and there are no doubt millions working on groundbreaking research and dissertations. Deporting them due to the fact that they are taking online classes, which is often not even a choice, is not in any way helpful. As a citizen, this plan would not directly affect me, but targets several of my friends and family, including a cousin of mine working on his MBA in Maryland. Therefore, I agree with the reversal of the declaration. Anonymous, 15, Rising Sophomore at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Fairfax VA
Based on what I’ve seen in the past, especially within my family, I believe that it is important for us to remain diverse with our international students. I don’t agree with ICE’s declaration to remove international students because it simply doesn’t add up to everything this country has been trying to achieve. As a united nation, we should be striving for diversity and compassion. As ICE would be capable of threatening to remove international students at any time, many international students would be living in fear, and that’s no way to welcome people to the community we have built. I fully agree with the reversal of this proposal and hope that we can start accepting people regardless of background, as we strive for in other aspects of our country’s beliefs. Anonymous, 17, Rising Senior at Chantilly High School, Chantilly VA

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