Anti-refugee rhetoric hinders college campuses

By Agastya Bhatia , Columnist

“A caravan” of “criminals.” “Illegal immigration onslaught.” “The fault of open-border Democrats.” The rhetoric peddled by the Trump administration paints a terrifying image of dangerous criminals and job-stealers, marching en masse toward the southern border of the United States.

What’s happening is simply an exodus of disenfranchised people fleeing from a violent and poverty-ridden Honduras, seeking a better life. The situation, however, is being portrayed to the world as an attack on border security in America. Not only does it create feelings of fear and doubt among citizens, but also hostility toward immigrants, legal or otherwise.

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With 1 in 4 Americans believing immigration is the most worrying issue in country, it is clear an increasing number of people want tighter regulations on the flow of immigrants and their ability to work within the country. This creates uncertainty for international students at universities, especially those who study in the U.S. in the hopes of working here and gaining residency. Xenophobic commentary is nothing new in the Trump administration. The effects are already seen through fall enrollment at universities around the country. With international admissions dropping by 4 percent between 2016 and 2017, students are starting to prefer schools in Canada or Hong Kong for a more conducive environment.

A recent reemergence of similar rhetoric spurred on by news of the asylum-seeking Honduran refugees has reminded international students that this administration, and a sizable part of the U.S. population, may not want them here. While many institutions of higher education, like the University, are fairly diverse, they are not necessarily well integrated. This is clearly noticeable in social settings, friend groups and cultural organizations.

In a separated environment, hostile sentiments echoed by the administration against immigrants and minorities only serve to make international students feel more unwelcome and less a part of the college community. International students regularly voice fears of being unable to find jobs after graduation as a result of rising negative sentiments, despite being academically competitive with domestic job-seekers. Highly skilled workers from other countries have been a driving force behind economic growth over the past few decades, especially in Silicon Valley. As international students continue to be alienated, the U.S. state university system will lose out on a large source of tuition revenue, and so will the job market.

The Trump administration must recognize and address what the real threats to America are, rather than inciting fear and animosity toward immigrants. Whether they are refugees seeking a safe haven in America or highly educated international students who want to contribute to the American economy, these people deserve to be treated with respect.

Agastya is a sophomore in Engineering.

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