Deporting Our Future
Author: Shakena Goode
Originally Published at Peace and Conflict Monitor on: 02/23/2012
Hundreds of thousands of international students contribute to the total student population of the United States, increasing five percent during the 2010-2011 academic year. 45.8% of them were studying above the Bachelor’s degree level (Open Doors 2012). At this level of education, we potentially find influential future leaders, as students are learning the most focused aspects of their concentration. Many of these students are not only positioning themselves to compete for top jobs, but are carrying out research projects to consider entrepreneurship and innovation as a career choice.
According to the Institute of International Education, the top two fields of study for international students during the 2010-2011 academic year were business and engineering–two of the most income-producing and productive fields in the United States. Career opportunities in these fields alone are vastly broad. Engineering degrees can range from construction to industrial and mechanical work. Business degrees are also broad in nature and can include finance, entrepreneurship, and recently one of the most emphasized careers of technology. This means that many international students are immersing themselves in a knowledge that would economically benefit the country in which they are employed, and create new businesses that have the ability to be highly profitable: “Indeed, some of the country’s highest profile and most profitable technology companies – including Google, Intel, and Yahoo – count at least one foreign-born founder” (Express 2011).
It is very unlikely that the United States would not want to benefit from the education they have provided to these international students. So why wouldn’t the U.S. provide a legal mechanism for welcoming those students in particular? Such a lack of interest reveals significant yet overwhelming outcomes. It is possible that the United States is trying to maintain a sense of xenophobia in America to promote a sense of nationalism within the country. To many in the upper class, this would avoid any disturbance of the present position in society. However, in my opinion the strong desire to deport the international students during or upon graduation stems from a strong sense of opposition to the immigration concept of amnesty. In 2010, the U.S. Congress created the DREAM Act, allowing undocumented immigrants six years to gain citizenship with the requirements that they serve in the U.S. military for 2 years or complete a college degree. However, such a law has yet to be passed. Many argue that this is just another form of “amnesty to illegal immigrants who deliberately disregarded our immigration laws, [and] it sends the message that we do not take our laws seriously” (Navarette Jr. 2011). Others agree that although these immigrants are acting illegally by living and working in the U.S., the economic and beneficial gains for their citizenship should negate any negative perceptions of the idea. Each year, the U.S. government promises change in the direction of passing the DREAM Act, yet nothing has been done thus far to pass it. This means that each year, promising students, held back by their legal status wait anxiously, are let down and continue to live in fear that upon graduating (or possibly before), they will be deported back to their home countries.
It is quite possible that many have not come to the realization of the many attributes that international students bring to the country. With the inclusion of an international perspective from the international students, there is not only a cultural exchange of opinions and ideas within each university campus, but also a newer understanding between countries. Providing a truly multicultural experience through education, students, regardless of age, are able to better understand other positions on important political and social concepts. This creates a more accepting atmosphere. In addition, receiving higher education alongside varying cultures builds new leaders that will be better able to help in foreign relations. Whether concentrating their studies in business, engineering or politics, many students at the graduate level are more compelled to be involved in the serious issues. A number of them will be future policy makers or at least conscientious voters. Being an international student, voting and making decisions in the U.S., will provide a more well-rounded outcome that will reach all levels of society and not solely the upper class, as is often the case. Students with U.S. citizenship would also benefit through having a broader point of view on the issues, and will be better equipped to make serious decisions involving politics and society.
Possibly one of the most important aspects of allowing international students to remain in the United States after graduation is the economic advantage. As previously stated, students receiving a higher education, specifically at the graduate level, are more likely to become entrepreneurs in the future. In doing so, this can create a number of new jobs that will be open to other students, as well as American citizens. Most are aware of the issue with unemployment in the U.S., and the more new jobs available to U.S. citizens, the better. This means decreased unemployment, increases in the amount of tax payments, and possibly the alleviation of poverty in certain U.S. areas. Furthermore, these newly made companies and organizations can provide new advances in technology. As countries are now competing at faster rates to be the new leaders of technology, deporting students with core knowledge of business, engineering, and science will only help the countries to which they are deported. The United States will continue to miss out on opportunities to be home to the newest innovators of the world.
But how important is economic growth to the United States government if it is willing to allow immigration issues to interfere? Despite the number of advantages that providing citizenship to international students would bring, there is still a strong debate on whether or not the cost-benefit analysis is positive to the U.S. and its economy. With strict regulations and rules for international students to gain citizenship, there could be less concern with amnesty and a larger focus on its advantages. A further look into this might encourage a different outcome in the decisions of U.S. policy makers.
“Let’s also remember that hundreds of thousands of talented, hardworking students in this country face another challenge: The fact that they aren’t yet American citizens. Many were brought here as small children, are American through and through, yet they live every day with the threat of deportation. Others came more recently, to study business and science and engineering, but as soon as they get their degree, we send them home to invent new products and create new jobs somewhere else. That doesn’t make sense.” (Barack Obama)
Shakena Goode is a student from Virginia, USA with an undergraduate degree in Accounting. After graduation she changed her career goals to satisfy her passion of human rights. She is currently a graduate student at American University/University for Peace studying International Peace and Conflict Resolution with a concentration in Human Rights. Her goal is to work in immigration policy making. She can be contacted at <href=”mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org”>email@example.com.