What Makes America Great?


By: Geonwoo (Glen) Lee

In the 19th and 20th centuries, immigrants from around the world, set foot on a foreign land with their hope to seek “life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.” Since then, millions of immigrants chased the ‘American Dream’, helping build the America that we see today. Now, the same land that had once welcomed anyone who needed a place to fulfill their dreams is being walled by one myopic demagogue.

President Trump has promoted and fueled anti-immigrant policies, shutting door to immigrants, their dreams, and hopes. Due to tightened visa and immigration policies, many international students are discouraged to apply for U.S. universities. It is critical to stop this trail of falling dominoes now – the current administration needs to invest in the future.

So, what are some inexplicable changes made to the visa and the immigration policies of the U.S.? Foreign students must acquire F-1 visas to be able to receive a university education in the U.S., as well as H-1B visas to work after graduation. Mainly, due to Trump’s nationalistic ‘Buy American, Hire American’ ideology, H-1B visa denial rates, petition rates,[1] and the number of Requests for Evidence[2] issued to H-1B visa applicants have all skyrocketed. Not only has the issuing of H-1B visas dropped, but F-1 visas have also drastically decreased in recent years. In 2017, the U.S. has only issued 393,573 F-1 visas, which was a 39% decline compared to 2015.[3]

As a high school sophomore student attending an international school outside the U.S., I am also considering to apply to universities in America. However, a list of daunting questions flood my head: “Would the environment be safe? What if my visa issue goes wrong? Can I even get a visa? Even before that, wouldn’t the admission accept fewer international students?”  These worries overwhelm me and submerge my hopes for the future.

I am not the only one with this concern. Other international students share similar impressions; they have second thoughts, questioning the safety and openness of the U.S.  Trump’s insensitive words continue to fret the international students, which degrades the atmosphere on campus and beyond. A recent IIE study shows that “new foreign student enrollment in the U.S. dropped by 6.6 percent in the 2017-2018 academic year,”[4]and fewer students are applying for U.S. universities.[5]

Fewer international students in the long-run are detrimental to the U.S. While the Trump Administration highlights the short-term benefits of more job opportunities for Americans, they are blinding the citizens of the long-term economic downsides. Foreign students are the building blocks for U.S. industries in areas such as computer science and electrical engineering; 90 percent of the full-time graduates [4]  are international students in those areas. During the 2017 to 2018 academic year, according to NAFSA,  “more than 1 million foreign students in the U.S. contributed $39 billion”[4] Denying these essential workforces, then replacing them with less-qualified workers would result in greater loss.

Furthermore, other major competing countries such as Canada, China, and India, are benefiting from the anti-immigrant policies. As international students seek alternative opportunities outside the U.S., those countries may have the upper hand with a higher influx of talent that would have otherwise been working in the US. Often, these international students provide business with innovative ideas in a multitude of perspectives, and become the future ally and advocates of the U.S. For instance, the co-founder of Instagram, ‘Mike Krieger’ from Brazil, studied at Stanford. After graduation, he promoted the inclusiveness and connectedness of the whole globe through a single app. The loss of opportunities of talented individuals abroad will hamper more than just business, it will hamper what America as a nation is.

Immigrants built the United States to a great nation and what is known today as a  world hegemon. With immigrants coming from all different kinds of race, ethnicity, and religion, the United States was once a symbol of hope, opportunities, and growth for all. Its greatness is built upon the people that make America the nation it is. Great talent is what America needs to continue its ‘greatness.’

Decreased international students would eventually result in great economic loss, less diversity in the U.S. Now more than ever, it is imperative that Americans come together and embrace foreigners. As one of the greatest men in American history, Martin Luther King Jr, once said, “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”



Works Cited

[1] Anderson, Stuart. “New Evidence USCIS Policies Increased Denials Of H-1B Visas.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 25 July 2018, http://www.forbes.com/sites/stuartanderson/2018/07/25/new-evidence-uscis-policies-increased-denials-of-h-1b-visas/#1eebd9595a9f.

[2] “New trend emerging as US tightens up on work visas.” Cape Times [South Africa], 21 Sept. 2017, p. 23. Global Issues in Context, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A505568589/GIC?u=60iskl&sid=GIC&xid=52ab86d8. Accessed 7 Apr. 2019.

[3] “US F-1 Visas down Nearly 17% in 2017.” ICEF Monitor – Market Intelligence for International Student Recruitment, 18 Apr. 2018, monitor.icef.com/2018/03/us-f-1-visas-down-nearly-17-in-2017/.

[4]Leiber, Nick. “Foreign Students Sour on America, Jeopardizing a $39 Billion Industry.” Bloomberg.com, Bloomberg, 17 Jan. 2019, www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-01-17/foreign-students-are-a-39-billion-industry-trump-is-scaring-them-off.

[5]El-Bawab, Nadine. “Trump’s Policies on Student and Work Visas Are Pushing Legal Immigrants to Canada.” CNBC, CNBC, 26 Feb. 2019, www.cnbc.com/2019/02/25/trumps-student-and-work-visa-policies-push-legal-immigrants-to-canada.html.