International Students and the Executive Orders: What You May Not See

Eleni Birhane
ebirhane@css.edu

The United States of America is a country established by immigrants founded on the values of diversity, equality and freedom. These are things that international students have heard about the U.S. before coming here. Leaving one’s home and traveling across borders to an unfamiliar place is not exactly an easy ordeal. Other than mental preparation, the thing that determines how the experience will play out is the hospitality vs. hostility of the environment we almost blindly put ourselves in. The recent social and political changes in the U.S. have, to say the least, impacted international students’ experiences in a negative way.

Although the executive orders that directly influence practice have not passed, the culture and environment towards all non-U.S. citizens has seen a definite shift. Narrow nationalism has taken root and international students can feel it. “No international student has been immune to thoughts of anxiety or fear since January 27th.” (Jimenez, 2017). While we all face varying degrees of struggle, depending on factors such as where we are from, religious identification and specific personal experiences, we can all attest to the fact that we have been affected in some way. “I have come to question my presence here, it is odd to think that there are people that do not want me here” (Daniela Rojas Abramo, Junior).

Not only has this caused international students here emotional and mental burdens, but there are also other consequences that have factored into our lives. As mentioned before, even though actual policies and laws have not been able to passed, there has been a change in attitude and practice. The embassy and consular services of United States around the world (but more acutely in specific countries) have not been immune. The visa granting process and statistics have seen some significant changes. First, for international students this means that it will be difficult for their family members to come and visit them here. There are students here at CSS whose family members have been denied visas to come to their graduation this year. Second, it makes it difficult for the students themselves to go home over breaks because of the difficulty they might have when coming back to the United States. This restriction also covers any kind of travel outside the United States. There are students who have passed up study abroad opportunities because of the fear of being denied re-entry; imagine all the hard work and finances students have put into their education going to waste over visa/immigration issues.

Alison Champeaux and the OIP office have been a great resource to all international students at CSS, providing every kind of support they could or pointing students in the right direction if unable. Acknowledging what this would mean for current and future international students, which in 2015-16 accounted for $32.8 billion in economic activity in the U.S and supported more than 400,000 jobs, other colleges around the United States have also taken initiatives to support their international student community. “Press reports indicate that colleges and universities across the country – from the University of Minnesota and Dartmouth to USC and UCLA ― are dedicating resources to countering the revised Executive Order, most recently by establishing ‘immigration response’ teams, and creating ‘emergency funds’ to cover travel and legal expenses for affected students” (Steele-Figueredo 2017).

When it comes down to it all we can and should do as international students is, as Alison says, the things we can actually control. We can focus on the things like our studies, preparing for our future, our jobs, extracurricular activities, and essentially taking care of ourselves physically and emotionally. We should support each other and seek help from allies when we need it. We must stand tall and positive to get through difficult times such as these.

Jimenez, F. (2017, March 7). Dear International Students: This is Not Normal | Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved April 04, 2017

Steele-Figueredo, D. (2017, April 04). Supporting Our International Student Community. Retrieved April 09, 2017.