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How ICE’s Announcement Will Have a Global Impact on Education and the Economy

How ICE’s Announcement Will Have a Global Impact on Education and the Economy
We came to America, either ourselves or in the persons of our ancestors, to better the ideals of men, to make them see finer things than they had seen before, to get rid of the things that divide and to make sure of the things that unite. -Woodrow Wilson

Like most high school students, I sacrificed and worked hard to get into college. And after years of hard work, I finally got into the college of my dreams.

My education was rigorous and thorough, not only because of the curriculum or professors, but because of experiences I would come to encounter. Coming from a small town near Seattle, WA, I didn’t realize just how sheltered I had been until I landed on campus and was googling political leaders in Iran prior to a college campus protest, or learning about Halal food to impress my newfound Jewish friends.

My campus was filled with undergraduate and graduate students from every corner of the world, each carrying their rich personal histories and culture. As an American, I had so much to learn about the people and countries outside of my own borders. These encounters molded me to become more empathetic and culturally sensitive. My time in college would eventually motivate my choice to live abroad for several years after graduation.

Whether in or out of the classroom, there were, of course, tense moments, when it came to opinions on politics and religion, but even in these moments, my thoughts were enriched and full by being a part of the conversation. There was a comradeship built between my classmates and I that we keep to this day.

Over the years, I have witnessed their personal successes and seen how they’ve impacted their communities and countries. Our shared memories created bonds lasting decades, despite being thousands of miles apart. No matter our differences, when we connect, we share our fondness of our alma mater, and the memories that bind us together.

This changed for future generations, when the Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials stated on Monday July 6th that students taking classes entirely online will not be allowed to enter the United States or must leave if already in the country. The agency stated that students on F-1 and M-1 visas could transfer to a school offering in-person classes to maintain their legal status, otherwise they could face deportation proceedings.

My immediate reaction was to reach out to my friends who had sons and daughters studying in the US. Their children had worked incredibly hard to arrive at this point, and suddenly it was going to stripped away.

I can only imagine the stress and panic that students face with these new policies in the middle of a global pandemic. Suddenly, a campus, a nation that was deemed safe, has turned their world upside down.

And forcing some students back home could mean dire consequences – including those that sought political asylum, better healthcare. Many are being sent back to countries of their birth when they’ve already spent the majority of their lives calling the US home.

The only alternative is to transfer to another university, or force themselves to attend in-person classes, placing themselves and others at risk for contracting COVID-19.

These polices will create ripple effects and a global impact. Here are five reasons why.

1) Quality of education in the US will deteriorate.

Harvard President’s Lawrence S. Bacow stated that: 

We are deeply concerned that the guidance issued today by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement imposes a blunt, one-size-fits-all approach to a complex problem, giving international students, particularly those in online programs, few options beyond leaving the country or transferring schools.

The diversity that international students bring will dramatically dissipate, creating narrow exposure and limitations on how young Americans shape their opinions of the world. This will limit the diversity of thought and debate in and out of the classroom – only increasing the gap of how domestic students perceive people from outside as foreign and different.

[Related: It’s Time to Get Serious About Educating Women Around the World — The Economy Will Thank Us]

2) America will no longer be the choice for world leaders and their families to become educated.

For decades, America has been the natural choice for students from all over the world to study and learn. We have educated world leaders including those like Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, or Sundar Pichai, CEO of Alphabet (Google).

The uncertainty that the current ICE announcement has brought will impact how future students and their families decide on their education. We will lose to other countries students that will be the leaders of tomorrow.

3) We will lose incredible talent and leadership.

Many international students choose to remain in the US after their education and contribute vastly to the US economy and create strides in all fields, including technology and business. They are our doctors, lawyers, artists, and front-line workers.

This includes powerful individuals, such as Madeline Albright, our first female US Secretary of State, who immigrated from Czechoslovakia. These policies will keep strong talent outside our gates.

[Related: To Shatter Glass Ceilings, Spread These Four Messages to Young Women]

4) The US economy will lose billions of dollars.

Amid our growing recession, we will lose billions of dollars from university tuition, related housing, and food expenses that international students bring to our economy. In a time when we need it more than ever, we are stifling instead of stimulating the flow of cash into our country.

In 2018, international students contributed $45 billion to the US economy alone, according to IIE. Universities often use the tuition from international students to subsidize domestic students' education, and these institutions often rely on these resources to stay competitive and open.

5) People will remember.

In the future, people will remember this moment, when instead of coming together as a global community, we decided to send students back to their countries or force transfers and exposure to coronavirus.

And not to mention that the value of a US college degree will depreciate if the international community no longer agrees that an education from the US is something to be valued. This will, in turn, affect foreign politics and business practices, and people will remember America as a less tolerant place.

[Related: When the Student is Ready, the Teacher Appears]


Brenda Pak is a cofounder at BackPac, a multifaceted volunteering platform used by nonprofit partners to schedule volunteering events and highlight needs to propel their mission forward.

Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.


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