U.S. President Donald Trump has announced that he will shortly sign a 60-day executive order limiting immigration. Temporary visa holders would be exempted, he said at the daily briefing on coronavirus — but the restriction would extend to those seeking green cards.
The latest in a series of moves cracking down on immigration, the president declared on Twitter that the change was necessary because of the COVID-19 “attack by the unseen enemy,” which has resulted in more than 42,000 deaths in the U.S. so far.
To stem the spread of the virus, the Trump administration has steadily increased travel restrictions and accelerated visa processing. The State Department has indefinitely suspended routine visa services at all U.S. embassies and consulates since March 20, annulling all regular visa appointments for immigrants and non-immigrants.
However, since the president and the White House didn’t explain, it remains unclear what agenda will be included in the new announcement. The vice president of Campus Life & Inclusive Excellence at American University in Washington Fanta Aw said, “Given that this was announced in a tweet as political posturing and provided no details, it is hard to know what exactly is being proposed”.
Higher education organizations in the U.S. previously cautioned that total enrollment would drop by 15 per cent for the next academic year. In comparison, a projected decrease of 25 per cent is anticipated for international students.
The fall in foreign student enrolment by 25 per cent would result in a loss to the U.S. economy of about $10 billion and 114,000 jobs, NAFSA said.
“As of now, U.S. consulates and embassies do not work in most parts of the world, travel bans have been implemented for some nations, immigration problems and the current administration abound with zero systematic approaches or understanding of the role of immigration in the U.S. economy,” she told The PIE News.
NAFSA Executive Director and CEO Esther D. Brimmer said, “While we await a formal executive order and are not yet familiar with the effect of the proposed immigration policy on international students and scholars, we can state unequivocally that it is crucial for the U.S. economy.”
“International students build opportunities, accelerate creativity, improve our campuses and societies, enhance national security and become America’s biggest foreign-policy assets.” In 2019, international students contributed approximately $41 billion to the U.S. economy, supporting more than 458,000 opportunities, she added.
“The fifth-largest export of U.S. services is international education. Nearly one-quarter of the leaders of the $1 billion U.S. startups came to America for the first time as foreign graduates. It is abundantly clear in times of international crises like this how our best efforts to address global issues will draw on global talent, “Brimmer added.
Speaking with The PIE, Assistant Dean, San Diego State University World Campus International Strategy and Services, Eddie West, said the message the president gave would likely be more impactful than the proposal.
“Students around the world hoping to come to the U.S. to start their studies this summer or fall are finding indicators of the possibility of this being possible, like the rest of us in the industry, and that tweet is not the most encouraging sign,” he said.
West added that visiting students are on F1 non-immigrant visas meaning that “Immigration suspension will not have any significant effect on student mobility because students are not considered immigrants.”
“But this is probably another indirect indication that the U.S. is not nearly opening its borders to any international mobility yet,” he said. West said that the universities and other organizations that would better manage this extraordinary situation are those “capable in terms of planning, financially and strategically, of taking the long view.”
Additionally, U.S. exchange organizations, due to the rapid deterioration of the situation, are helping exchange visitors staying in the U.S. who have been left in the limbo. The U.S., Mexico and Canada decided on April 20 to extend limits on non-essential travel across their common borders for another 30 days.
“As President Trump said last week, border protection, travel restrictions and other constraints remain critical to slowing the spread and enabling the country’s phased opening,” explained Chad Wolf, acting secretary of the Homeland Security department.