Leahy Statement On International Students And Scholars

Mr. President, I want to take a moment to highlight the benefits of international students and scholars who come to the United States to live and study, and who have been unfairly penalized by the current Administration’s efforts to limit travel to our country.

I wonder how many Americans are aware of the many ways that international students contribute to our colleges and universities, to our communities, and to our nation.  In economic terms, last year alone international students contributed an estimated $37 billion to the U.S. economy and created or supported more than 450,000 U.S. jobs.  In our  State of Vermont, nearly 2,000 international students and their families contributed $83.1 million and supported 850 jobs.  One would think that President Trump, who often touts his efforts to create jobs, would want to encourage this. 

In addition to economic benefits, international students and scholars advance U.S. national security by strengthening our diplomatic and cultural ties with foreign countries.  Students and scholars who spend time in the U.S. become informal ambassadors when they return home, sharing an appreciation for common values, counteracting stereotypes about Americans, enhancing respect for cultural differences, and maintaining connections with our country and citizens.

However, our country is at risk of losing our position as the most attractive country for international students and scholars, and of ceding the critical benefits associated with such a reputation to others.  

The U.S. Council of Graduate Schools recently reported a decline in international graduate student applications and enrollment for fall 2017, the first such decline in more than a decade.  In fiscal year 2017, the U.S. Department of State issued nearly 20 percent fewer student visas compared to the previous fiscal year.  Students and scholars are increasingly uncertain about their status in our country as well as the types of educational and research opportunities that will remain available to international students. This uncertainty, and the chilling effects of recent executive orders targeting foreigners, appear to be diminishing the ability of the United States and our higher education institutions to remain attractive to international students.

At the same time, many other countries – including Australia, Canada, and China – are seizing the opportunity and proactively introducing national policies and marketing strategies to attract talented international students who might otherwise come here.

I urge the Administration to not ignore the many important contributions to the U.S. economy, national security, and global reputation that are made by international students and scholars.  The Administration should reconsider its policies that are contributing to uncertainly and reluctance among such individuals, who instead should feel welcomed and encouraged to bring their talents and other contributions to this country.

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