Being an Effective Advocate on Campus for Immigration Reform

Article excerpt

IN THE PAST FEW YEARS, a great deal of attention has been given to the need for the U.S. immigration system to change in response to twenty-first century realities. Most international educators believe that the US. immigration system as currently written into law is broken. In many cases, legal immigrants wait years to obtain permanent residency based on either employment or on a family relationship. The United States invests heavily in the education of international students, yet these same students risk visa denial if they express hope to receive training opportunities or employment in their field in the United States after graduation. US. colleges or universities that want to hire foreign talent face a gauntlet of confusing and restrictive regulations. US. immigration law seems to be in contradiction to this country's best interests much of the time. NAFSA and others (such as the National Immigration Forum, to give just one other example) have argued vigorously for Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

International and higher education issues are an important part of immigration reform. Immigration laws affect the recruitment of qualified international students, scholars, and faculty. In die absence of comprehensive immigration reform on the federal level, some states have taken matters into their own hands with restrictive laws that negatively impact college and university campuses.

As an international educator at a U.S. college or university, you can become an effective advocate for immigration reform. As an advocate on your campus, you can reach out to others on your campus who might also be concerned about this issue.

Engage Others

It is important for each of us to engage in campus advocacy in whatever ways we can. Campus advocacy has an important impact beyond our day-to-day work: it expands the number of individuals - especially those with influence beyond your institution- who can participate in and advance the national conversation we need to be having about immigration.

Communicate Effectively

Immigration regulations are complex and can be difficult to explain to someone who is not familiar with them. But faculty and deans are likely to be aware of the impact of international students, scholars, and faculty on their programs. Many departments are likely to be highly internationalized. By using the articles and materials published by NAFSA and others, you can educate your institutional colleagues about trends and issues both at your institution and on the national level Contact the deans and ask that they share your information wim department faculty as appropriate. Also provide information to campus media personnel. Post information on your department website or Facebook page.

Collect information on specific negative impacts to a department or campus priority. For example, I was involved with a recently hired instructor of Arabie, a citizen of Egypt, who was working in Canada at the time of his hire. The semester was beginning in three weeks, and because he had never had to go through a security clearance to obtain a U.S. visa before, he did not expect one this time. However, due to the events in Egypt as part of last year's Arab Spring, he did not receive his visa clearance until two weeks after the semester was underway, and the department had to scramble to secure a replacement temporary instructor, which was a great cost and time consuming to the department.

Obtain Data

Data is more than your "friend" - it is a necessity to help prove your point. Periodically, provide data on the numbers of international students at your school, the countries from which they come, and the programs in which they enroll. Show multiyear trends. Provide similar data for faculty and research scholars. You are likely already collecting this data for the annual Open Doors yearly census reports.

Show the economic impact of international students in your state by using the NAFSA economic data, available at: http://www. …