Academic journal article Fordham Urban Law Journal

Universities as Vehicles for Immigrant Integration

Academic journal article Fordham Urban Law Journal

Universities as Vehicles for Immigrant Integration

Article excerpt

TABLE OF CONTENTS  Introduction                                                     581  I. International Students in the United States: Anxieties and   583     Potential II. University Programming as Immigrant Integration: A Proposal  590 Conclusion                                                       601 


I am very grateful to have been asked by the organizers of the Fordham Urban Law Journal's 2018 Cooper-Walsh Colloquium to discuss a portion of Professor Ming Hsu Chen's forthcoming book, Constructing Citizenship for Noncitizens. This important book sets forth a lofty goal: creating and improving pathways to U.S. citizenship for noncitizens residing in the United States. (1) Notably, Professor Chen frames citizenship not just as a matter of law, but also as a matter of belonging, emphasizing the legal, social, economic, and political integration of noncitizens. (2) Her book draws on several years of on-the-ground field research and individual interviews. (3)

My comments in this Essay focus on Chapter Four, "Blocked Pathways to Citizenship." In this chapter, Professor Chen discusses the hurdles facing three distinct groups of noncitizens living in the United States: temporary workers in skilled positions working for American companies, recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) living in the United States for their entire adult lives and much of their childhood, and international students studying at American universities. Professor Chen finds that these three groups all share a "quandary of citizenship insecurity." (4) Each group has some level of authorization for their presence in the United States: there are skilled employees holding H-1B visas to work for U.S. businesses; there are DACA recipients that have been granted limited periods of deferred deportation coupled with work authorization; and there are international students holding F visas to pursue full-time degree studies. Yet the continued availability of these statuses can change as immigration law and policies shift, (5) rendering the "lived experience" of these workers, DACA recipients, and students "profoundly challenging." (6)

Perhaps the most startling finding in Professor Chen's research concerns the attitude of many international students and professional workers toward the prospect of eventual U.S. citizenship: deeply ambivalent. This presents a striking contrast to the perception of crisis on the southern border--that building a life in the United States is so powerfully attractive that a wall may be needed to keep people out. (7) Professor Chen notes that many international students and professional workers who have worked hard to secure the legal right to be present in the United States wind up feeling unsure about remaining. (8) Adding to the puzzle is the fact that the United States has historically and continually prioritized the immigration of skilled workers. (9)

This Essay focuses on international students' puzzling ambivalence about making a life in the United States. It begins by looking at the stressors that might lead international students, already present in the United States, to be lukewarm about the prospect of staying. It then considers how U.S. universities might take on a larger role to promote the integration of noncitizen students and thereby encourage those students to think about building a life stateside should the opportunity arise.


Professor Chen notes that one factor causing international students not to unreservedly embrace staying in the United States is the immigration process itself. International students must secure a visa to study in the United States. (10) And to the extent they hope to secure a post-graduation work visa, they must find a U.S. employer willing to sponsor them. (11) These things take time. And noncitizens can get bogged down by the waiting periods involved in going from one visa category (an F visa for students) to another (an H-1B visa for skilled workers). …

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