Tufts community members respond to proposed ban on Chinese student visas

Ballou Hall is pictured on April 20. Rachel Hartman / The Tufts Daily Archives

University students and administrators are responding to a Financial Times story released earlier this month about the Trump administration’s previous consideration of a ban on student visas for Chinese nationals.

The proposal came from White House immigration hawks, including Senior Advisor to the President Stephen Miller, as a means of combating Chinese espionage in the United States. However, the proposal was ultimately shelved due to its potential to fray diplomatic and economic relations between the two countries, according to the report.

This comes after the administration released its national security strategy last year, outlining a number of steps to combat economic aggression and theft from non-traditional intelligence collectors.

According to the Financial Times, Miller argued the ban on student visas for Chinese nationals would punish elite U.S. universities where students and faculty have spoken out against the current administration.

Tufts students have expressed their concern over the possible implementation of such a ban. James Liao, co-events chair for the Chinese Students Association (CSA), dismissed administration officials’ concerns about espionage, instead highlighting the diversity that Chinese students add to U.S. educational settings.

“Globalization is a beautiful thing. People are exchanging information about each country,” Liao, a junior, said. “Having friends from different cultures — that’s also a beautiful thing.”

Having studied in the U.S. on a student visa since the start of high school, Liao explained his desire to have a high-quality education and an opportunity to grow as a person during his time in the country. He added that he feels that he has become more accustomed to the United States and its culture over the course of his education. Liao also noted that discussions surrounding a ban on student visas are an example of institutional actions that make students like him feel unwelcome.

“I feel like I’m alienated by this country that I actually want to stay in,” Liao said. “It makes me angry and sad. Just imagine that you really want to stay in this country, you love this country, but this country doesn’t want you or any of your people.”

Liao emphasized his willingness to participate in student activism efforts surrounding a ban if the Trump administration revisits the subject.

“There will definitely be protests,” Liao said. “There are countless Chinese students studying in the U.S.

Most universities will oppose such a ban because of the financial impact that other countries have on U.S. educational institutions, among other reasons, Liao added. For one, international students provide universities with significant amounts of tuition money. In the 2016–17 academic year, China sent the most international students to the United States, followed by India, according to a report by the Institute of International Education.

Tufts administrators added that international students contribute a great deal to both the university’s educational mission and community members’ learning experiences. Senior International Officer and Associate Provost Diana Chigas reiterated the university’s recent opposition to the Trump administration’s attempt to limit the number of students from foreign countries on U.S. campuses.

“We strongly believe that universities and colleges should be able to welcome students, faculty and scholars from around the world so that our communities can benefit from their unique life experiences, skills and perspectives,” Chigas told the Daily in an email. “At the same time, we believe these opportunities help foster greater understanding between countries and their citizens, particularly as international students return to their home countries and share their experiences.”

For now, Liao is relieved that no such ban has gone into effect, adding that he hopes to continue living in the U.S. after completing his bachelor’s degree.

“I just don’t want to leave everything behind because of my … status,” he said.

Sino-U.S. Relations Group Engagement (SURGE), a student organization focused on educational efforts surrounding the relationship between the China and the United States, also opposes a ban on student visas for Chinese nationals. Connor Akiyama, deputy director of the organization, stressed the importance of cultural and educational exchanges between the two countries.

“Any decision to ban Chinese students from studying in the United States would be met with great disappointment by all members of Tufts SURGE,” Akiyama, a sophomore, told the Daily in an electronic message. “We believe that any action to restrict student visas of Chinese students will be one of the worst blows to Sino-U.S. relations in recent history and sincerely wish that no such proposal is passed.”

As of now, the ban does not appear to be under active consideration by the current U.S. administration, according to Chigas. Tufts will continue to monitor updates surrounding this issue.

“[We] will continue to work with others in higher education in support of our ability to bring to Tufts talented individuals from around the world, including China, and to retain and support the Chinese students who are already members of our community,” Chigas said.