Trump’s Presidency could affect international students and professionals alike
The world watched with crossed fingers and chewed fingernails as Donald Trump was declared the 45th President of the United States of America exactly a week ago today. While his victory led to an outbreak of celebration in some parts of the country, bitter rallies and political protests broke out in others. Trump beat his opponent, former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, by a considerable margin and ushered the Republicans into the White House.
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According to The Economic Times, history has proven that a Republican president has always fared better for us in India, but several political analysts are not sure if the sentiment holds true anymore. India had secured its friendliest relations with America under President Barrack Obama. So naturally, one might wonder about the changes that Trump could possibly bring about in this equation.
Trump has been sending a mixed message on his stance towards India. On one hand, he’s declared that he wishes to maintain good relations with an old ally. But on the other, he has promised to return to Americans their rightful jobs. One can only wonder if the latter will happen at the cost of Indian jobs.
Adarsh Khandelwal, Co-founder of Collegify, a college consulting firm for study abroad, believes that international students pursuing higher education in the US works out to be a trillion-dollar business for their economy. India is the second highest contributor of foreign students to the US, and Adarsh believes that this trend will not change under the Trump Presidency. “They need us more than we need them,” he said, as stated in The Hindustan Times.
Trump himself backed up this claim in a series of tweets. “When foreigners attend our great colleges and want to stay in the U.S., they should not be thrown out of our country,” he tweeted. He added, “I want talented people to come into this country -- to work hard and to become citizens. Silicon Valley needs engineers, etc.”
However, people aren’t too convinced. Some, like Dr Rahul Choudaha, Co-founder of interEDGE.org, a US-based firm specialising in international student success, believe that a Trump administration will adversely affect the recruitment process when it comes to internationals seeking entry into American universities.
“The surprise presidential elections have put a question mark on Trump’s immigration policies, especially as he has spoken of putting up border walls, stopping immigrants from entering the country and ending the use of the H-1B. Considering that one of the core values of international education is about celebrating diversity and learning from differences, Trump’s viewpoints are insular and not in line with the values of international education. It is likely that the future policies will start looking inward and slow down international education exchanges and student mobility,” he said.
We got in touch with a few international students and young professionals who had recently entered the American job market during the Obama administration. While most of these students and professionals contain the required F1 and H1B visas, they are still worried about their future as international students and employees under Trump’s America.
For instance, Akiksha Chatterjee, a senior at the College of Wooster, is worried that she will have to return home following her graduation next May. “I'm afraid my chances of getting a job are slim to none, which is scary because I planned to live in this country. As a philosophy major, there are no job prospects for me in India. If I do go home, I'll end up at a low-paying, unsatisfying job, living with my mother. With Trump in place, I'm afraid of how low my chances are at getting a job. Trump's victory, in general, is unsettling, to say the least,” she says. Her concern is shared by most international students who enrolled in these universities to pursue jobs in fields that have greater opportunities overseas.
On a more neutral stance, Rhea Arora, a student at Washington College, said that she was doubtful of how many of Trump’s ‘radical’ policies would make it to legislation. “It's been heart-warming to see an outpouring of support on college campuses for students of colour, the LGBTQ+ community, and women because this election cycle has been particularly tough on them. However, how much this progressiveness manages to influence policy in a Trump administration is yet to be seen. I think everything is uncertain at this point in terms of policy. But a country shouldn't move in a direction that disadvantages certain groups of people,” she says.
Sreyan Chowdhury, pursuing his PhD at Columbia University, adds to this. “As a PhD Student in the sciences, I fear that the Trump administration could cut science funding, which would directly impact my success and future in this country.”
On the professional front, there is a sense of fear among internationals who managed to receive their H1B visas and had been looking forward to a few good years of working in America. During his campaign, Trump had spoken out against the H1B, even calling it “unfair”. However, most of the Indian professionals working in America we reached out to were determined to continue their professional pursuits in the country and stay back to ‘fight the fight’.
Sriyanka Ray, a Producer at BRIC TV, said that she wouldn’t let fear drive her away from the country. “My workspace is a safe place for me because it celebrates diversity. In fact, the day after the elections, we called a meeting for ‘solutions-based journalism’, where my perspective as a brown woman in the media is now more important than ever. That being said, I do worry about visa and immigration, but I wouldn’t let that stop me from staying back to fight for my job,” she says.
As a professional who graduated from Chapman University earlier this year, Piyush Choubey believes that facing the situation head-on will set a great example for nations abroad, India in particular. “I'm a legally present non-immigrant, I earned my degree and am now working in California. I pay my taxes and add to the economy with my entrepreneurial aspirations. So when it comes to the rhetorical question of ‘What if you get thrown out?’ I answer it by saying ‘Unless my visa expires, I'm pretty solid,’” he says.
Although Trump’s official stance towards international students and professionals seem to be positive as of now, the latter can only wait and see how the next four years pan out, determining the outcome of their vastly unpredictable futures.