BY MAYA HOFFMAN ’20
On Jan. 30, Donald Trump delivered the State of the Union in the chamber of the United States House of Representatives. The speech was long, lasting approximately an hour and 20 minutes. Pauses were filled with loud standing ovations from one half of the room, while the other half remained seated. Despite the theatrics of the ceremonial event, Trump had a somber task at hand; as the second year of his term began, the president attempted to establish the State of the Union, the goals of American foreign policy and the fate of immigration under his administration.
After about an hour of discussing American domestic policy, Trump raised questions of American foreign policy, continuously emphasizing “America first.” He also mentioned America’s needs to build up its nuclear arsenal in order to quell aggression from North Korea, as well as the administration’s commitment to maintaining its alliance with Israel.
Trump also discussed the four pillars of America’s new immigration policy under his administration, First, it offers “a path to citizenship” for the 1.8 million young people who were brought to America illegally by their parents, on the condition that they “meet education and work requirements and show good moral character.” Second, Trump is keeping his campaign promise of building a wall along the Mexico–United States border. Third, he plans to end the “visa lottery,” by using a “merit-based system” of evaluation to determine who is allowed to enter the country. “Being that [the administration’s] philosophy is to restrict entry of other people from other countries, putting another level of restrictions makes it difficult for someone like me to interact with [U.S.] resources,” said Prachy Mahbub ’20, a student from Bangledesh. Finally, Trump intends to end chain migration by only extending immigration sponsorships to spouses and children who are minors.
Trump’s immigration policy could potentially have significant effects on the Mount Holyoke student body. Though Trump utilized rhetoric of “merit-based” immigration and spoke of immigrants with “good moral character,” there is no way of knowing exactly what Trump meant, nor what metric the administration would use to quantify merit or moral character.
American immigration policy already makes it difficult for international students to get visas due to many systematic barriers already in place, including a visa interview that must be conducted at a U.S. Embassy in English. “The idea of merit-based entry is not new — I just don’t trust the Trump administration enough to be comfortable with [the policy],” said Mahbub.
Another potential impact the plan may have on campus is that the border wall risks the possibility of damaging Mexico–United States relations and could make admission and visa processes for international students from Mexico more difficult.
It is nearly impossible to predict the consequences of political policy, yet Trump’s State of the Union made fairly pointed implications in the realm of immigration. Until the policies are put into action, there will not be a clear answer on how many international students will have issues obtaining visas.