The following is an opinion piece and does not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial board.
It’s old news that last month President Donald Trump was accused of saying, “Why would America want immigrants from all those ‘shithole countries?’” Although Trump was referring specifically to some unspecified African nations and Haiti, immigrants from various developing countries are often overlooked in the U.S. However, what Trump might have ignored is that “high-skill” and “developing countries” are not necessarily a dichotomy. As a matter of fact, immigrants from a large array of places have proven the opposite.
We are all tired of hearing that the U.S. is a land of immigrants. But it’s true. (The U.S. is also the land of the West African slaves that were forced into the country, along with the original land of the Native Americans.) History has shown this nation’s greatness relies on distinct people's efforts to build a country that belongs to everyone, a reason why it does not have official religions nor languages. However, to what extent are immigrants really welcomed?
In the same meeting, Trump voiced his concerns regarding immigrants from developing nations, suggesting, “the U.S. should bring more people from places like Norway.” This idea originates from the common misconception that only developed nations can produce high-skilled immigrants. In fact, if you look at immigration data, 78 percent of Indian immigrants, currently the largest foreign group in the U.S., and nearly 65 percent of Russian immigrants were college graduates. Both countries are members of the BRICS, a coalition of emerging economies that also includes almighty China and nouveau riche Brazil. Interestingly, all BRICS members have exported far more well-educated people to the U.S. than Norway, in which only 38 percent of its population living in the U.S. holds a college degree.
When it comes to Northwestern, somewhere between 70-80 percent of international students come from developing nations, and this a trend that repeats itself all over the country. In fact, more than 1 million international students in the U.S. injected nearly $37 billion into American economy in 2017. Yet, Trump’s odious remarks toward specific nations has caused an impact in the country’s highest education market – what some even believe to be America’s greatest export.
When foreigners attend our great colleges & want to stay in the U.S., they should not be thrown out of our country.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 18, 2015
Iran, fifth place in STEM college graduates production, was one of the eight Arab nations affected by the U.S. travel ban (the latest version of which was just considered unconstitutional once more). This decision, which affected the Iranian community in NU, also impacted the impressions of prospective students from not only the Middle East, but from all over the globe. A study conducted in 2016 found that foreigners were 60 percent less interested in attending college in the U.S. under Trump’s presidency, and de facto they were. In 2017, the number of international students applying to American universities had dropped 40 percent, with high tuition amounts most likely being transferred to places such as Canada and England, that also have top-notch universities that are more receptive to internationals (at least the students who can afford it).
Trump’s concerns regarding immigrants from developing nations impacts not only the higher education market, but a plenty of others, as many successful entrepreneurs and researchers come from such countries. More than half of American millionaire companies were founded by immigrants, and many of them, including South African Elon Musk and Armenian-Lebanese Noubar Afeyan, who has founded 38 companies in the U.S. himself, are originally from less-prestigious places. In order to continue to encourage the partnership between high-skilled immigrants and his country’s prime resources, Trump should not discriminate people who work hard in U.S., no matter their origin.
On one hand, Trump questions why the U.S. would want more immigrants from developing nations. On the other, he has long suggested “foreigners who attend American colleges should not be thrown out of the country,” which means he knows the answer. Since its birth, the U.S. has proven that the country and immigrants symbiosis is one of the main reasons that has led to it becoming a global superpower.
Maybe this country should import more people from Norway, but the fact is: Why would they leave home for a place that ranks worse than many so-called “shithole countries” in quality of life? If Trump really wants high-skilled immigrants to come to the U.S., he should rely on developing nations whose nationals put a lot of effort in helping make America great. Lucky for him, we have been doing a good job.