Over spring break, Donald Trump used international workers as a new political card in his continuing campaign of racism. During the Republican debate in Miami, Trump stated that he wants to scrap the H1-B visa given to foreign workers for certain entry-level or specialty employment in the U.S. Calling the program “unfair to workers,” Trump promised that he will eliminate the program upon being sworn into office and raise the minimum wage for US workers in entry level jobs. The H1-B visa is essential for many international students at NYU searching for jobs after four years of college in the US, and Trump’s superficially appealing proposals are only a step towards making America white again at the expense of hardworking international students.
Trump’s plan threatens a growing number of young Indians like myself studying in the U.S. Just in NYU, the number of international students has doubled from less than 5,000 students in 2000 to almost 12,000 students in 2014. The fact that NYU has the highest number of admitted international students in America is a major selling point for the school, but less well known is that Indian students are the third largest international student population at NYU, after Chinese and Korean students. In 2014 alone, NYU admitted almost 2,000 Indian students.
The H1-B visa program is essential to Indian students at NYU. At the undergraduate level, the average tuition cost is approximately $70,000 a year, excluding living expenses. If the Indian conversion rate is taken into account, an Indian family spends approximately Rs 46,51,500 per year for their child to study at NYU. Families pay for their children to study in the U.S. with the belief of better opportunities, but without H1-B visas employment is an unfulfilled dream. Trump’s populist message of abolishing the H1-B program is an insult to the sacrifices made by Indian families to pursue a better future in America.
In familiar fashion, Trump soon contradicted himself in a Fox News interview.
“You know,” Trump said, “they go to Harvard, they are first in their class and they’re from India they go back to India and they set up companies and they make a fortune and they employ lots of people and all of that. Many people want to stay in this country and then want to do that. I think somebody that goes through years of college in this country we shouldn’t kick them out the day they graduate, which we do.”
But Trump’s uncertainty offers little comfort. Indian students at NYU and elsewhere in America will not take risks and jump hurdles to reach the U.S. if those who could potentially hold the keys to the H1-B visa program cannot decide if the American Dream is a fantasy reserved only for whites.
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Email Pranati Wadhawan at [email protected]