International Educator - January/February 2013 - 4
By Ellen H. Badger
Being an Effective Advocate on Campus for Immigration Reform
N THE PAST FEW YEARS, a great deal of attention has been given to the need for the U.S. immigration system to change in response to twenty-first century realities. Most international educators believe that the U.S. immigration system as currently written into law is broken. In many cases, legal immigrants wait years to obtain permanent residency based on either employment or on a family relationship. The United States invests heavily in the education of international students, yet these same students risk visa denial if they express hope to receive training opportunities or employment in their field in the United States after graduation. U.S. colleges or universities that want to hire foreign talent face a gauntlet of confusing and restrictive regulations. U.S. immigration law seems to be in contradiction to this country’s best interests much of the time. NAFSA and others (such as the National Immigration Forum, to give just one other example) have argued vigorously for Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform. Engage Others
It is important for each of us to engage in campus advocacy in whatever ways we can. Campus advocacy has an important impact beyond our day-to-day work: it expands the number of individuals—especially those with influence beyond your institution—who can participate in and advance the national conversation we need to be having about immigration.
Is it possible to be an advocate for comprehensive immigration reform if you are employed by a public university in a state with highly restrictive immigration laws?
Your university’s media and communications office, and your admissions office, are likely well-versed in how to speak about your institution’s inclusiveness despite the presence of restrictive immigration laws in your state . Talk to the leaders of those offices for ideas and guidance, as well as your own supervisory chain of command . Become knowledgeable about community organizations that may be active in this effort . Be transparent about your interests, and make sure there are no institutional conflicts with them .
Immigration regulations are complex and can be difficult to explain to someone who is not familiar with them. But faculty and deans are likely to be aware of the impact of international students, scholars, and faculty on their programs. Many departments are likely to be highly internationalized. By using the articles and materials published by NAFSA and others, you can educate your institutional colleagues about trends and issues both at your institution and on the national level. Contact the deans and ask that they share your information with department faculty as appropriate. Also provide information to campus media personnel. Post information on your department website or Facebook page. Collect information on specific negative impacts to a department or campus priority. For example, I was involved with a recently hired instructor of
International and higher education issues are an important part of immigration reform. Immigration laws affect the recruitment of qualified international students, scholars, and faculty. In the absence of comprehensive immigration reform on the federal level, some states have taken matters into their own hands with restrictive laws that negatively impact college and university campuses. As an international educator at a U.S. college or university, you can become an effective advocate for immigration reform. As an advocate on your campus, you can reach out to others on your campus who might also be concerned about this issue.
INTERNATIONAL EDUCATOR J A N + F E B . 13