Trump’s executive orders could change BYU’s international student demographic

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President Donald Trump has passed three executive orders that could impact Brigham Young University’s international students.

Throughout Trump’s presidential campaign, he promised to enhance national security by targeting illegal immigration, enforcing immigrant regulations and changing the background checks of those who will be allowed into the United States.

Trump signed an initial immigration ban on his seventh day in office that included the home countries of 18 international BYU students, according to BYU’s international student and scholar Fall 2016 semester statistical reports.

BYU enrolled 1,343 international students for the Fall 2016 semester, based on the school’s international students statistical report. These students account for about 4 percent of the student body. Although their numbers are small, many of these international students represent their school and their native countries by excelling in their chosen fields.

BYU’s student body represents all 50 states in the U.S. and more than 100 countries.

Trump’s initial executive order prevented refugees from entering the country for 120 days and immigrants from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Sudan. Another order was released earlier this month, dropping Iraq from the list of banned nations.

The original ban targeted all non-immigrants in the U.S. including visitors, business travelers, students, workers on temporary visas and fiances of U.S. citizens. The revised order exempts permanent residents and current visa holders from this list.

Federal judges from Hawaii and Maryland ruled against the most recent ban temporarily stopping it from going into nationwide effect. The Trump administration plans to appeal the rulings.

Associated Press
Hawaii Attorney General Douglas Chin, left, and Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum speak at a press conference outside the federal courthouse in Honolulu. Hawaii was the first state to file a lawsuit challenging President Donald Trump’s revised travel ban.

Rafael Alfaro was an international student who graduated from BYU in 2015. He chose to come to BYU on a swimming scholarship because he knew attending a university in the U.S. would help him pursue greater diversity and exposure than attending in his native El Salvador. Alfaro obtained a green card and is currently residing in California, working in insurance sales.

Alfaro said his experience at BYU made him more knowledgeable and aware of things around him. It also changed his way of thinking and influenced him to become a better person.

“To an extent, I also believe that international students who go back to work in their countries after receiving an education in the U.S. have higher influence from those who stayed there,” Alfaro said.

Trump’s executive orders will make immigration harder, but Alfaro doesn’t think it will affect international students drastically.

“Immigration officers will now be more strict and meticulous about letting people in,” Alfaro said. “Getting through might take a little longer, but I don’t think that this is going to decrease the inflow of international students coming straight from their respective countries.”

On the president’s sixth day in office, he signed the executive order to improve border immigration enforcement improvements and public safety in the interior of the United States.

The first of these orders was signed to instruct the Department of Homeland Security to begin construction of a wall along the Mexico-U.S. border. Although this may not directly affect students attending BYU, it could pose an issue for students to return or work in the U.S. after returning to Mexico.

The second order was designed to pressure states to identify undocumented immigrants. If these people are deported in large numbers, the economic impact could be severe.

A blog post by WalletHub.com shows the economic impact immigrants have on the U.S.

According to the post, Utah is ranked 33 of the 50 states and the District of Columbia in terms of the economic impact for foreign-born populations. The rank is based on workforce participation, socioeconomic contribution, “brain gain” and innovation, as well as international students.

The executive orders have caused an uproar among U.S. citizens. A press release issued by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, urges “the new administration to move quickly to tailor its policy on visa issuance as narrowly as possible so that officials can protect our security needs while reducing unnecessary burdens on the vast majority of visa-seekers that present a promise — not a threat — to our nation.”

Hatch referenced his Latter-day Saint heritage and acknowledged that most of his ancestors were refugees who were driven from their homes due to religious differences.

“Doing this as expeditiously as possible will achieve our shared goals of keeping the country we love safe, free and a beacon of justice to the world,” Hatch added in regards to hastening the immigration policies.

BYU senior Juan Manuel Canales is an international student from Mexico and is the first of his family to come to the U.S. for school. He said he chose to come to BYU because it is a prestigious and affordable private school.

Canales knew coming to America would improve his English, which would help his career in finance.

“(Coming to the U.S.) will help me a lot if I work in a worldwide corporation,” Canales said. “It has shaped me into being more independent.”

He is interested to see what will happen as the U.S. immigration laws change.

“Finding a job in the United States with the Trump administration will probably be even harder for students to get their first job with a working visa,” Canales said.

The U.S. isn’t the only country to impose strict immigration laws. Austria, Germany, Japan, and Switzerland all make it very difficult for foreigners to obtain citizenship.