UT must reassure its international students


Photo Credit: Mariana Munoz | Daily Texan Staff

President Donald Trump’s executive order attempting to ban citizens of seven majority Muslim countries affects more than just Muslims. It makes many international citizens fear they could become the target of another such order. This order may not have intentionally targeted people of other religions, but it is part of Trump’s effort to publicize people from other countries as insignificant and unwelcome in this country.

Currently, Trump’s point of view on superior races does not matter — at least until he comes up with another absurd order. What matters is the local support international citizens receive to live peacefully and as equal humans. Gregory L. Fenves has already voiced his support for the UT members who are directly affected by this order.

“I am proud to say we have 110 students, faculty members and scholars who are citizens of the seven affected countries,” Fenves said in an email to the campus on Jan. 29. “To those who are abroad, please exercise caution and know that we are doing everything we can regarding your return to UT.”

Even though this executive order was overturned soon after it was put into effect by two federal judges, many prospective students see the U.S. as dangerous under Trump’s presidency. They are opting to go to Canadian universities over American ones. Naturally so, as many other universities around the world offer equally good education without meticulous questioning from the immigration officers, triple the tuition rate compared to the in-state rate, and lengthy wait times for just an appointment for a U.S. student visa.

This is the fear amongst the students who are only thinking of coming to the U.S. This fear increases by a thousand for those who are already here. Fenves may have shown his support, but the international office at UT that directly deals with the international students and staff is quiet on the issue — only one email was sent out on Feb. 6 concerning this issue by Anna Tutum, the Support Service Advisor at the International office.

“Current events, including the recent executive order on immigration, may be affecting you or your loved ones in a variety of ways,” Tutum said in the email. “The Counseling and Mental Health Center with International Student and Scholar Services invite you to join us in a safe space to process recent events and connect with other students.”

To start with, one email is not enough — there needs to be a follow up. More importantly, this is not the time to remind us of the mental health counseling that we already know about. It’s time to show their support and, hopefully, act behind the scenes to reassure students of their choice to come to United States and, in particular, to UT.

I am sure there aren’t many people who need a monetary reason to help other humans, but for a few who do — who do not care about international citizens — about $32 billion per year comes just from international students across the United States. All of that is at risk if these students do not feel safe coming to the country.

We must understand the magnitude of this order and we must start by making efforts locally. These are hard times for many of us. But we need to unite, voice our support, and most importantly, work against racist and xenophobic actions. As the highest representative of UT, Fenves should now address all of our university’s 6,404 international students.

Batra is a computer science and rhetoric and writing junior from New Delhi.