The US is trying to shoot itself in the foot again, with this move

Yesterday, the Trump administration announced new immigration policies that concern specifically international students or F-1 visa holders. Per the new policies, if students already in the US attend only online courses in the upcoming fall semester, they will face deportation. To avoid that horrible fate, students can transfer to another institution where in-class sessions are available and take those classes. For prospective students who are coming to the US for online-only programs, they can no longer come here. The policies sparked an outrage by anyone who has a vested interest or those who really care about this country’s competitiveness moving forward.

Let me tell you a personal story. 3 months after I came to the US, my two Belgian friends and I joined a 4-day hiking trip with some American friends to Badland National Park. It was my first hiking trip ever. We spent time before the trip getting to know each other and learning the ABCs of the adventure. During the hike, we spent the whole four days talking and doing various activities together. It brought us closer. Towards the end of the trip, on the last night, we sat around a bonfire and had to identify one person in the group that we learned the most from during the trip. Half of them chose me.

The point here is not to boast, I just don’t know any other example, but to say that international students can help Americans gain exposure to other cultures. I was really surprised that some people I met in Nebraska had never boarded a plane before, let alone going overseas. If there were no immigrants here in the US, how else could they gain real-life exposure to other cultures and widen their horizon? That’s one of the benefits international students bring. Well, unless you don’t think knowing about another country or culture is a good thing.

Another real benefit is the contribution to the economy. A study estimated that international students contributed $45 billion in 2018 to the US economy. That’s a significant sum. This policy wouldn’t normally affect that sum too much, I suppose; however, given the pandemic still raging on in the US, a lot of schools now have to offer online courses to protect both students and staff. The current situation makes this policy more dangerous and seriously more harmful to the economy that already took a hit from Covid-19.

For years, the US has benefited greatly from brain drain and the arrival of immigrants. Many immigrants founded great startups here after school, created jobs and contributed to the economy. Many immigrants came to study and stayed to contribute to the academic and scientific advances for the US. Many immigrants are still running the biggest tech companies in the US.

With these policies, the US basically says no the future influx of skilled immigrants. In the past, the country might get away with it, but globalization made the competition for international talent fiercer. Other countries with immigrant-friendly policies such as France, Canada and Germany are more than happy to pick up skilled workers that the US turns away.

While I was still in school, I met two Americans who were roommates to my Belgian friends and I am not exaggerating when I say this: they don’t know how to do basic maths as 20-year-olds. What does it have to do with the newly announced policies? 1) the presence of international students shouldn’t affect the learning of Americans. Whether we are here or not, Americans should be able to learn unimpeded or affected. 2) If some Americans don’t know how to maths while in university, how can they compete with skilled and educated immigrants for high-paying and technical jobs? If some local students refuse to get educated and work in STEM fields, how would the absence of international students help technology companies and other businesses in the US?

In summary, I don’t see a single one beneficiary of these policies. Universities will suffer financially because foreign students pay much higher tuition fees than locals and contribute greatly to the student communities. The economy will suffer financially because those $45 billion contribution will be reduced significantly. Businesses will suffer because there will be less talent. If schools force staff and students to go back to the classrooms under the government’s pressure, don’t be surprised that we will still have Covid-19 decimating our communities at the end of the year. Think about 5 months ago. Did anyone of us imagine that by July we usually break record for the number of cases in a day?

All of this is nothing more than a couple of xenophobic, cruel and terrible policies whose sole objective is to fire up a support base at the expense of the country and to hide the failure in dealing with the pandemic. Sadly, the US is shooting itself in the foot, again.

Access to Internet. Difference between America and Estonia

Internet is now a necessity to our life, in addition to water, electricity or clean air. It’s wildly hard to imagine our life without the Internet. Yet, to some in rural areas in America, access to Internet is a luxury. Today’s episode on Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj shed light on the problem that seems unbelievable in this day and age in the country known for being a leader in technology. Apparently, millions of people in the US don’t have access to the Internet. It’s bonkers to think that some kids have to access Internet from parked buses at Coachella to do homework.

The cause of the issue lies in the monopoly and hence, lack of competition. The market is controlled by two companies only, both of which have more motivation to increase their bottom line than to deliver quality services. To make the matters worse, the authorities haven’t exactly come to the rescue of consumers. Have a listen to know more about this astonishing problem in the US

Meanwhile, Estonia is a little country in Europe with 1.3 million in population. Yet, it makes access to Internet a human right and creates a digital society that serves as an example for other countries. Things that are painstaking and time-consuming in the US are done in little time in Estonia. For instance, you can vote electronically in Estonia. You can get your medical records online. You can file taxes in no time as well. The Estonian government prepares all the tax documents so that all that is required of you is for you to verify the information. Have a listen to a mini documentary below

According to PBS, when Estonia left USSR in 1991, there were few computers in the country and 20% of the US population already had access to the Internet. Almost 30 years later, Estonia already surpassed the US in this regard.

Infrastructure in the US is notoriously in a shabby shape. However, when infrastructure is mentioned, we tend to think about roads, railway and highways. Not the Internet. But the story by Netflix above shows that the US has a serious problem at hand with one of the fundamental necessities, despite possessing some of the most advanced technologies in the world.

The longer I live in the US, the more I am convinced that inequality is ubiquitous in the US. Not just geographically, but also across domains. While being excellent at some specializations, the US underperforms in some fundamental foundations.