Letters to the Editor, Opinions

Letter: “International”: An artificial race

Monday, February 6, 2017

To the Editor:

The problems that Aliosha Bielenberg ’20 addressed in his op-ed are absolutely essential. However, “International” is a race. It is an artificial race created by and for the American federal government to legally persecute, oppress and discriminate against the foreign population. Other names for “international” include stranger, alien and “the other.”

For a country with a native population of less than 1 percent, America is surprisingly unfriendly toward those who arrived late. Rumors surrounding the potential H1B reform seem to be going one direction: Make it harder and harder and harder for skilled foreigners to work in this country — as if the current lottery system is not painful enough. “It’s going to be ‘America First,’” said the president. We “Internationals” are described as “the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies and destroying our jobs.”

Universities like Brown categorize “International” as a homogenous population because we are the group that does not count as “ethnic diversity.” As non-resident aliens, international students are not included in any other race or ethnicity categories. The existence of international students on campus is considered as “temporary.” In other words, at least according to the federal government, the international students do not really matter. We do not qualify for most of the scholarships (U.S. citizenship or permanent residency required). We are there as a background, to provide the American students with an “international” experience. Many of us have to either pay tuition or find external scholarships. Of course, some international students are from relatively well-to-do families; a few went to prestigious international high schools. But we still struggle, as aliens, to be heard (some of us speak English with an accent), to be seen (we are a minority group that is too often ignored because it’s going to be “America First!”), to get jobs (employers ask rhetorical questions such as, “Do you have a work permit?” even though they know that they are supposed to provide you a work permit) and to stay here (all of a sudden my friends’ visas are no longer valid, because the president says so).

We live in a limbo: we are never legal enough, we are never qualified enough, we are never at home. Some Americans have been shouting at us (or their fellow Americans): Go back to where you are from! The American racial minorities who receive these comments have a right to be angry because this is where they are from. But do we “International” students even have a right to be angry? Don’t we have a “home” to go back to? Even if our family, our career, our friends, our everything, for the past god-knows-how-many years, have all been here? Even if our “home” prosecutes us, discriminates against us and brings war against us? For some foreigners, going “home” means imminent death. Homelessness would be a blessing.

I sometimes wish “International” could indeed be a race, however artificial. I wish we actually had a right to be here. I wish it was not okay for the federal government to officially prosecute some of us. I wish biases and unequal treatment based on immigration status could be treated as a problem.

But unfortunately, we might have arrived too late.