International students invaluable to America

As a foreign student I found Meghan Clyne’s ’03 article (“Student visa controls benefit U.S. citizens, foreigners,” 12/4) on student visa restrictions poorly argued and bigoted. In the aftermath of Sept. 11, there has been growing pressure to impose restrictions on foreigners in the United States, and in particular foreign students.

While many seem to believe to the contrary, student visas were not handed out two a penny before the new regulations were proposed. At the beginning of this semester, members of the Class of 2005 from China were unable to commence their studies before term began because their visa applications were being scrutinized and therefore delayed. Certainly background checks seem justified, especially in light of the attacks. But this does not mean that foreigners should be treated as marauding criminals.

This country has been built by wave upon wave of immigrants, from the English Puritans to the post-war influx of Asian-Americans and Hispanics. This fact has made it such a culturally diverse, economically dynamic and ultimately prosperous nation. By refusing entry to many foreign students — mostly the elite of their respective countries — the United States will lose this future generation of intellectuals and entrepreneurs to countries such as Canada, France and the United Kingdom, which also offer excellent tertiary education but are less restrictive.

Students who can not only secure places at leading American universities but also leave their families and cultures thousands of miles away tend to be highly motivated individuals whom America should seek to attract, not repel. To bar foreigners seems the very antithesis of the “American Dream” that this society is supposedly founded on.

Yale clearly recognizes this in its recent decision to admit foreign students under a need-blind admissions policy, thus making a Yale education a possibility for the best and the brightest in the world as well as in the United States.

It is a privilege to be studying here — one I am acutely aware of. I am an avid fan of almost all aspects of Americana and am often struck at just how fortunate I am to be living in a culture different from the one I left 18 months ago. But Americans, and specifically Yalies, should recognize that those who hail from different parts of the globe have just as much of a right to be here as anyone else. We all took the same exams, filled out the same application forms, and payed the same fees, whichever country we’re from.

Laying the blame for the Sept. 11 tragedy on student visas only distracts attention from the real issues. Whether al Qaeda terrorists had been trained to fly in Florida, Frankfurt or Freetown would have made little difference on Sept 11.

The United States always was the target, and where the terrorists received their training is of little importance. The trouble was not with the visas the terrorists were issued, but with the tragic ineptitude of the FBI in this case and the shoddy security at Boston’s Logan Airport. I do not wish to seem overly critical of American agencies — 99 percent of the time the FBI does a first-rate job, and the unforgivable oversight at Logan occurred under the auspices of a security firm that hailed from my homeland — the United Kingdom — and has subsequently, and quite rightly, had its contract terminated.

But I suspect that even though I am a foreign student, I am not the target of the new regulations. The regulations are there primarily to monitor closely students from Arab countries. Yalies are quick to condemn racism. It is time they appreciated that xenophobia is equally deplorable.

John Babtie is a sophomore in Ezra Stiles College.