International students share thoughts on proposed visa restrictions

Srijita Chattopadhyay

In the American melting pot, a portion of residents live on the non-immigrant visa, H-1B. The visa is employment-based and allows United States employers to temporarily hire foreign non-immigrant workers.

On March 3, 2016, less than a year before his inauguration, President Donald Trump addressed his commitment to ending H-1B sponsorship on his campaign website. 

“I will end forever the use of the H-1B as a cheap labor program, and institute an absolute requirement to hire American workers first for every visa and immigration program,” he said according to his website. “No exceptions.”

Like most international students studying at American universities, WKU sophomore Ruqaiya Al Barwani decided to come to the country in hopes for bettering her job prospects. 

“Just because I am not an American now,  I cannot dream the American dream?” Al Barwani said. 

An international student from Oman, Al Barwani studies in the hospitality management program.

“In my home country there is no opportunity for my major,” she said. “So I was hoping to be able to settle down here in this country.”

Smita Peter, a 26-year-old WKU computer science graduate student from India said she was appalled by President Trump’s proposed H-1B dismissal. 

“I am very much intimidated. I am very much afraid,” she said, “I don’t know if I will ever get a job here or not.” 

Peter arrived at WKU in August 2016 and was certain at the time she would be able to find herself a “decent” job after graduation. She said she has been applying to companies but has only received rejections stating H-1B visas will not be sponsored. 

Peter said her parents invested a lot of money in her education, and working for an American firm would help her make up that money.

Indian graduate student Sai Nagameenakar Somesula, 24, is also in the computer science department and said it wouldn’t bother him if he does not get to stay in America after he graduates this May. 

“Any day going back to India is good for me,” Somesula said. “I will not be sad. I will be very happy.” 

Somesula said he feels positive the weight of his degree from WKU would help him get a better job in India than in America. He said working for an information technology company in India would not only give him the opportunity to be close to family and home,  but would also provide him with the opportunity to see India grow.

Bethany Vidad, 21, was born and raised in Chicago to parents who immigrated to the country from the Philippines in mid-70’s. As a first-generation American, Vidad said she does not understand why President Trump dislikes people from other countries. 

“If we did not allow Albert Einstein to come to America,” she said, “we would not have had his great thoughts.” 

Vidad said allowing international students the opportunity to work in the country would not only be beneficial for the student itself but for the diversification and the growth of the country too.

George Dordoni has been a WKU International Student Organization adviser for the past two and a half years and said he understands how international students might be feeling about the proposed restrictions.

“A lot of [companies] may not be wanting to pay that much for hiring someone from India instead of Indiana,” he said.

Reporter Srijita Chattopadhyay can be reached at (270) 745-0655 and [email protected]