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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

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New bill could restrict international enrollment

Photo+by+Robert+OBrien+of+the+Texas+state+capitol+building+on+Nov.+24%2C+2019.%26%23160%3B

Photo by Robert O’Brien of the Texas state capitol building on Nov. 24, 2019. 

With increasing tensions from countries such as Russia and China, a Texas congressman is proposing a bill to prevent students from four countries from being allowed admittance into Texas universities. 

On March 10, Rep. Tony Tinderbolt from Texas house district 94 introduced House bill 4736. Section two of the bill prohibits the admission of Chinese, Russian, North Korean and Iranian students from Texas universities. The bill’s other education code proposals pertain to “determination of resident status” and “information required to establish resident status.” 

Latin American research professor at the U.S. Army War College Strategic Studies Institute Evan Ellis said he is opposed to the bill. 

“In principle, we are a nation of immigrants,” Ellis said. “If you go back to the internment of the Japanese during World War II, I think it is not good for public relations or in terms of our values to say that a person by virtue of their ethnicity should not be allowed into the United States to study.” 

Ellis said there is still a security risk, however, and caution should be taken.

“There is a significant risk of the Chinese sending personnel to certain technological institutions and then taking that information either through their research work or student work, back to China in inappropriate ways,” Ellis said. “The issue is how does one control that risk through proper supervision, proper vigilance and proper controls.” 

Ellis said there must be a balance when tackling these issues and going with the extreme isn’t always beneficial. 

“At the end of the day, I think it’s imperative that we recognize the threats of espionage and technology theft by all groups,” Ellis said. “But we have to do that in a way that does not criminalize somebody because of their ethnicity.” 

Juan Cruz, senior advisor and director at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said this bill can be a double-edged sword depending on how one looks at it. 

“If you look at the STEM programs at the leading universities, students in the masters and doctoral programs are overwhelmingly foreign students,” Cruz said. “It could also be advantageous to our adversaries by having students in the states.” 

Oftentimes students who come over from other countries — especially the ones mentioned in bill 4736 — enjoy the U.S. and choose to stay and pursue their field due to the large academic independence they now have, Cruz said. Additionally, the U.S.’s environment for learning is very different compared to the countries they came from, Cruz said. 

“They learn our system of governance, democracy, rule of law, the liberty to think, to challenge and to be creative without being penalized for it,” Cruz said. 

The bill would essentially be selling the U.S. system, and its citizens short, Cruz said. 

“We in the U.S. take advantage of the research they [foreign students] are doing,” Cruz said. “Yes they are learning, but ultimately their work is published in the U.S. and helps move forward research and development.” 

Cruz said the likelihood of students coming from these countries is low.  

“I’d be shocked if there was a single North Korean studying in the U.S.,” Cruz said. “I don’t think that’s a thing, if North Koreans were to travel abroad to study it would be in China or Russia.” 

The better solution to combat these security threats is to have background checks and professors who sponsor having these students on campus, Cruz said. 

“If we have them working on sensitive issues, then we employ restrictions,” Cruz said. “Have a university sponsor who vouches that this student hasn’t stolen sensitive information.”

Political science senior Hugo Salazar-Vasquez said he disagrees with the bill.

“I don’t think we should ban students from a school, only military or higher level institutions,” Salazar-Vasquez said. “I think it makes sense to try and get students from other countries to learn our ways and we learn their ways. This could help plant a seed with the younger generations that the U.S. wants to work with them and help build better relations.” 

Salazar-Vasquez’s family moved from Central America and said the U.S. is unique. 

“Living here, studying here, you become open to new ideas and learn new things,” Salazar-Vasquez said. “The U.S. has an effect on you.” 

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