Michigan State president criticizes Trump visa policy

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

Another Michigan university president is taking a stand against the Trump administration's policy restricting the entry of students and researchers from other countries.

Michigan State University President Samuel Stanley issued a statement Wednesday on the White House's "Proclamation Suspending Entry of Aliens Who Present a Risk to the U.S. Labor Market Following the Coronavirus Outbreak."

The policy, issued Monday by the White House, suspends H1-B, a nonimmigrant visa, and other temporary work visas through 2020.

Michigan State President Samuel Stanley Jr.

"H-1B status is reserved for those 'who possess high education, technical training, specialized experience or exceptional ability,'" according to MSU's website. "The university may have a 'dual intent' in hiring an individual, first temporarily and later permanently if approved for an immigrant visa. And, H-1B petitions can be submitted to (U.S. Citizens and Immigration Services) for either full-time or part-time employment."

The White House proclamation explained the move as a way of protecting jobs during the global pandemic.

Stanley said the "proclamation does nothing to make Americans safer in this global pandemic."

"But (it) does harm the nation’s economic competitiveness by at least temporarily barring the entry of scientists and other skilled and motivated people from around the world into the United States," he wrote.

“Immigrants bring needed skill sets and knowledge to America, create jobs and strengthen universities and other employers," the MSU president continued. "These work visas attract talented international students to study in the United States. Michigan State is only stronger with the inclusion of our international Spartans, and immigration restrictions such as this damage our ability to recruit and retain the world’s best and brightest faculty, staff and students."

Last month, University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel spoke against the Trump administration's "arbitrary restrictions" on students from China. It reasoned that some Chinese authorities use these students "to operate as nontraditional collectors of intellectual property."  

"These restrictions also limit our ability to attract top talent that contributes to our nation’s health, security and economy," Schlissel said then. "We support our Chinese students, researchers and faculty and ardently believe restrictions should be limited to those who pose security risks based on credible intelligence and evidence."

The ban, while temporary, would amount to major restructuring of legal immigration if made permanent, a goal that had eluded the administration before the pandemic. The administration also is seeking long-term changes targeting asylum seekers and high-tech workers.

Business groups pressed hard to limit the changes, but got little of what they wanted, marking a victory for immigration hardliners as Trump seeks to further solidify their support ahead of the November election.

The ban on new visas applies to H-1B visas, which are widely used by major American and Indian technology company workers and their families, H-2B visas for nonagricultural seasonal workers, J-1 visas for cultural exchanges and L-1 visas for managers and other key employees of multinational corporations.

There will be exemptions for food processing workers, which make up about 15% of H-2B visas, the official said. Health care workers assisting with the coronavirus fight will continue to be spared from the green-card freeze, though their exemption will be narrower.

In April, Trump imposed a 60-day ban on green cards issued abroad, which was set to expire Monday. That announcement, which largely targeted family members, drew a surprisingly chilly reception from immigration hardliners, who said the president didn’t go far enough.

The new steps to include non-immigrant visas went a long way toward appeasing hardliners, the Associated Press reported.

“This is a bold move by the Trump administration to protect American jobs,” said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates for restrictions. “Not all the items on our checklist of needed actions are included in today’s announcement, but the corporate lobbyists who were desperately fighting for exceptions to protect their clients’ access to cheap foreign labor have largely been rebuffed.”

Stanley had a different take: “The global pandemic’s effects will not be blunted by such moves to restrict travel and immigration, but the world will take it as another sign that America does not welcome those who wish to come here to study and contribute to our communities and the nation’s economy.”

The Associated Press contributed.