America the Pugnacious: Feinstein Provision Raises Hurdle for Foreign Students to Access U.S. Universities


How did America become great? Some would argue that it was indeed great before restless explorers, settlers seeking economic opportunity, and persecuted religious victims and others migrated here — and I get that point.
But in the last couple of centuries, America became great because it was the single biggest “brain drain” problem for the rest of the world. The smartest and most talented people in the world came to the U.S. to pursue a higher education, escape persecution, or to chase other opportunities — and where smart, talented people go, so goes wealth creation, social advancement, and the like.
I am not going to weigh in on the full immigration debate in a short post now.
I believe that America needs to control its borders, full stop.
However, members of Congress have been engaged in a debate that seems to have no strategy to it, no sense of what the nation needs, or what signals we are sending abroad. Smart, brilliant people beyond our borders are now electing not to try to get into this country anymore because the hurdles are too high.
I wrote about this a couple of years back in a New York Times piece partnered with an article striking the same themes authored by former CIA Director and Texas A&M President Robert Gates.
But this in from a Senate Judiciary Committee session on Monday. Apparently, Senator Dianne Feinstein has concerns that too many foreigners are keeping otherwise promising Americans out of public university slots.
Thus, Feinstein introduced an amendment to address the displacement of U.S. citizens by foreign students in public universities.
As she started, Senator Arlen Specter cut her off and said, “So you want to raise the fees for foreign students? I’ll agree to that, if it will limit debate.” Apparently, Bill Frist had him under real time pressure to finish with the bill.
As a TWN source reported:

Votes were cast, and a provision to raise the application fee by $1000 was promptly inserted.

Where is the debate, the strategy, the cost/benefit analysis of this new tax on foreign students?
A communication from Senator Feinstein’s office about this provision reads:

The immigration bill creates a new student visa category for foreign students who will pursue an education here in science, engineering, mathematics, and technology — fields in great need of graduates in this country.
Senator Feinstein’s amendment doubles the application fee from $1,000 to $2,000 and the additional money will be pumped into scholarships and job training for Americans; as well as to combat fraud in the student visa program.

Frankly, we should be doing the opposite of what Feinstein suggests by doubling the application cost for foreign students. America should be promoting foreign student enrollment in public and private U.S. universities to keep America on the positive side of global brain drain realities.
Let me rephrase that — to get America back into a positive balance — because right now we are not luring the best and brightest from abroad. They are choosing Canada, the UK, France, Germany, and elsewhere where the border/visa interrogations are less hostile.
This move by Senator Feinstein, from the vantage point I have now, looks wrong-headed, pugnacious, and disdainful of the contributions that people from abroad have made to this country.
Perhaps Senator Feinstein has not had a chance to think through all the dimensions of this proposal, but the doubling of a $1000 fee is far too blunt an instrument to level out any perceived problems of foreigners knocking out Americans at U.S. universities.
Feinstein’s amendment should be nixed.
— Steve Clemons