President Martha Pollack at her office in Day Hall on May 10th, 2019. Pollack signed onto a letter in October in favor of immigration policy oversight.

Boris Tsang / Sun Photography Editor

President Martha Pollack at her office in Day Hall on May 10th, 2019. Pollack signed onto a letter in October in favor of immigration policy oversight.

October 22, 2019

President Pollack Joins Letter Calling for Immigration Policy Oversight

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In a recent letter to the New York Congressional delegation, President Martha E. Pollack called for New York lawmakers to monitor immigration policies affecting international students and faculty.

Sent October 10, the letter to the delegation requested that officials monitor current immigration policies targeting international students which were “disrupting the mobility of students and scholars.”

Other signatories of the letter include Andrew Hamilton of New York University, Lee Bollinger of Columbia University, Kent Syverud of Syracuse and 54 other University presidents and chancellors across New York.

The letter details concerns with current visa processing for international faculty and students of New York college campuses, highlighting the negative implications of current administrative immigration policies.

“In recent years, there has been a dramatic increase in the number and length of immigration processing delays, placing significant obstacles in the path of our international students, scholars, and administrators,” the letter states.

Over the past two years, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services processing time for foreign visas has increased by 46%, Forbes reported.

Similarly, the Council of Graduate Schools recently published that “new enrollments of international students at U.S. graduate schools have fallen for two years in a row.”

Senior Associate Director for Faculty Scholar Services Laura Taylor, from the Office of Global Learning at Cornell, told The Sun that processing times for some international student visas applications at Cornell have increased.

“Delayed processing times are causing individuals to have to reevaluate time frames for planning their lives,” Taylor said.

In an interview with The Sun, Diane Miller, the Senior Director for Federal Relations, said that Cornell hopes the letter reminds New York lawmakers of the challenges international students and workers face processing their visas.

“Because activity in Congress has been stalled — on hold for a while — it was really just to remind them,” Miller said. “It’s not necessarily that there’s a legislative fix to this, but just to remind them.”

Since the presidential administration change in 2016, Miller noted that the Federal Relations office shifted its concentration, prioritizing work with executive branch agencies rather than legislative advocacy.

“Immigration has always been one of our top priorities legislatively, but now we focus more of our efforts on the administration … and keeping current on those policies so we can communicate this back to Congress,” Miller said.

“This administration, however, made it pretty clear from the beginning that they were not going to work with international students,” she added.

Among cases with extended visa processing times, Laura Taylor noted that a handful of these have been from countries with strained diplomatic relationships with the U.S., including students from China and Iran.

In 2018, 649 undergraduate and 1,456 graduate Chinese international students enrolled at Cornell, as well as 29 Iranian graduate students. Approximately half of international graduate students are Chinese nationals.

“Some of the applications to graduate school in certain programs have fallen off since 2016. Cornell is still competitive and people still want to come here so it hasn’t been devastating, but it’s enough that it’s noticeable,” Miller said.

In a CNN op-ed published in March, Pollack argued against the Trump administration’s proposed regulations which would delay visa clearances for international students.

“When we discourage or turn away international students, we lose much more than the students themselves … We lose their inventions and innovations, their collaborative input and their contributions to our communities,” Pollack wrote.