This week, USC’s Graduate Student Government will open the first known emergency fund for international and undocumented students at an American university. The fund will provide emergency support for students facing revocation of their student visas as a result of the current administration’s actions (including this week’s updated executive order barring the citizens of six Muslim countries from entering the United States) and also enable students who have benefited from the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program to pay the required fees to renew their DACA status (if the program continues).
As the chief designers of the fund, we feel a need to forthrightly address potential criticisms of this action and to explain why this fund reflects the best traditions of the University of Southern California and of American higher education.
Colleges and universities rely on the contributions of students, staff and faculty from around the world, regardless of their immigration status, religion or national origin. At USC and countless other universities, these individuals provide the expertise that powers the innovations in social science and science that American citizens rely on in their daily lives. They produce the technologies that make our cities more sustainable and productive, conduct the medical research that results in cures for our diseases and provide solutions to many of the most pressing problems that we face. They also teach our classes, imparting their knowledge and sharing their skills, without checking to see whether their students are of the “correct” religion or possess the “correct” documentation.
In addition, these students provide much more financial support to public and private universities than they receive from them. According to the Institute of International Education, nearly 70 percent of international students pay tuition entirely out of pocket, contributing billions of dollars that universities use for grant and scholarship aid. In many cases, undocumented and international students — including students from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — provide the necessary revenue that allows needy domestic students to access educational opportunities that would otherwise be out of reach.
They also give back to our University community in countless other ways. They lead our student groups, participate in our sports teams and contribute their artistic and scientific talent in our classrooms and performance spaces.
The bottom line is that these students are integral parts of our campus community. Their presence enriches (both literally and figuratively) the experience of all students, including domestic students, who are in no way disadvantaged by giving back to them a small fraction of the financial and moral support that they have provided to this institution for decades. To pit domestic students against international students, arguing that providing additional support to the latter means taking away from the former, is not only ugly and divisive; it is also a lie.
With this fund, we are demonstrating both our solidarity with and our commitment to our fellow students, staff and faculty who face an unprecedented and un-American assault from forces who seek to obscure the essential contributions that immigrants and refugees have made and continue to make to this country. We will continue to identify and pursue opportunities to stand with them in the months and years to come, mindful of the fact that the Trojan family includes undocumented and Muslim students, and that this University could not and would not be nearly as vibrant or prosperous without them.
USC Price Student Organization Coalition