University petitions green card policies

By Matt Daray

Chancellor Rita Cheng says she fully supports the new immigration reforms congress will consider this week.

The U.S. Senate will see a bipartisan bill as soon as Tuesday that will change immigration and address the country’s 11 million illegal immigrants. The bill comes in light of a large protest Wednesday, when hundreds of immigrants protested in Washington, D.C. to demand action concerning the country’s immigration policies. Along with creating a path to legalization for immigrants who meet a strict set of criteria, the bill would establish new visa programs for high- and low-skilled foreign workers and crack down on employers who hire undocumented workers.

Cheng asked recipients in an email Wednesday to join her in contributing to immigration reform by joining other universities Friday to ask for better green cards for exchange students who graduate in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.


“University colleges and chancellors around the country are advocating for immigration changes to the law that make it easier for educated citizens of foreign countries to stay in this country and contribute to the economy after they receive a U.S. education,” she said in the email.

Cheng said she thinks it is important for everyone to be aware of the immigration situation because the country needs employees in science, technology, engineering and math fields. She also said some international students have trouble receiving visas to come to the U.S. or are unable to go to college because they are undocumented.

“It’s a tragedy that this country has those barriers to education,” she said. “Also, we desperately need an educated workforce in this country to stay competitive.”

Greg Budzban, math department chair, said it is important to encourage student involvement in STEM programs because jobs in the field are economically valuable.

“In terms of the kinds of jobs that are being created in our current economy, the positions and careers that have the most potential are those that have STEM orientations,” he said.

Budzban said it’s difficult to attract American students to the STEM fields, which is why at least 50 percent of students who graduate in mathematics are international students. The low interest comes from an improper means of teaching when students reach junior high and high school classes, he said, as the fields’ importance are not pushed adequately.

“There are issues in the country about the way mathematics is taught at the eight through 12 game level, and it’s taught in a way where very early on a great deal of students are turned off from the subjects,” he said.


Having international students and U.S. students are both important to these areas because of the diverse knowledge both groups could use to help the country, Budzban said.

Lizette Chevalier, a civil and environmental engineering professor, said she also thinks STEM programs  should be more appealing to younger individuals.

“There have been numerous studies reporting the need for a stronger STEM workforce, which translates directly into the need to recruit and retain students in the STEM disciplines,” she said. “To meet this goal, there needs to be an investment in education, and a collaboration that starts in our K through 12 education.”

Chevalier said one reason students might not take interest in science or mathematics classes is because they don’t think they are smart enough to pursue careers in technical fields. However, she said this issue can be solved by using technology to help with students’ learning and accessing information access.

Education is more important than where students come from and what country they will live and work in, Chevalier said.

“I don’t think education and our advancement needs to be an ‘either or’ approach,” she said. “In my experience as faculty in higher education, and specifically engineering, I am committed to teaching and advancing technical knowledge for the good of humanity.”

While the legislation could allow international students to extend their U.S. education, several exchange students shared mixed opinions on whether they would stay in the country upon passed legislation is passed.

Hammad Alshammari, a graduate student studying plant linguistics from Carbondale, said he came to the university because of the learning opportunities for his major. He said he is unsure if he would stay in the United States after he completed school because he hasn’t given it any thought.

“I haven’t decided yet and, really, haven’t even thought about it,” he said.

Alman Allazyab, a junior from Saudi Arabia studying aviation, said he would still go back to his country because it is his home even if he had the opportunity to receive a green card. He said he is first and foremost a citizen to his country and would probably not consider staying.

Hamad Alawaehi, a junior from Kuwait studying English as a second language, said he would be interested in staying in the country after graduation if he gets a good job opportunity but would go back home because of his family.

“It’s cool to (be able to) get a green card,” he said. “But even me, I would like to go back home for my family.”