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As Congress moves forward with immigration reform, we take a look at how this issue connects to culture, business and families in the Northwest.Our region is home to a unique blend of immigrants who work in all parts of our economy — from high-tech to agriculture. This population already has a deeply-rooted history here. And its ranks are expanding rapidly.Proposals for comprehensive immigration reform address border security, employment verification, guest-worker programs and pathway to citizenship for an estimated 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the US.

We could have fewer international students under proposed Trump plan

Suzzallo Library at the University of Washington
Flickr Photo/Michael Matti (CC-BY-NC-2.0)/
Suzzallo Library at the University of Washington

International students would face tougher scrutiny under a proposal being considered by the Trump Administration.

According to the Washington Post, foreign college students would have to reapply for their visas each year in order to stay in the U.S. Currently, international students can live in the U.S. as long as they're enrolled in college on full-time basis.

Nate Mouttet, vice president for enrollment management at Seattle Pacific University, said this policy would lead to fewer international students at campuses across the country, including SPU.

"Who are the people who are most interested in studying in America? They tend to be the best and brightest," Mouttet said. "It would quickly become a filter for, would I want to pursue an English education in a country that makes it more onerous or challenging to do that? Or would I simply choose another option?"

At the University of Washington, there are nearly 8,000 undergraduate and graduate students from overseas.

Jeff Riedinger, vice president for global affairs at the UW, agreed this policy change would have a chilling effect on foreign students hoping to attend college in Seattle. And he said it would also take a toll on campus diversity.

"We do a disservice to Washington resident students to bring them to a university that looks like their high school," Riedinger said. "They need to come to a university that looks like the world in which they will compete economically, politically."

The Washington Post reports this proposal is still in the early stages and isn't likely to take effect for at least the next 18 months.

In 2016 more than 29,000 foreign students attended college in the state of Washington. The biggest group is from China, followed by Vietnam, and Saudi Arabia.

Year started with KUOW: 2006