Education, Society

Raising Arizona

University aghast after Chinese students denied entry


America was once the top choice for Chinese parents wanting to send their children to study overseas. Now, a combination of visa refusals, unexpected repatriations and tighter scrutiny of Chinese students, have mainland families reconsidering (see WiC459).

In the recent weeks there have been three more cases that have left the Chinese with the feeling they are no longer welcome in the US.

The first case on August 18 involved the deportation of a student carrying a bullet-proof vest in his luggage. The import of “soft” body armour is legal, according to the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP). For mainland students, buying such items in China – where they are cheaper – and then taking them to the US is one way of responding to concerns over gun violence. Some netizens have argued it is similar to foreigners bringing air pollution masks to China.

But for reasons which are unclear, the student was still deported. He said he declared the item; custom officials say he did not. In a statement posted on its website the CBP added that a subsequent search of the student’s residence in the US uncovered several firearms, including a prohibited ‘bumpstock’ device. The latter part of the story did not filter through to Chinese netizens who continue to believe the man was unfairly ejected for trying to protect himself.

The second case involved nine Chinese students attempting to return to Arizona State University (ASU) on August 22. Arriving back in the US, they were pulled aside for additional checks at LA Airport and “deemed inadmissible” based on information discovered during that inspection, the CBP said.

The university was furious, saying that the group were legitimately enrolled as students and that it was working to “rectify the situation”.

“In our country, where we value due process and celebrate the different ways in which our government behaves from that of the arbitrary and capricious behaviour of other nations, it is beyond my comprehension how the US government could establish and implement policies that bring about the outcomes we are now witnessing,” ASU President Michael Crow wrote in letter to the Department of Homeland Security.

Chinese students began having more problems entering the US in June last year when the Trump administration introduced new rules limiting student visas to a year for people studying subjects related to maths, science and engineering.

Previously students had been given visas long enough to cover the full duration of their courses. In addition, lengthy delays processing these visa applications meant that many students missed the first weeks of classes when they returned from China after the winter break.

The third incident involved two ethnic Chinese who were lining up to board a flight from Newark Liberty International Airport to San Francisco. The two men – who did not know each other – were approached by an Alaskan Airlines employee who began asking “bizarre” questions, Buzzfeed reported.

“How much are they paying you? Did they give you a visa? Did they give your family a visa? Do you make a lot of money? Do you work on Wall Street? Are you on an American visa?” the airline official asked.

One of the men was a Canadian citizen, the other was a student from mainland China.

When one of the pair struggled to respond to questions the employee triggered a security alert, which saw 200 people evacuated from the area. Airport authorities told CNN that only one airline worker had been suspicious of the pair and that the incident was now under investigation.

Meanwhile China’s embassies and consulates have been issuing advice that Chinese citizens should expect additional questioning and checks when they arrive in the US.

“Law enforcement and intelligence agencies of the American government have been monitoring and harassing Chinese students and scholars in the US. Such a move, immoral and unjust, reveals nothing but their nasty intentions,” the foreign ministry said pointedly on September 6.

As WiC has highlighted previously, the main beneficiary of these negative headlines are universities in countries like the UK, which have become a more favoured destination for many parents to send their kids to study.

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