Welcomed, Yet Vulnerable: Addressing the Safety Crisis for International Students in the US
The American academic landscape bustles with the energy of international students. Over 1 million are enrolled in the 2022/23 academic year, marking a record-breaking 12% increase. From China and India alone, nearly 558,000 students bring their unique perspectives to US classrooms. However, a concerning trend threatens their well-being - a rise in tragic deaths.
While we must respect the privacy of those affected, acknowledging this unfolding tragedy and its profound impact is crucial. This article is written to shed light on broader issues of international student safety in the United States.
US is Welcoming Staggering Number of International Talent:
The United States holds the distinction of being the top host destination for international students worldwide. In the academic year 2022, approximately 950,000 students were enrolled in higher education institutions across the U.S. A year after, the numbers increased to 1,057,188 international students studying in the US.
The US Mission in India also issued a record-breaking 1.4 million visas, a staggering 60% increase compared to the previous year. This surge in processing spanned various visa categories, with student visas exceeding 140,000 (making India the top recipient for the third year running) and visitor visas surpassing 700,000. Notably, despite this significant rise in applications, wait times for visitor visas saw a remarkable 75% reduction.
The Number of Crimes Against International Students is also Rising in the US:
In February 2024, Syed Mazahir Ali, a Master’s student from Hyderabad, India, studying at Indiana Wesleyan University, was viciously beaten and robbed by four armed men near his apartment in Chicago. A video of the attack has been trending on all social media platforms, which shows Ali being chased, beaten, and robbed. The Indian consulate in the US is aiding Ali, but the recent crimes against international students have raised concerns about student safety.
Cases like the tragic death of nineteen-year-old Shreyas Reddy Beniger in Ohio, an Indian-origin student, highlight the vulnerability of international students. While authorities ruled out foul play or a hate crime, the circumstances remain distressing. Similarly, Neel Acharya, a student at Purdue University in Indiana, went missing and was later confirmed dead. In other incident, Vivek Saini, a 25-year-old Indian student, was tragically killed in the US. He was working at a convenience store in Georgia when he was fatally assaulted by a 53-year-old drug addict named Julian Faulkner.
Gun violence continues to be a significant worry for international students. A 2019 survey found that while Latin American and European students expressed less concern, over 40% of students from South Asia and East Asia were worried about gun violence in the U.S. and incidents like the shooting of Shaoxiong Zheng in Chicago underscore the risks faced by students in certain areas. Additionally, the controversial ICE operation, where a fake university was set up to lure international students facing immigration status problems, resulted in some students being deported.
This all comes amid the recent World peace index, which ranks countries based on peace levels. Although 14 out of top 20 safest nations in the world are housed in Europe, The US does not make it to the list. As per the index, the US ranks 131 out of 163 countries in terms of peace and safety.
From Challenges to Opportunities:
While migrant and international students are often blamed for the rise in crime, the statistics have highlighted that there is no corelation between the rising immigrant numbers to the rising crime rates in the US.
Amid this, it is essential to address the safety concerns of international students and take proactive measures to ensure their well-being. One such proactive measure is the implementation of a personal security system on college campuses. This system, as tested in a pilot study in a college campus, has shown positive results in improving students' feelings of personal safety.
College campuses ought to have personal security systems as well as comprehensive support services that are specific to international students. These include offering counseling and mental health resources that take into account cultural variations and facilitating of access to legal and immigration help. It is essential to address the safety concerns; however, it is equally significant for the United States to appreciate valuable contributions made by the international students in academic and cultural contexts. Their multifarious viewpoints, excellent scholarly aptitude, as well as enriching cultural interchange not only benefit their own educational journey but also enhance the wider scholastic society and community generally.
To sum up, the increasing number of international students has a major impact on the American economy and plays a vital role in promoting innovation in the country. These students bring a diverse range of cultural perspectives and enrich the educational community. However, the recent rise in attacks targeting their safety is concerning. It is crucial for universities and the concerned governments to take swift measures to ensure a safe and supportive environment for all international students.