The 2020 US presidential election is drawing scarily closer every day. Due to be held on 3rd November 2020, this election is to decide America’s domestic and foreign policy for at least the next four years. This year’s election has seen a divide like no other, with the far-right president Trump and the incumbent former VP Joe Biden competing against each other amidst a divided nation.
What might his election mean for thousands of Nepali students and other Nepali immigrant workers currently residing in the US? Which candidate should Nepali immigrants be vouching for if they were to consider their interest? This article will touch on some of the candidates’ views relevant to these questions.
Education and Universities
Following the COVID-19 pandemic, Homeland Security under the Trump administration introduced a new rule stating that al international students with completely online universities should head home. Failure to do so would result in deportation. Although the rule was promptly rescinded as a result of a joint effort by universities and students, this is only one of the many advances the Trump administration has taken against international students.
DHS’ proposed F-1 visa rule
Quite recently, the Department of Homeland Security proposed a new rule that would change certain guidelines governing international students and cultural visitors. Students wouldn’t be able to take a visa for more than 4 years, even if their program duration exceeded it and certain countries were allowed to take only 2-year visas.
The latter is relevant to Nepali students. Nepal fell under the list of countries where student visas would be limited to 2 years. This is because more than 10% of Nepali students overstayed their student visas. Thus, any F-1 visa would have to be renewed every 2 years, and a re-approval isn’t guaranteed.
Optical Practical Training
As job losses increase in the US, President Trump has advocated on several instances to eliminate or limit OPT. For those of you who don’t know, OPT is an extension of the F-1 student visas that allow graduates to work in the US for up to 3 years for STEM majors and 1 year for other majors.
Elimination of OPT hasn’t gone forward yet, but a Trump victory could mean that future students will not be allowed to stay in the US for longer than 4 years. Why is this important? Well, many international students take up OPT from which they get recommendations for more permanent jobs that qualify them to get a work visa or a possible green card. Elimination of OPT would directly result in fewer work visas being issued to international students, including Nepali students.
What would be different with Biden?
The democratic party in general is known to be more liberal and accepting of immigrants. With a liberal president, the measures above are unlikely to be passed. OPT will almost certainly stay and the proposed rule is likely to be overturned even if it is passed before the election. A general culture of acceptance for international students can also be predicted. There are also experts who say that visa restrictions could decrease, and more students would be able to get a student visa to study.
Jobs, businesses and green cards
It is no news that Trump is adamant about controlling immigrants. It was one of his primary election promises back in 2016 and his views on immigrants have hardly changed now. As a result of this, the US has seen a series of tighter restrictions over the past 4 years. Immigrants are more closely monitored and green cards/ work permits are given in lesser numbers.
Deportation has increased exponentially under the Trump administration and Nepali immigrants are notorious for overstaying their visas. This is technically a good thing for the US but for many Nepali immigrants living illegally, this has been a nightmare. Obviously, the way to go about this is not to stay illegally in the US but it’s usually not as simple as that.
Even if you are staying legally, there are shorter timespans for immigrants to renew their visas. If you lose a job, let’s say, the strict restrictions will forbid you from staying long enough to find another job.
The DACA act and young immigrants
Young people who were brought to the US illegally without any fault of their own have also been repeatedly targeted by the Trump administration. When the DACA act was ended by the Trump administration, thousands of such young immigrants were in disarray, among which were a healthy amount of Nepali immigrants. The US supreme court ruled against the administration’s decision in 2018, which was one of the biggest embarrassment of Trump’s presidency. A 4-year extension could very well mean that President Trump will find a way around it once again leaving thousands of young Nepali immigrants with no place to go.
Getting work permits
Work permits and other immigrant visas have been completely restricted following the pandemic. But even before that, the laws were closing in on immigrants already with a work permit. Stricter guidelines and increasing deportation forced many Nepali immigrants, among other immigrants to stay in fear for the last four years.
Many people have chosen not to pursue living in the US at all, out of fear that they will be mistreated by the government. But even if you want a work permit, if 4 more years are given to the Trump administration, the laws are likely to get only stricter. Hence we could see a sharp decline of work permits issued for Nepali immigrants too. This is especially relevant after the pandemic where job losses are spiking in the US.
What would be different with Biden?
Well, honestly, not much. Even though Biden is lighter on immigrant issues, current circumstances would allow for much change. The American public wouldn’t agree to give out jobs to foreigners (including Nepali immigrants) when their own citizens are suffering. However, deportation will probably be more lenient, and we could see more pro-immigrant policies. After all, the democrats are known to be more accepting of foreigners, often arguing that the US was built by outsiders. This would obviously be beneficial for Nepali immigrants.
Hence you could see extended times for visa renewals and lower number of deportation. But the issuance of new green cards for Nepali immigrants is still quite unlikely even under a Biden presidency because of the economic crash the US is facing.
Regardless of what your political views are, it is safe to say that as a Nepali immigrant living in the US or an immigrant in general, a Biden presidency is much better for us. More lenient immigration and an overall liberal government would certainly make the lives of many Nepali immigrants easier. There would be less fear for foreigners and a safer environment for immigrants would be developed in the US.
If you are interested in going to the US as a student, refer to our article on Student Visa.