While voting in elections is a right given to American citizens, international students at Oregon State University are unable to vote in the election, yet will still feel its effects.
Voting is one of the best ways to help enact change at a national or even community wide level. Yet, international students—who often are in the United States pursuing college degrees—are not given this right.
“The outcome of the election will affect my life as an international student in the U.S.,” Farhan Rozaidi, a graduate student in robotics at OSU, said. “The direct impacts would revolve around policies regarding immigration that the country will continue to adjust based on the parties in power.”
Rozaidi, who has lived in the U.S. for the past 13 years as a non-citizen, said he’s seen first-hand that whatever party is in charge of the executive, legislative and judicial branches can make a big difference on the lives of international students. They can, among other things, make the process of obtaining or renewing a travel visa as well as traveling into the country more difficult for non-citizens.
While international students can be affected by elections, Rozaidi doesn’t believe international students should be able to vote in them, since they are not citizens of the U.S..
“Allowing for students to vote while living in a country in which they are non-citizens would result in a misrepresentation of their constituents,” Rozaidi said. “Being an international student assumes that a person is utilizing the education system here to bring the knowledge that comes from having a higher education degree back to their home countries.”
There are other international students, including Vania Halim, a chemical engineering student at OSU, who agree with Rozaidi’s view.
“I don’t think we should be able to participate in presidential elections while we’re here,” Halim said. “The influence of any person in a position of political power does not stop when they complete their term. As a temporary visitor to this country, I don’t think I am qualified or entitled to make decisions that will impact the nation long after I’m gone.”
Halim also mentioned that allowing international students to vote in elections could potentially allow for foreign intervention. There’s no way to know whether it would or wouldn’t happen, but allowing international students to vote in elections could mean that foreign countries would send their own citizens over as international students just so they could vote in and sway American elections.
There are some international students, though, who believe they should be allowed a voice in the elections that will affect their lives. Beste Olcer, an industrial engineering student, said that presidential elections could have a huge impact on international students in the form of new immigration and visa laws. It’s for this reason that Olcer believes international students should have voting rights.
“Even though we aren’t citizens, many of us expose ourselves to the American culture, adapt to it, work here, contribute to the economy here, pay our taxes and so on,” Olcer said. “We are affected by changes in policies and laws as much as Americans are, if not more; therefore, as people who live and sustain our lives here, we should have a say in what happens to our future.”
The regulations that are imposed on international students due to the outcome of America’s elections also affect their potential job opportunities.
“At the recent career fair, most companies representative’s shared similar answers on their difficulties in hiring international students for both internships and full-time employment due to the change in regulations, which makes them less likely to consider us,” said Stevanie Suhori, a civil engineering student at OSU.
While many international students may feel helpless at a time like this, because they’re unable to vote in an election that will have a large impact on their lives, Rozaidi emphasized that even international students do still have a voice.
“Most international students I have met over the years have believed that they do not play a role in any election in the U.S. simply because they cannot vote,” Rozaidi said. “However, that is not true. Citizens and non-citizens alike can contribute greatly to any election by being an active member of their own community, discussing politics and urging citizens to vote.”