I could not agree more. America should be a beacon for all who wish to immigrate or visit legally and study at our finest schools. The sharing of intelligence and culture that universities can manifest has long-term social and economic benefits that cannot be ignored.
Unfortunately, while Crow’s sentiments are worthy, his arguments are rhetorically flawed. His first mistake is in his construction of a straw-man argument. Crow presents his position as a proponent of expanding the numbers of international students. But he uses President Trump’s travel ban (on those from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, and Libya) as a prop for potential prohibition on all international students. The title of Crow’s article is “Why We Need International Students.” However, Crow never mentions who has stated otherwise. Literally no one—not Trump or any government official, not any prominent media personality, and certainly not anyone in elite academia—has said that America should stop international students from attending American universities. Crow is offering an argument for which there is no opposition. (And if there is, it is so far on the fringe as it is unworthy of serious consideration.) Rather than debating the merits of the specific controversy at hand, Trump’s travel ban, Crow chooses to bypass that dispute and leap to a topic with which he feels more comfortable, or righteous, that of students on college campuses. Conflating these issues without recognizing the distinction signals a lack of argumentative rigor.
Crow exacerbates the rhetorical problem he has set up by then offering success stories of international students at American universities. He relates the specific stories of Elon Musk (South Africa), Sergey Brin (Russia), Pierre Omidyar (France), and Ngoni Mugwisi (Zimbabwe), and he offers compelling statistics on the high numbers of immigrant students from China, India, Saudi Arabia, and South Korea. There’s just one problem with his examples if you look closely: none of these are on President Trump’s seven banned countries list.
Crow seems to only focus on the greatest representations of international student success, while somehow not mentioning some of the potential and very real dangers of immigration policy. Here are just a few reminders:
The student shooter in Munich last summer was Iranian. Several other attacks in Germany during the same period were by Syrian refugees.
The attacks in Nice and Brussels were by people with ties to Iraq and Syria.
The attackers in Normandy had travel connections to Syria.
The attackers on Charlie Hebdo in Paris, though French nationals, had strong ties to Syria, Iraq, and Yemen.
The student attacker at Ohio State University was an immigrant from Somalia.
What Crow is doing is casually called the cherry-picking fallacy, where the arguer chooses to focus on specific examples that prove his particular point while ignoring evidence that may challenge it. This is common to my students when they only look at topics from one side, citing only evidence they agree with, and choose to neglect more thorough research.
A final rhetorical problem emerges as Crow’s ethos is also at stake when offering his perspectives on borders, diversity, and accessibility for all. Crow lives in a home worth several million dollars in one of the wealthiest and whitest neighborhoods in the entire country, Paradise Valley—sort of the Beverly Hills of the Phoenix metro area. To heighten the irony, Crow’s home is protected by a security gate and, get this, a wall. A rather Trump-ian image, you might say. This is not an ad hominem against Crow—he certainly has the right to live where and how he wants, and I would love to be able to afford his cushy digs. But his position is a bit like someone espousing academic integrity on campus, and then plagiarizing in their personal research once they got to their home office. One cannot help but notice the hint of hypocrisy in promoting unvetted openness for others as long as his own family and property are safe behind gates and walls.
It’s unfortunate to see when respected university officials make similar mistakes as undergraduates in a basic composition course. Making arguments can be a tricky thing when we are so beholden to the side of angels that we build false opposition, ignore researchable facts, and hinder our own credibility. These are all habits I am trying to break in my students, regardless of the topics they are writing about or their particular predilections.
If Crow were a student in my class, whose essay I was reviewing, I would recommend emphasizing the positive economic impact international students from those seven countries have on America. I would like to see those population numbers and those dollar amounts. Don’t get sidetracked by other countries or other success stories—stick to the topic. I could even use some anecdotes to pique my interest and to elevate the humanity of the piece. Prove to us that banning people from those specific seven countries is bad for our universities, and any future banning related to other countries would have similar dire results. I would also like to see some recognition of the other side of this debate, that real problems do exist with nonchalant immigration policies, violence or other forms of conflict are possible, and there is more to this complex issue than meets the eye. “It’s never as simple as you think,” is something I find myself constantly telling students. And I would conclude with what I often write on my students’ papers: “These comments are not based on your position; they are based on the way your position is written.”
Just to reiterate my earlier point, I actually agree with Crow’s sentiments. I believe Trump’s new policies will ultimately be untenable politically and practically. This country is too dedicated to the pursuit of opportunity and freedom to keep doors closed for long. And I have enjoyed every international student I’ve had in my many courses over a decade as a college professor. I respect their tenacity in arriving on our shores, adapting to our language, and learning new skills that may change their lives and the world around them. I hope our universities continue to be filled with the best of what the world has to offer, no matter their country of origin. I just wish Crow’s arguments were backed by a little more Aristotle and a little less ideology.