A border patrol chief walks near border wall prototypes east of San Ysidro at the U.S. – Mexico border on November 20, 2017. Credit: Courtesy of TNS

Whether in strong language or not, the Trump administration has made its desire for stricter immigration policy perfectly clear. And its ramifications could disrupt Ohio State’s efforts to build a more diverse student population, according to two immigration experts at the university.

The plan, which intends to eliminate the visa lottery system, includes a 10- to 12- year path to citizenship for an estimated 1.8 million people, calls for $25 billion to be put toward a border wall and prioritizes the immigration of family to spouses and minor children only to achieve a merit-based system, according to NPR.

For Frederick Aldama, a professor of arts and humanities, the policy would be wrong for the U.S. and threaten the university’s commitment to diversity.

“There’s going to be race bias,” he said, “and the real diversity that allows for creativity, growth, innovation, the kind of interactions across cultures, across different kinds of experiences, across different kinds of communities isn’t going to happen.”

Aldama, who founded Latinx Space for Enrichment and Research at Ohio State, an organization that provides resources for local Latino students to achieve success in higher-education, said the legislation could stunt diversity — including at Ohio State.  

“We already have issues with recruiting our diverse demographics from within the U.S. that are already here,” he said. “Imagine what this is going to look like in 15-20 years from now.”

Despite university effort and a commitment to improving diversity, Aldama said Ohio State is doing a poor job in recruitment when compared to other top research institutions and the U.S. population.

“If you look at our campus now, our percentages of Latinx students on the campus or African-American students on the campus is pretty shameful,” he said.

Aldama said it’s important for Ohio State to have a diverse population because college is often the only opportunity many people will have to regularly interact with others from a variety of backgrounds.

“Once you get into the workforce, your world and the people that you’re around will diminish by a hundredfold,” he said. “You go from a campus of 52,000-plus to a work environment of maybe seeing five to 10 people on a daily basis.”

Ohio State maintains diversity within the classroom, an area that allows students of different backgrounds to look at problems in a variety of ways to find solutions, Aldama said.  

There’s going to be race bias, and the real diversity that allows for creativity, growth, innovation, the kind of interactions across cultures, across different kinds of experiences, across different kinds of communities, isn’t going to happen. — Frederick Aldama, professor of arts and humanities

Evidence to support the immigration system proposed by the Trump administration is minimal and the push for it is likely fueled by a fear that immigrants are irreversibly changing America’s demographics, Aldama and Reanne Frank, an associate professor in sociology, agreed.

“Everything suggests that that’s the underlying motivation,” Frank said. “It certainly plays to his base.”

Changes to immigration policy wouldn’t do much to slow down the changing demographics of the U.S., Frank said.

“Growing racial and ethnic diversity is already baked into the infrastructure of the United States,” she said.

Frank said the U.S. has repeatedly allowed its immigration policy to be shaped by the irrational fears of the public rather than by evidence and an understanding of how migration systems work.

“Migration from Mexico, which gets the most attention in the national spotlight and the most controversy, has been a negative net flow. There are more Mexican immigrants returning to Mexico than there are coming into the United States,” Frank said, “and that occurred prior to the Trump presidency.”

Proponents of the Trump administration’s immigration plan say increasing the number of high-skill immigrants “are more complementary to America’s existing productive infrastructure,” according to Politicoand point out that countries like Australia and Canada have similar approaches.

Countries that have a merit-based immigration system, Aldama said, are potentially denying entry from people who might be highly successful — if not for the circumstances of their birth — and who bring with them other traits that are beneficial to communities, such as resiliency.

“They’re cutting out the possibility of incredible people — made through incredible circumstances — and that would bring incredible experiences to enrich a society,” he said. “It’s like putting blinders on a horse.”

Such a system also is inhumane, Aldama said, for it fails to consider that most immigrants migrate out of necessity rather than choice, and that there is merit in surviving extreme conditions.

“Most people don’t want to leave homelands,” he said. “They leave them because of war … because of the violence that’s destroying communities. They leave because of impoverishment.”