Texas A&M Foreign Student Exchange Programs Enriching U.S., Other Nations

By | Houston Immigration, Immigration Policy, News & Press | No Comments

Texas is already a well-known magnet for immigrants and businesses seeking to put down roots in its relatively strong employment market and business-friendly environment. Recently, Texas A&M University has gained a reputation for extending that connection to students. Through its College Station campus in Texas and its overseas exchange programs, Texas A&M has become a hub for international learning and collaboration.

International students who intern at Texas A&M — mostly from India, Brazil and China — usually begin with a summer program, often at the university’s renowned Artie McFerrin Department of Chemical Engineering. Many of these students are drawn from top academic and research facilities in their home countries, including Kanpur University in India. Texas A&M clearly hopes that these summer interns will eventually become Aggies as graduate students.

“The goal is to showcase our research projects in the cutting edge technologies, with the hope that these students will gain very positive interactions with their faculty members, and would apply to our Ph.D. program in due course,” said Dr. Nazmul Karim, head of the chemical engineering department.

The university also sends out its American students to study overseas in new countries. This exchange of students through Texas A&M has made the university 13th among U.S. institutions of higher learning for sending students abroad to participate in credit-bearing academic programs. Indeed, more than 3,000 Aggies have studied at more than 90 locations around the world for a semester while sponsored by the university’s Study Abroad Programs Office.

American students studying abroad are enriched by an immersion in their host country’s traditions and culture, and they, in turn, share their outlook on and experiences in U.S. culture and its democratic process with their hosts. And Texas A&M University officials have a vision for what they expect of their American students when they return to Texas.“In order for Aggies to assume their place in the Texas economy, they will need to have a familiarity with how other societies function and markets in other countries work,” said Dr. Jane Flaherty, director of Texas A&M’s Study Abroad Programs Office. “Going abroad facilitates the development of this knowledge.”

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Central American Immigration Debate Overshadows Stranded Spouses of Legal, H-1B Visa Workers

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As the emotionally charged national debate over immigration roils communities across the United States, the much-reported movement of thousands of undocumented children across the U.S.-Mexican border into this country has become the latest flash point of discussion.

While the children’s attempts to reunite with family members in the United States has garnered much attention and opened a new subject for discourse, another example of divided immigrant families, working through legal immigration, has been largely overshadowed.

Since October 1, 2013, some 57,000 children, mostly from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, have made their way from their countries — all of which are plagued by drug-trade-fueled violence — through Mexico and illegally into the United States in an attempt to reunite with relatives here. Most of the children have been caught by U.S. authorities and are being housed in temporary emergency shelters, pending a determination of their status. Several of the emergency shelters are in Texas, which has become immigration’s ground zero for these children from Central America.

And Texas is also is the hub of another phenomenon caused by immigration — the significant number of people who have entered the United States legally with an H-1B visa to work, but whose spouses have not been permitted to join them. The federal government grants 85,000 H-1B visas per year to highly skilled workers from overseas. Most work in the technology sector, with 70 percent in computer technology alone. Twenty thousand of the annual H-1B visas are reserved for immigrants with advanced degrees from U.S. universities and colleges.

Many of the spouses of H-1B visa workers are also well-educated, but no matter their credentials, they are not automatically permitted to accompany their spouses into the United States. Of those H-1B visa workers in computer technology, 26 percent of the men and 76 percent of the women are married, but in 2013, only half of the eligible spouses joined these workers in this country.

These statistics do not even account for the children of H-1B visa workers who have been left behind in India and other countries.

Spousal separation adds yet another dimension to the debate over immigration that policymakers Washington may have to address.

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