AACRAO travels to Mexico for ARSEE Conference

by William Gil, Director of Government Relations, AACRAO

So, there is a very hard knock on my door at 4:00 am with individuals yelling in Spanish “get out of bed, get out of bed”. Startled, plus a little scared thinking that there is a fire or something, I jump out of bed and promptly hear a “squish, squish, squish” in the dark. At this point, I realize that this sound is coming from my feet wading through my flooded room which has about ¾ in of water.  This 

C:\Users\billg\Pictures\IMG_0944.JPG

realization brings mostly inappropriate things too my mind and out of my mouth!  As I “slosh” my way towards the door, I open it, stick my head out and I see a couple of the hotel staff going up and down the corridor in knee high rain boots knocking on doors, saying over and over “get out of bed”.  One of the men notices me and says, “the reservoir has overflowed and we are flooded”.. I respond in Spanish, “I can see that”… A couple of hours later and a virtual clothesline in my new hotel room to dry out my wet clothes, I finally go back to sleep.

Such was my first night in Queretaro, the capitol of the Providence of Queretaro and the city where ARSEE, AACRAO’s counterpart in Mexico, was celebrating its 10th anniversary.  While Queretaro is a fairly large town over 2 million, making it the 10th largest city in Mexico, there are still hints that it’s still straddling new and old cultures at the same time. This is best encapsulated by the following picture where there is a horse ‘parked’ next to other cars in front of the local convenience store (think 7-11). My family loved this!

C:\Users\billg\Pictures\IMG_0921.JPGThat being said, the city is quite beautiful and historic.  Moreover, I came to learn and appreciate the critical role it played in Mexico’s independence from Spain, similar to our Lexington and Concord, in galvanizing popular support towards independence.  The people of this town are very well proud of this and every time that I spoke to a local they were very proud of this fact and wanted to make sure that this was to be my one take away as a first time traveler to Queretaro.

However, this was not the reason that AACRAO went there. AACRAO was there to support the 10th Anniversary of ARSEE and also provide keynote remarks on how the recent election of Donald Trump to the Presidency of the United States has possibly impacted the number of international students considering studying in the United States. Moreover, conference attendees wanted to hear about how could our country possibly have such deep fundamental shifts in its immigration policy which seem to be in clear contrast to the “Great American Melting Pot” image that many around the world have about this great country of ours.

No one better personifies this dilemma than the “DREAMers”, who recently have been thrust into the spotlight by President Trump rescinding the Obama era Executive Order, which provided these young individuals the chance to come out of the shadows and work legally in the United States.  This change in policy has thrown this population into a state of limbo and, much worse, possible deportation if  Congress does not pass legislation that would ensure that these 800,000 individuals would not be deported.

The presentation focused on not only the increasing trend in the number of international students studying in the United States, which has increased dramatically from about 200,000 in 1970 to over 1 million today, but also provided some historical information about U.S. immigration policy and how it has changed over the years. Yes, during the 2nd large wave of immigrant arrivals, over 20 million immigrants arrived in the United States. They ended up making up nearly 15% of the United States population.  However, what is not as well knows, is that this large influx of foreign nationals gave rise to an anti-immigrant sentiment and a new set of laws aimed at restricting entry to the United States.  In fact, during the 1930’s there were more individuals that left that United State then entered and by 1970, the number of foreign born individuals had diminished to less than 5% of the U.S. population.  

Then in 1965 new immigration laws were passed that changed the system of quotas based on the national origins that had been the policy of American immigration since the 1920s. By eliminating racial and national barriers, these new laws would significantly modify the demographic mix in the United States, such that the percentage of foreign born nationals would increase to 13% (43 million) of the U.S. population by 2015. During this time there was also an explosion in the U.S. Hispanic population that increased from 9.6 million in 1970 to nearly 58 million in 2016, representing nearly 18% of the entire U.S. population and was the main driver of population growth in the United States over the last several decades. In fact, Hispanics now represent the 16% labor force and by 2025 will represent one of every two new workers entering the labor force.

Many feel that these dramatic increases in foreign nationals, in addition to the change in the U.S. ethnic make-up, are the drivers for the increasing anti-immigrant sentiment that many individuals in the U.S are seeing.   This anti-immigrant sentiment is worrisome to the higher education community as they are concerned about the possible reduction in the number of international students who chose the U.S. to complete their academic studies as this will have financial implications for institutions as these students pay full tuition and help offset other university functions, as well as provide support for low-income U.S. students.

C:\Users\billg\Pictures\IMG_0955.JPG

Finally, back to the overflowed reservoir.  While it did create some memorable moments for conference attendees, including this one, this really was no laughing matter. The flooding really created some widespread damage and impacted the people and infrastructure of Queretaro, as the pictures below highlight.  This comes on the heels on the earthquake’s and shook Mexico City and Puebla, so while we certainly need to be conscious to help everyone impacted by the recent hurricanes in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, let us not forget our neighbors to the south and they are also still adjusting to “new realities” as a result of these natural phenomenons as well.

Image result for pictures from queretaro flooding

Image result for pictures from queretaro flooding