A Letter to the Editor of the New York Times in Response to “They Are Us”


November 19, 2015

The New York Times
620 Eighth Avenue
New York, NY, 10018

To the Editor:

In his op-ed, “They are Us,” Nicholas Kristof cavalierly suggests that if ISIS wants to send terrorists to the U.S., it could do so by having them pose as students. As he scapegoats foreign students, who add $30.5 billion dollars and support over 373,000 jobs to our economy while bringing intellectual and cultural diversity to our campuses, he also mischaracterizes the ease with which a potential terrorist could obtain student status. After first being admitted to a U.S. college or university, applicants must undergo rigorous background checks and interview with U.S. consular affairs officers before being granted student visas. Once they arrive, foreign students are monitored by the Department of Homeland Security—the only nonimmigrant visitors to the U.S. to be tracked.

While we agree with Kristof that denying entry to Syrian refugees wrongly stigmatizes all Muslims, portraying foreign students as the Trojan horse by which terrorists will sneak into the country is equally defamatory. Far from being a threat, generations of policy leaders have recognized that welcoming foreign students makes us safer.

Marlene M. Johnson
Executive Director and CEO
NAFSA: Association of International Educators