On May 23, 2017, Representative Gerald Connolly (VA-11) urged his colleagues in the House to remember the important contributions of international students and scholars, noting that in these troubled times, we must redouble our efforts to be a welcoming nation. Using NAFSA’s International Student Economic Value Tool, Connolly shared that in his district alone, “4,978 international students and families contributed $137 million to our local economy, supporting 1,725 jobs.” He continued, “Actions taken by this administration and this President have generated a great deal of fear and uncertainty within academia. It hurts America. I urge us to support more international students to come to our country.”

Other members of Congress joined in, submitting statements for the record that reflected their commitment to making international students and scholars feel welcome. Our thanks go out to:

  1. Representative Michael F. Doyle (PA-14)
  2. Representative Mark Pocan (WI-2)
  3. Representative Zoe Lofgren (CA-19)
  4. Representative Jim Himes (CT-4)
  5. Representative Donald S. Beyer (VA-8)
  6. Representative Jared Polis (CO-2)

These floor statements are a terrific opportunity to show current and potential students and scholars that America values them. NAFSA advocates will certainly lift Connolly’s speech and the statements, but the behind the scenes role of NAFSA advocates themselves is also part of this story. During Advocacy Day back in March, NAFSA members met with their members of Congress, asking them to show their support for an America that reflects NAFSA’s values.

Some of those advocates kept the conversation going with their representatives, making repeated requests and sharing stories of the importance of international students and scholars to their campuses and their communities. The result? A series of messages that can help to reassure our students and colleagues that America still values them.

Even when there is gridlock in Congress, advocacy doesn’t stop. In fact, it can’t. Education, relationship building, and outreach help us create champions on the Hill who can carry the message—whether it is in a floor speech or a piece of legislation—that a global outlook and a commitment to international education makes our country more prosperous, more secure, and better prepared for the future.