I N T E R N A T I O N A L – U S E L E C T I O N
Tafhim Radita Ali
This November, the world turned its eyes on the US as they began their 46th presidential elections. Tensions rose within a divided country as Mr Donald Trump and current Presidential Elect Joe Biden faced off against the backdrop of a pandemic and an economic recession. With Biden coming out on top, it’s finally time to look back on us. Or, more specifically, on those of us who live or plan to live in the US.
To look forward, we must first look back. During the Covid-19 pandemic, the Bangladeshi community in New York was one of the hardest hit. With most people being from the working class, many of whom couldn’t afford to stay quarantined without losing their jobs, Bangladeshis struggled to cope this year. Some could not enter already-overfilled hospitals, sometimes due to a language barrier making it difficult to communicate, while others had difficulty simply being tested. This story is a common one among all minority communities throughout the US as the death toll rose and more and more people got infected. For those who survive the crisis, regaining the little security and safety they had before will continue to be a struggle.
It did not help that Ex-President Trump constantly downplayed the crisis, diverting attention away from our people’s suffering to anything else because he was tired of it, as he explicitly stated in an October rally in Arizona. It seemed that the Trump administration had very little idea on how to handle such a wide-spread pandemic and did little to help the country and its occupants – especially the financially poorer ones.
With Biden in office, we can hope that timely decisions will be taken about the situation. Among his campaign promises, Biden stated that he plans on eliminating cost barriers and helping families hit by the virus to get back on their feet. Health policies—many present during Obama’s days, were promised to be brought back — which could help Bangladeshis with other healthcare problems as well.
More than the pandemic, however, was the central issue that is Trumps infamous immigration policies — policies which directly and indirectly effect Bangladeshi migrants. From the very start, Trump made it clear what he thought of foreigners, enacting the “Muslim Ban” which barred people from several Muslim-majority countries from entering the US. After three drafts, the ruling was passed, and continues to be prevalent today.
While Bangladesh doesn’t fall under the countries listed, the principle of the matter is that Trump proven to be Islamophobic, time and time again. Though the general populace of America is accepting, Trump’s actions had given ammunition to pre-existing racists to hate on and hurt Muslims and anyone who remotely looked like one.
Not only that, but getting a visa to simply travel to the US had become difficult over the years. Despite the US economy raking in $41 Billion from international students alone, the government had made it troublesome for foreign-exchange students to study in the US. For those hoping for a student visa, it became important to note that their duration had been shortened to only four years, so seeking to study in US universities for a longer period of time required a renewal, which comes with its own set of problems. While universities tried their best to help international students, many began seeking out other countries to study in.
Student visas were not the only ones effected as Trump had made it clear how he felt about H-1B visas that allows employers to temporarily employ foreign specialists. The eligibility requirements have narrowed significantly, making it near impossible to apply for it. And for those seeking more than that, such as the green-card — Trump continued to implement restrictions. Bangladeshi families have been separated due to various new rules and regulations. Getting visas revoked for something or the other had become a new reality for many.
Trump, coming into a second term of presidency, would most probably have spelled a bleak future for Bangladeshis and other immigrants alike. But with Biden as president, can we hope for anything better?
Biden has stated that he seeks to undo almost all of Trumps policies, bringing in an era similar to what existed during the Obama administration. Furthermore, Biden plans to “Modernise America’s immigration system” by reforming the temporary visa system, protecting foreign workers, and loosening immigration laws. Though enacting these rulings may take time, he promises to forcefully do so to make the US welcoming to immigrants once more. This all comes as a breath of relief to the Bangladeshi community in the US and anyone wishing to study or work there.
And while Biden can’t personally do anything about racists and Islamophobes, he can be a president who sets a precedent for his people. With President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, who is of South Asian descent, the Bangladeshi community in the US can hope for a future shaped by acceptance.
The writer is a part of TDA Editorial Team.