California Democratic congressman and former presidential candidate Eric Swalwell said Thursday that the Biden administration should consider expelling Russian students from the United States in retaliation for Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
Swalwell suggested during a CNN interview that sanctioning the Russian president personally and removing Russia from the international banking system should “be on the table,” but went even further.
“Frankly, I think closing their embassy in the United States, kicking every Russian student out of the United States, those should all be on the table,” Swalwell told CNN. “And Vladimir Putin needs to know that every day that he’s in Ukraine, there are more severe options that could come.”
Swalwell later responded to a Fox News article about his comments, saying. “Looks like they miscalculated America. We don’t root for Russia. You bet wrong.”
There were more than 4,800 Russian students studying in the United States as of 2021, according to the Institute of International Education.
Swalwell drew criticism from the left as well. The Gravel Institute, a left-wing anti-war advocacy group which has criticized Putin’s invasion, said Swalwell’s suggestion was an “absolutely atrocious idea.”
“Ordinary people should not be punished for the actions of their government,” the Gravel Institute tweeted Friday.
Swalwell is the first lawmaker to advocate for kicking Russian students out of the country, but his call echoes efforts from some Republicans to do the same to Chinese students.
The Trump administration moved in December 2020 to cancel the visas of Chinese graduate students in the U.S. who had attended undergraduate schools tied to the People’s Liberation Army, including some prestigious traditional schools, the New York Times reported at the time. The Chinese government said in September that at least 500 Chinese students have been rejected due to the policy, according to the Christian Science Monitor.
There were more than 317,000 Chinese students who studied in the U.S. during the 2020/2021 academic year, according to the Institute of International Education.
Biden has so far not taken up Swalwell’s suggestion, but he announced a new round of sanctions on Russia during a Thursday speech, including sanctions on several large Russian banks who have a combined $1 trillion in assets and expanding sanctions against Russian oligarchs and their families. Biden is also joining an emergency NATO summit on Friday morning.
“We have purposefully designed these sanctions to maximize the long-term impact on Russia and to minimize the impact on the United States and our allies,” Biden said Thursday. “We will limit Russia’s ability to do business in dollars, euros, pounds and yen—to be part of the global economy.”
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