His PhD research hit close to home

Mason PhD student Ismail Nooraddini (right) with his father, Mohammad, who came to the United States almost 40 years ago to attend college. Photo provided.

When the Supreme Court took up the question of President Trump’s travel ban, Ismail Nooraddini imagined his research would be part of the justices’ deliberations.

How could it not be, the George Mason University PhD student said recently, when his data showed how well immigrants from the banned countries were doing in the United States?

So, when the court upheld the ban and restricted entries from Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen, Nooraddini said he thought, “This doesn’t make any sense.”

Nooraddini, whose field of study is sociology, also has an Iranian background through his father, Mohammad, who came to the United States almost 40 years ago to attend college.

“That was the really weird bit,” said Nooraddini, who was born in the United States, as were his two brothers. “All of a sudden, my past had come to life, and now someone was calling into question all of my father’s hard work.”

For Nooraddini, 31, a graduate research assistant at Mason’s Institute for Immigration Research, there is no question about the value immigrants from the now-banned countries contribute to their new home.

His research, done with the help of project coordinator Michele Waslin, compares native-born U.S. citizens to individuals from the travel-ban countries who previously came to the United States.

Data came from the Integrated Public Use Microdata Sample, which includes data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, though there was no data on North Korea. Additional data came from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Immigration Statistics.

The research showed:

  • The 799,300 foreign-born individuals from travel-ban countries represent just .25 percent of the U.S. population of 325.7 million.
  • Approximately 61 percent of those immigrants are naturalized citizens.
  • Nearly half of foreign-born individuals age 25 and older from travel-ban countries have higher education degrees, compared to 30 percent of native-born U.S. citizens.
  • Ninety percent of foreign-born individuals from travel-ban countries report they are employed.
  • Immigrant household heads from travel-ban countries with households of three report median household incomes of $70,240, about $4,000 more than households headed by native U.S. citizens.
  • Since 1980, foreign-born individuals from travel-ban countries have increased their rates of citizenship (61 percent from 20 percent), property ownership (46 percent from 20 percent) and median income ($70,240 from $46,848).

You can read the entire study here.

“We just wanted to show that by banning this group of immigrants, if they are anything like their countrymates who are already here, we [the United States] are losing out as a country,” Waslin said.

Nooraddini, who said he came to Mason because of its immigrant research and diversity, hopes his findings help frame the immigration debate.

“There is empirical evidence that counters the arguments of this current administration,” he said. “We have the evidence and we need to get it out there.”

“You see these individuals excel in citizenship, education, income, rates of English proficiency,” Nooraddini said. “These are all milestones of what Trump, or people from the right, would say are correct matters of assimilation [that are] not only being marked but surpassed. That is a powerful force behind the very idea that Trump upholds, the idea that we want people who will contribute socially and economically and who love this country.”