We're losing billions of dollars and thousands of jobs over inflammatory Trump language that's caused many foreign students and tourists to avoid us.

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President Trump’s incendiary, xenophobic rhetoric — often masquerading as homeland security policy — corresponds directly with recent declines in U.S. favorability abroad and overall global confidence in U.S. leadership.

Over the past year, there has been a stark decline in the number of international visitors to the U.S. and international students enrolled in American universities, a stunning reversal of the growth in both sectors in recent years. This troubling trend has come to be known as the “Trump Slump.”

Trump launched his campaign for president with inflammatory speech about Muslims, immigrants and many other diverse communities inside and outside America. His two signature homeland security campaign promises were “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” and a Mexican-funded “big, beautiful wall” on our southern border.

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During the campaign, many dismissed his provocative language as political theater and believed that the presidency would bring about sensibility. But just a week into his tenure, Trump issued an executive order banning travel to the U.S. for nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Since he took office, the volume of visitors to the U.S. has dropped by 4%, even as international tourism worldwide grew by a remarkable 7%. According to a recent study by the United Nations, the U.S. has been overtaken by Spain as the second most visited country. 

Tourism from Mexico alone, which comprised approximately a quarter of all international arrivals in 2016, is down 8.5%, according to the Commerce Department. Some travel experts have begun to warn that the U.S. travel industry is on the precipice of another “lost decade,” a reference to the 10 years following 9/11 when many travelers felt unsafe and unwelcome.

The Trump Slump must not be taken lightly. These declines are costing the U.S. billions with a direct negative effect on the economy and job market. With tens of millions of foreign travelers coming to the U.S. every year, international spending directly supports 1.2 million American jobs.

The tourism industry is the seventh largest employer in the U.S. and nearly 84% of travel companies identified themselves as small businesses. Travel experts estimate that the Trump Slump has led to a loss of 40,000 jobs with a $4.6 billion hit to our economy.

In higher education, 86% of respondents in a recent survey agreed or strongly agreed that, “the statements and policies of President Trump make it more difficult to recruit international students.”

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According to another survey, issued in November 2017, there was a 7% decline in enrollment by new international students last fall. International students contribute not only financially to universities and the U.S. economy, lightening the financial burden on domestic students, but they also expose our students to diverse world views, contributing to a rich educational experience that goes beyond the classroom.

In response to the Trump Slump, the travel industry has recognized the impact and recently announced a new “Visit U.S.” initiative. Similarly, over 350 colleges, universities and educational organizations are participating in a Twitter campaign using the hashtag #YouAreWelcomeHere to reassure international students that American universities are safe and diverse.

Clearly, the tourism and education sectors recognize what is at stake should Trump continue down this reckless and appalling path. It is time for the president’s supporters to acknowledge that his continued use of racially-charged, xenophobic language, including his vulgar characterization about Haiti and the 54 countries on the African continent, undermines our standing in the world and hurts our economy. 

It is time too for Congress to stand up to the president and speak out about the Trump Slump. Our nation’s reputation and economic future demand it.

Rep. Bennie G. Thompson of Mississippi is the senior Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee. Follow him on Twitter: @BennieGThompson

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