‘Disturbing and Cruel.’ ESW Condemns New Visa Rule for International Students

On July 7, 2020, Endangered Scholars Worldwide learned that this fall, foreign students attending colleges and universities in the US that are operating entirely online will not be allowed to remain in residence in the country. The new temporary final rule prohibits the State Department from issuing visas to any students who are taking all of their courses online for the fall semester, and the US Customs and Border Protection (ICE) will not allow these students to enter or remain in the United States.

The new ruling for the Student and Exchange Visitor Program has stoked anger and confusion from students, faculty, university administrators, and immigration advocates.

International Students at The New School | Photo Credit: The New School Admission Office

“Active students currently in the United States enrolled in such programs must depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status,” read a release from ICE’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program. “If not, they may face immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings.”

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, many American colleges and universities have announced that while they will reopen their campuses in the fall, all instruction will be online. Under the new ruling, therefore, many international students will be prohibited from studying in the United States.

More than one million of the country’s higher education students are international students, according to the nonprofit Institute of International Education.

Harvard University and MIT, now joined by other universities, have initiated a law suit fight the ruling. Harvard President Larry Bacow said in a statement that the ICE policy is “a blunt, one-size-fits-all approach to a complex problem.” He continued:

We must do all that we can to ensure that our students can continue their studies without fear of being forced to leave the country mid-way through the year, disrupting their academic progress and undermining the commitments—and sacrifices—that many of them have made to advance their education, 

The New School President Dwight A. McBride issued a statement to ESW, saying that the “decision to conduct classes online this fall was made out of a prevailing sense of responsibility to prioritize community health and safety, based on the best federal, state, and local guidance available to us. It is important that any federal policy respect such prudence, protect the important educational needs of international students, and avoid causing additional, serious challenges for colleges and universities as well as our nation’s ability to attract and retain great global talent.”

The ICE guidelines, labeled by the Association of American Universities as “deeply misguided,” were announced Monday, with President Trump saying on Tuesday that he plans to pressure state governors and schools to hold in-person classes this fall while claiming that schools that have decided to hold all classes online are “ridiculous” and taking the “easy way out.”

ESW joins with the many universities protesting these new rulings. We believe that the Trump administration should allow all international students with valid visas to continue their education regardless of whether they are receiving online or in person education during this unprecedented global health crisis. We believe that the new policy will inevitably harm scores of talented young people and do great damage to our institutions of higher education.

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