The Cruelty of ICE’s Policy for International Students

by | Jul 9, 2020 | Paying for College

After barring travelers, including students, from a half-dozen predominantly Muslim countries, and efforts to impose limits on Chinese students, the Trump administration continues its vicious assaults on legal immigration and higher education. 

In the midst of the Trump administration’s botched management of the pandemic, schools made the responsible decision to shift from in-person to remote learning.

However, that response is now the target of new U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) guidance.

In an announcement made Monday, ICE stated that foreign students attending schools operating entirely online in the Fall will have to leave the US or face deportation.

Prior to this decision, ICE had issued temporary exemptions, allowing foreign students to stay in the US while continuing their education remotely in the Spring and Summer.

Not extending this exemption to the Fall semester is cruel and unconscionable.

As Ted Mitchell, President of the American Council on Education said in a statement on Monday, this is “horrifying.” 

With so much uncertainty and an ever-changing landscape, it leaves international students scrambling with impossible decisions.

Hundreds of thousands will either have to return to their home countries, where they may not have the means or the infrastructure necessary to keep up with their online education or transfer to a school that offers enough in-class learning to qualify for a visa.

But even then, as the pandemic continues to rage on, schools may choose to switch to an all-online education. This will put more international students at risk of deportation.

Many will see no choice but to leave the US or transfer to an institution in their home country or a more welcoming country.

Even still, this may not be an option for many students. Theresa Cardinal Brown, director of immigration and cross-border policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center points out the challenge.

“The bigger issue is some of these countries have travel restrictions on and they can’t go home, so what do they do then? It’s a conundrum for a lot of students.” 

Not to mention the huge blow to American higher education institutions this would be. Tuition and fees alone from foreign students bring $2.5 billion yearly to our higher education institutions.

To say nothing of the greater negative impact on our overall economy: international students studying at U.S. colleges and universities contributed $41 billion and supported 458,290 jobs to the U.S. economy during the 2018-2019 academic year.

We urge ICE to reverse its decision and extend the temporary exemptions to the fall semester. It is the right thing to do for our colleges, and for the international students, we invite and welcome every year to our classrooms.

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