International Students On Hold In Wake Of Administration’s Deportation Threat

July 9, 2020by Gaspard Le Dem and Reece Nations
Princeton University. (Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON – International students at universities across the country have been rattled and confused by a new Trump administration rule that threatens to deport them if they are unable to attend in-person classes in the fall. 

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency on Monday said that foreign students enrolled in programs taught entirely online must leave the country or transfer to another school that offers in-person classes.

Students who defy the rule by staying in the country will “face immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings,” ICE said in a statement.

President Trump has pressured universities to fully reopen their campuses in the fall, defying advice from his own health experts who say the move could put students and staff at risk during the coronavirus pandemic. 

On Monday, the president said school closures were a politically motivated effort to undermine his re-election campaign. “The Dems think it would be bad for them politically if U.S. schools open before the November Election, but is important for the children & families,” he said in a tweet. “May cut off funding if not open!”

Critics have assailed the new immigration decree as a dangerous effort by the Trump administration to bully universities to resume in-person classes despite a recent resurgence of COVID-19 cases in dozens of states.

Now, with just weeks before classes start, America’s more than 1 million foreign students are scrambling to figure out whether they’ll be allowed to pursue their education or forced to pack up and leave.

“It’s awful,” says Siobhan B., an Irish student at the State University of New York who declined to give her last name for fear of deportation. “It’s just put so many people in such a bad spot.”

Like many institutions, SUNY is pursuing a “hybrid” learning model in the fall that mixes virtual learning with some in-person classes. But Siobhan worries that not all foreign students will be able to register for in-person classes due to limited capacity.

“Every single international student at my school is going to be rambling for a chance to get into whatever in-person classes we’re going to be having,” says the philosophy and biochemistry major. “I highly doubt every single one of them is going to be accommodated.”

On top of losing her education, Siobhan could also be putting her health at risk if she is forced to leave the country due to an underlying lung condition that makes her vulnerable to the coronavirus. “Taking a cross-Atlantic flight back to Ireland would not work for me,” she says. “I can’t fly.”

For foreign students, obtaining a U.S. visa or keeping legal immigration status has become particularly difficult during the coronavirus crisis, Siobhan says. Many U.S. embassies across the world have either closed or stopped issuing visas in the last few months.

“When you’re an immigrant student — even without this administration — you constantly have your status in the back of your head,” says Siobhan. “We’re essentially temporary residents of the country with no legal recourse most of the time. It’s hard being a student here and it’s just gotten worse in the past two years.”

Facing severe budget shortfalls due to campus closures and a drop in enrollment numbers, some U.S. colleges are pushing back against the Trump administration’s new rule.

Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology filed a joint federal lawsuit against DHS and ICE on Wednesday, claiming the new rule “would undermine the education, safety, and future prospects of their international students.”

“We are deeply concerned that the guidance issued today by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement imposes a blunt, one-size-fits-all approach to a complex problem, giving international students, particularly those in online programs, few options beyond leaving the country or transferring schools,” said Harvard President Lawrence Bacow in a statement.

Foreign students contributed nearly $45 billion to the U.S. economy in 2018, making up 5.5% of the total student body at U.S. universities, according to a study published last year by the Institute of International Education.

Martin Basiri, CEO of ApplyBoard, a Canadian website that helps foreign students in U.S. colleges, says his company has received hundreds of calls in the last few days.

“It’s just a lot of anxiety –– a lot of families are worried,” Basiri said. “We are talking about very young people who left their country for a hope of getting a better education,” he added.

Basiri says the timing of the latest DHS ruling leaves many students in the lurch. “Education systems are not designed so that you can easily transfer in your third year or fourth year to another school and continue — especially a month or two before the semester starts,” he says.

Julie Grandjean, a Belgian doctoral student at Texas Tech University, says the current climate for international students in the U.S. has left her feeling “ostracized.”

“I have not told my parents because then they would definitely want me to go back to Belgium right now, which I’m not doing because then I might not be able come back to the U.S. in this situation,” says Grandjean, who is studying visual communications.

Grandjean says she was fortunate to be able to register for an in-person course, though some of her friends weren’t as lucky. “It’s just been very stressful the past couple of days,” she says. ‘It’s been a lot of running around and trying to figure out what to do, how to do it, emailing hundreds of people a day.”

She’s grateful for the help she has received from American friends and from the administration at Texas Tech University. “I feel really supported by my circle, but definitely let down by this administration.”

Education

School Voucher Push Taps Frustration Over Distance Learning
Education
School Voucher Push Taps Frustration Over Distance Learning

ATLANTA (AP) — With her children struggling in many classes last spring, Kelli Rivera became so frustrated with how her suburban Atlanta district was handling the coronavirus pandemic that she withdrew them to home-school them. They're back in public school and mostly attending class in person.... Read More

IAVA Protecting Veterans from Predatory Schools
Veterans
IAVA Protecting Veterans from Predatory Schools
February 22, 2021
by TWN Staff

NEW YORK - The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America kicked off veteran education week this morning, continuing a six-week campaign to highlight the priority issues of its members. Over the course of this week, IAVA is highlighting its advocacy efforts to expand and protect veteran... Read More

How COVID Has Affected Public Opinion on Higher Education
Opinion Polls
How COVID Has Affected Public Opinion on Higher Education
February 17, 2021
by Kate Michael

WASHINGTON — Attitudes toward American colleges and universities may have started evolving before the pandemic set in, but COVID-19 truly upended the higher ed system in ways that are sure to have an impact for years to come.  Through a series of mid-pandemic public opinion research... Read More

Biden Reframes His Goal on Reopening of Elementary Schools
Education
Biden Reframes His Goal on Reopening of Elementary Schools

MILWAUKEE (AP) — President Joe Biden is promising a majority of elementary schools will be open five days a week by the end of his first 100 days in office, restating his goal after his administration came under fire when aides said schools would be considered... Read More

CDC Releases Guidelines for Reopening Schools
In The News
CDC Releases Guidelines for Reopening Schools
February 12, 2021
by TWN Staff

ATLANTA - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday released its long-awaited guidance on safely reopening schools, emphasizing that it is"critical for schools to open as safely and as soon as possible." The top recommendations are what one would expect - the universal wearing... Read More

Report Shows Increased Higher Education Attainment Over Time
Education
Report Shows Increased Higher Education Attainment Over Time
February 11, 2021
by Sara Wilkerson

Earlier this week, the Census Bureau released a report brief that shows higher education attainment levels have increased for Americans over the past 15 years. Data gathered for the report was sourced from the American Community Survey, an ongoing survey initiative under the Census Bureau that... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top