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Spanberger Joins Call for Justification for ICE Policy Shift on Foreign Students

July 13, 2020 by Reece Nations
Rep. Abigail Spanberger

WASHINGTON – Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., has joined the growing number of lawmakers calling on Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials to explain their decision to upend the educational plans of thousands of international students holding F-1 and M-1 visas.

Last week the agency prohibited such students from exclusively taking online courses during the fall semester, and threatened to expel them from the country if they do.

Spanberger characterized the move as short-sighted and politically motivated.

“Our Commonwealth is home to colleges and universities that are renowned for the quality education they provide and the cutting-edge research they conduct,” Spanberger said in a statement. “These schools are strengthened each year by the contributions of international students who choose to come to Virginia and the United States.”

“The announcement that ICE will invalidate international student visas for students whose colleges mandate or suddenly move to online learning during the pandemic is unacceptable,” she continued. “These students live and study in our communities, and ordering them to leave will harm not only the individuals, but the schools, towns, and cities where they reside.”

Spanberger joined 136 congressional members who signed a letter addressed to Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf and Director of ICE Matthew Albence, which requested the agencies to provide justification for the policy shift.

While many colleges and universities have yet to decide how to administer their course load next semester, ICE’s policy change undercuts the schools’ ability to respond effectively to the COVID-19 pandemic, the members argued in their letter.

“For some students, being forced to leave the country may lead them to leave school permanently and fail to receive a degree into which they have put so much time, effort, and tuition dollars,” the letter read. “This will also deprive universities of needed revenue at a time of great financial stress, straining resources for the students who remain at schools and make it harder for those with financial challenges to attend.”

“Moreover, forcing students to leave in short order will place financial burdens on them,” the letter continued. “Many have housing or automobile leases that they cannot break, or other financial obligations in the United States.”

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