A group of 30 US senators and 136 members of Congress – all from the Democratic Opposition Party – urged the administration led by President Donald Trump to reverse his order which prohibits international students from staying in the country if they do not have face-to-face classes to attend the next semester.
In separate letters to the Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Chad Wolf and the Acting Secretary, Immigration and Customs, Matthew Albence on Thursday, lawmakers expressed concern about the recently announced changes by the ICE to the domestic student and visitor exchange (SEVP).
In its July 6 order, the ICE stated that non-immigrant F-1 and M-1 students attending schools operating entirely online or taking only online courses will not be allowed to take a full course load and stay in the United States.
The changes also prevented many students from normally functioning schools from taking more than one class or three hours of online credit in order to stay in the country.
“The announcement by the ICE of its intention to force or expel international students who remain in colleges and universities in the United States and who take a full online course load is cruel and unacceptable,” wrote the senators.
“These students are already in the United States, are established members of educational communities, and have been determined by the visa screening process to be safe for the United States,” he added.
The letter, signed by Senators Robert Menendez, Cory Booker and Indian Senator Kamala Harris, among others, expressed concern that the directions of the ICE were motivated not by public health considerations, but rather by animosity towards non-citizens, immigrants and constitute a blatant attempt. hold international students hostage to force schools to reopen as COVID-19 cases increase.
During the 2018-2019 academic year, there were more than one million international students in the United States.
“We call this policy for what it is: a cruel, senseless and xenophobic attempt to use non-citizens as political pawns to financially force colleges and universities to reopen campuses this fall, despite what is best for public health, “lawmakers continued.
“This policy is dangerous to the health and well-being of many communities,” they said.
The House Letter is co-chaired by MP Linda Sanchez, Chair of the Higher Education and Workforce Investment Subcommittee, Susan Davis, Chair of the House Judicial Committee , Jerrold Nadler, and the chair of the immigration and citizenship subcommittee, Zoe Lofgren.
Observing that students and schools are facing unprecedented challenges, the letter says that ICE announcements only add to these burdens, and potentially put more students at risk.
The ICE SEVP exemptions for the spring and summer semesters allowing students to take more online courses than usual were reasonable given the risks of a pandemic.
“The administration should consider the wisdom of these previous exemptions and stop finalizing their changes,” wrote members of Congress in the letter.
“These changes also failed to reflect on the practical challenges of distance learning for international students,” said the letter.
Students who need to travel to a continent or the other side of the world will need to participate in online courses in time zones located at different times from where they are located, which could have detrimental effects on their education. , their health and livelihoods.
Other students may return to regions where the internet connectivity needed to participate in online courses is insufficient, preventing them from receiving the full value of the education for which they pay, said lawmakers.
For some students, the fact of having to leave the country can lead them to permanently leave school and not to receive a diploma in which they have spent so much time, effort and tuition fees, they continued.
“It will also deprive universities of the income necessary at a time of great financial pressure, which will strain the resources of students who stay in schools and make it more difficult for those who have financial difficulties to respond. In addition, forcing students leaving in a short time will cause financial hardship. Many have housing or auto leases they cannot break, or other financial obligations in the United States, “wrote members of Congress.
The loss of international students, according to the letter, only serves to isolate them at a time when they need the support of their teachers and classmates.
“This policy sends a message to international students that they are not welcome in the United States and does not take into account their well-being and the well-being of student associations. These changes will only further discourage international students from coming to the United States where they enrich campus life. and our society by their talents and contributions, “they said.
The letter is supported by the University of California, Advancing Justice, South Asian Americans Leading Together, Central American Resource Center, Empowering Pacific Islander Communities, National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA) and Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund, among others groups.