The following “breaking news” bulletin issued by Ware Immigration, a well-known firm in the field that has been practicing immigration & nationality law since 1982, is the most spot-on characterization I’ve seen so far of the 6 July 2020 ICE (Student and Exchange Visitor Program/SEVP) ruling that Students attending schools operating entirely online may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States. (My bold.) You can get it from the horse’s mouth (PDF) and/or read this informative Politico article Trump administration bars international college students if their school’s classes are all online – Colleges could be in a tough spot if they want to keep international students enrolled.
New ICE Policy Cuts Students, Schools Off at the Knees
A new policy announced July 6, 2020 via a Broadcast Message to schools, effectively ends the COVID accommodation to international students and their host schools by disallowing completely online coursework for the fall semester. Students can continue to take the “minimum number” of online classes necessary to make satisfactory progress towards a degree, but must otherwise take in person or hybrid (partly in person) classes. This leaves schools with just a few weeks to devise in person or hybrid classes for such students, and equally leaves students little time to find another institution offering appropriate courses. This new policy could force many schools to disregard public health mandates at the state and local levels, where the corona virus is resurging, as well as disregard their own liability and the health of their students, faculty and staff, not just international students. Finally, students unable to study in the US in their final semester will be ineligible for Optional Practical Training, thus cutting off any opportunity to remain and work in the US after graduation. This a last minute policy change, pulling the rug out from under students and schools finalizing fall plans. Hopefully someone, somewhere will litigate this devastating, untimely and unwise change.
WTF X 3
This Twitter thread by Jenny Lee, a University of Arizona professor of higher education specializing in global higher education, migration and borders, and international students & scholars, pretty much sums up this dismal, catch-22 situation:
Three more relevant Tweets:
Last but not least, this announcement also lit up NAFSA-related email exchanges. Here’s a fairly representative reaction from a colleague in the US Northeast. “Devastating” was a word used in more than one response.
I know at my institution we are devastated at this news. We have decided to go completely remote with the exception of a tiny number of special programs labs that are required for accreditation. Unfortunately, as there is not a single current F-1 student in a program like that, I am currently writing an email to all of our F-1s giving them the option of transferring or going home.
We are additionally very alarmed as well. I cannot begin to imagine what this will mean for so many schools who are trying to responsibly react to this pandemic, only to be seriously punished with this guidance. This will be a huge loss of not only revenue, but an enormous loss for so many students who will be irrevocably affected by this. Also, reissuing a huge amount of I-20s in less than a month? Yikes.
While this could be the wheels of the xenophobic, anti-immigrant Trump administration turning, totally oblivious to the many nasty and counterproductive implications of doing an administrative about-face from its previous COVID-19-related “temporary exemptions” a month before the new academic year begins, no less, it also appears to have Stephen Miller’s filthy, racist paw prints all over it. (Based on the above Tweet, Eric Feigl-Ding agrees with me.) Yes, that Stephen Miller (skip ahead to 12:05), the resident White House white supremacist whose official title is “senior adviser to the president.” (His position is a white supremacist’s dream: to be able to do so much damage in such a short period of time.)
Postscript and Call for Action: Miller identifies as Jewish, living proof that racism – like politics – makes strange bedfellows. I can’t help but wonder if this identification would put him at odds with fellow white supremacists who happen to identify as neo-Nazis, Hitler salute, Holocaust denial, and all. If the spirit moves you, drop Stephen a line and let him know what you think: email@example.com.
While you’re at it, why not give Matthew T. Albence, Deputy Director and Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Director (“Acting Director” in plain English), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Department of Homeland Security, and/or Rachel E. Canty, Director, Student and Exchange Visitor Program, ICE, a piece of your mind: firstname.lastname@example.org & Rachel.E.Canty@ice.dhs.gov.
Shalom (שלום), MAA