Over One Million Foreign Students Risk Being Deported if Colleges Transition To Online Learning

Posted on 07/10/20

On Monday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced that if Universities transition into online-only learning, foreign students would be forced to leave the country or face deportation.This comes as over a million foreign students are currently pursuing degrees at American intuitions, and with schools eyeing to return in two months, the policy could drastically postpone their educational endeavors. The new move would not only affect foreign students but would include those traveling to the United States for training and vocational programs.

Some major universities across the country have already made decisions to return for the fall semester in a blended online and in-person lecture format. Harvard recently announced its plan to hold all classes online, including for students who live on campus. For foreign students, this jeopardizes their student visas forcing them to leave back home if lectures are left online. “There’s so much uncertainty. It’s very frustrating,” said Valeria Mendiola, 26, a graduate student at Harvard. “If I have to go back to Mexico, I can go back, but many international students just can’t.”

In Monday’s statement, ICE stated that students who qualify for certain visas “may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States,” adding, “The U.S. Department of State will not issue visas to students enrolled in schools and/or programs that are fully online for the fall semester nor will U.S. Customs and Border Protection permit these students to enter the United States.” The new policy would not bar student visas to those institutions that will offer a hybrid course structure. The agency also suggested that students enrolled in institutions that are currently only offering online class structures should also consider transferring to other institutions that offer hybrid or full classes on campus to avert deportation.

The vice president of the American Council of education, Mr. Brad Farnsworth was taken aback by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agencies announcement. “We think this is going to create more confusion and more uncertainty,” said Farnsworth. Mr. Farnsmouth’s organization represents nearly eighteen hundred universities and colleges across the country. “What we were hoping to see was more appreciation for all the different possible nuances that campuses will be exploring.” One of many concerns for large institutions is that if Covid-19 cases increase during the fall semester, and those institutions that offered in-person classes could be forced to transition into online learning similar to that of the Spring semester. Visa restrictions on students have continuously been strict, barring online learning as a form of legally obtaining a student visa.

Harvard University President Larry Bacow stated that “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.” Bacow continued that new policy, “undermines the thoughtful approach taken on behalf of students by so many institutions, including Harvard, to plan for continuing academic programs while balancing the health and safety challenges of the global pandemic.”

Over the past several months, the Trump Administration has continued to use the coronavirus as cover for enacting some of the country’s strictest immigration policies in modern history. The draconian measures taken by the Trump Administration to limit the number of immigrants and continue its exclusion blanket of certain groups of immigrants should not go unnoticed. Neither the coronavirus pandemic nor the supposed wage effects can justify the categorical ban of immigrants into the United States and Connecticut especially. Such actions are counterproductive and hurt immigrants who are seeking legal protection in the United States. The constitutional power grab by the president must not go unnoticed.

Start a Case Review with a Connecticut Immigration Lawyer

The best way to assert your rights as an undocumented immigrant in Connecticut is by retaining the help of an attorney with a thorough understanding of immigration law at the Law Offices of James A. Welcome. We know your rights and can provide you with effective legal representation after you have not been treated with the protection you deserve. We know what is on the line and can help you through the process of asserting your constitutional rights. Reach out today.