International students only safe from new ICE guidelines if scheduled in-person classes resume in the fall
Observer Staff Report | Wednesday, July 8, 2020
According to a press release from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on Monday, international students obtaining a college degree in the United States must leave or face deportation if their institution plans on operating entirely online for the 2020 fall semester.
“Active students currently in the United States enrolled in such programs must depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status,” the release said.
In addition, re-entry into the United States will be restricted to students taking a full course load online. International students may take at most one course or three credit hours online to remain in the country.
The decision by ICE comes in the midst of major American universities settling on plans for the fall semester ranging from in-person classes to a completely online semester, with some colleges offering a hybrid mix of the two.
All three administrations in the tri-campus community stated in May their intention to invite undergraduate students back to live on campus, with the majority of classes scheduled to be face-to-face. Even with these plans protecting international students in the tri-campus community from deportation due to invalid visas, students are still having trouble obtaining visas to physically enter the country and reach campus.
In a May 29 letter, University President Fr. John Jenkins urged the Department of State to speed up the student visa process given that the pandemic had sidelined visa interview appointments.
With the Monday update on international student status, Notre Dame vice president and associate provost for internationalization Michael Pippenger expressed that he is “deeply concerned about the new immigration policies announced yesterday and how they might affect our students and community.”
Pippenger added that while the mandatory departure for students with online-only course loads does not apply to Notre Dame students at the moment, the University has sought clarification from the Student Exchange and Visitor Program of ICE.
“We will continue to be in close contact with our international students as we gain clearer understanding,” Pippenger said in an email. “Notre Dame students come from around the world. As always, we will serve them and fight for them so that they can fully and safely access the academic excellence, residential experience and unique spirit of their Notre Dame home.”
Paul Browne, vice president for public affairs and communications, said in an email that the University would work with international students if classes would be moved online during the fall semester.
“We found accommodations for foreign students who were stranded here as a result of the outbreak in the spring. We will continue to accommodate them, as best we can, going forward,” Browne said.
In regards to the new guidelines ICE released, Saint Mary’s “is working with our international students on how these mandates will impact their individual circumstances this fall,” Mana Derakhshani, director of the Center for Women’s Intercultural Leadership and professor of French and Intercultural Studies, said in an email.