Jenkins writes letter to DHS regarding proposed changes limiting international student visas
Observer Staff Report | Tuesday, October 20, 2020
University President Fr. John Jenkins voiced his concerns in a letter marked Saturday regarding proposed changes to a federal policy which would make it more difficult for international students to enroll in schools in the United States.
The letter was addressed to Chad Wolf, the acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The policy intends to limit international and exchange students’ time in the U.S. to a fixed period of two to four years. Students would be able to apply for an extension in this time.
Currently, student visas allow students to remain in the U.S. as long as they continue to be enrolled in school.
With the proposed policy, students who are citizens of countries with high rates of visa overstay — above 10% — along with other designations of students would only be able to apply for two-year visas with the possibility of renewal.
While reports have detailed concerns regarding overinflated data regarding overstays, Jenkins also expressed concerns over the DHS identification of these countries.
“Typically, these are impoverished countries from which few international students manage to enroll in the United States,” Jenkins said. “Among them are Haiti and the Philippines, where the University of Notre Dame has special relationships among the poor. While DHS reports that students from each country are more likely to overstay their visas, Notre Dame has not found that to be the case.”
Jenkins went on to reference the University’s own data on compliance of international students in the 2019-2020 academic year and urged Wolf to examine the records of other U.S. universities as well. Out of the 1,546 international students Notre Dame enrolled last year, Jenkins said only one student failed to return to campus as expected in the spring semester and did not have a record of departure in the government’s reporting system.
“Examining our track records is a fairer and surer way for your department to protect the national security interests of the United States,” Jenkins said. “Notre Dame fully recognizes your obligations in this regard and stands ready to assist you in having international students adhere to their obligations under existing visa requirements.”
Instead of limiting international students’ stays in the U.S., Jenkins suggested the DHS find other ways to resolve the increase of students abroad requesting education at U.S. universities.
“I recognize that your department is responsible for screening these increasing numbers of foreign students,” Jenkins said. “However, DHS funding should be increased to meet the demand rather than restrict wholesale admission of desirable foreign students to our institutions of higher learning.”
The University is expected to submit a formal statement in opposition to the expected changes in the coming days, according to a Tuesday press release.