ICE to F-1 and M-1 International Students: “Transfer to a university offering in-person classes in fall 2020 or return home/face deportation.”

July 10, 2020 / PSU-AAUP

According to the Department of Homeland Security/ICE announcement on Monday, July 6th, international students will not be allowed to remain in the U.S. and take fully online courses in Fall 2020. Students in mainstream undergraduate or graduate classes must be enrolled at a university that offers in-person classes or hybrid online/in person classes, with a requirement to take at least one hybrid or in-person class. Furthermore, students in Intensive English Programs (IEPs), such as the Intensive English Language Program (IELP) at Portland State University, will not be allowed to take ANY online courses and must return home or transfer to a university offering in-person instruction only. 

This policy reverses the exemptions that were made for students during Spring and Summer 2020 terms in response to COVID-19. Regulations are set to revert back to pre-COVID-19 rules, which will effectively push all IELP students out of the U.S., and will have similar devastating effects on students in mainstream courses of study should they be enrolled in a program that is planning to be online in Fall 2020. 

This development is problematic in a multitude of ways. Firstly, this mandate puts unconscionable pressure on students and universities to make decisions that stand in direct contrast to prevailing public health guidance regarding the safety and well being of all involved. Furthermore, with international travel restrictions in various parts of the world, some students may not be able to travel home. In addition, the emotional toll and devastating impact on students, faculty, and research will reverberate for years to come. Our international students are valued members of the PSU community, contributing greatly to our research and teaching missions. Many of our students have relocated along with their families to the United States during their pursuit of higher education. Beyond the harm to PSU, asking these students & families to uproot their lives on a moment’s notice, and in the middle of a global pandemic, is unconscionable.  

While efforts are already underway to challenge this decision, via lawsuits from Harvard and MIT and the UC System, the open letter being circulated by faculty, and pushback from international educators (see more below), we can not rest on our laurels and just hope for the best. 

PSU-AAUP urges you to contact your representatives to urge them to oppose these changes. Here is a sample letter you are free to use to get you started. Please note that phone calls to your representatives are the most effective way to get the message out.

PSU-AAUP also endorses and encourages you to sign on to this open letter on behalf of faculty across the U.S. that is circulating widely, which condemns this decision and outlines the harmful effects it will have on international students and universities across the country. 

PSU-AAUP stands in solidarity with our international students in direct opposition to this announcement, and urges individual educators and PSU administration to do the same. For more details, please see the links below.

ICE/SEVP Announcement

New York Times

NAFSA (National Association for Foreign Student Affairs): Association of International Educators statement on the ICE/SEVP announcement 

Joint Statement from EnglishUSA, TESOL International Association, and UCIEP Opposing ICE Guidance on International English Language Program Students for Fall 2020

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