WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Monday, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) released new guidance limiting international students’ ability to stay in the United States this fall.
International students whose colleges and universities opt to move classes completely online for the upcoming semester will not be allowed to stay in the country, according to ICE.
Students who are abroad won’t be permitted to return to the U.S. if their schools choose to move to a remote format, and those international students who are still in the U.S. will need to either return home or transfer to another school that offers in-person instruction.
The guidance, which is from ICE’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), comes as the number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. is reaching new records. Many countries have put travel restrictions in place to minimize visitors from the U.S., the country that has been hardest hit by COVID-19.
The guidance may be challenged in court, according to immigration experts.
International students who are not in the U.S. and whose schools are going completely online won’t be issued new visas and won’t be able to enter the country. While the guidance isn’t yet enacted, many people looking to travel to the U.S. are already having trouble scheduling visa appointments at consulates.
“I was expecting [the Trump administration] to do this in a different way, which is to continue to choke the ability to apply for visas at the consulates abroad,” immigration lawyer Matthew Kolken said. “This is more definitive and is more forward-thinking because it would require a subsequent administration to publish new regulations in order to undo this.”
The new regulation comes on the heels of multiple immigration restrictions that have been put in place since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
President Trump is also expected to begin attempts to end the DACA program once again this week.
College students, faculty, and others expressed shock and anger on Twitter this afternoon:
The Trump administration is using ICE to threaten universities into teaching in person by threatening international students with deportation if they're all online. This is a death to Americans policy, in addition to a massive fuck you to intl students.https://t.co/VXS2Q4yiMA pic.twitter.com/NeK9rVrISt
— #JusticeforBreonna Prescod-Weinstein ??♀️ (@IBJIYONGI) July 6, 2020
abolish ICE and shame its agents publicly pic.twitter.com/qOO3QrwwOt
— Gretchen Felker-Martin (@scumbelievable) July 6, 2020
He is using international students as bargain chips with colleges in order to achieve this
— Luis Monroy-Gómez-Franco (@MGF91) July 6, 2020
A new ICE rule says international students in the US on visas will have to attend face-to-face classes or leave the country. This is a wildly horrible idea in the middle of a global pandemic. Call your representatives. Make some noise on behalf of a group that has few protections https://t.co/SrzuZ4gdCY
— Ellie Murray (@EpiEllie) July 6, 2020
Democratic politicians also weighed in:
ICE is now trying to deport students enrolled in colleges and universities that are teaching exclusively online due to COVID-19.
This is needlessly cruel and must be challenged in court. https://t.co/aEVnrneIt2
— Julián Castro (@JulianCastro) July 6, 2020
So now ICE is in the business of college admissions?!
This is pointless and overbroad. If a student has lawfully obtained a visa, ICE has no business denying it based on an individual school's #COVID19 policy.
Keep ICE out of our colleges! https://t.co/Eo31MVXM72
— JustinBrannan (@JustinBrannan) July 6, 2020
Ana Lucía Murillo is a journalist based in Washington, D.C. and the 2020 summer correspondent for Latino Rebels. She tweets from @analuciamur.