‘I thought so highly of America’: Universities oppose ICE directive

Laura Studley

A new directive given by United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement may not allow international students to remain in the country if their courses are delivered in a fully online environment. 

On July 6, ICE announced that this new policy will impact students with F-1 and M-1 visas. The F-1 visa is given to an academic student whereas the M-1 visa is given to a vocational student; however, both must meet the following criteria to receive a visa.  

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  • You must be enrolled in an “academic” educational program, a language training program, or a vocational program
  • Your school must be approved by the student and exchange visitors program
  • You must be enrolled as a full-time student at the institution
  • You must be proficient in English or be enrolled in courses leading to English proficiency
  • You must have sufficient funds available for self support during the entire proposed course of study
  • You must maintain a residence abroad which you have no intention of giving up.

CSU had planned to transition to online learning after Thanksgiving. An email from CSU President Joyce McConnell states that the University “will take whatever action is necessary to oppose the order and to recalibrate on-campus education after fall break.” 

Additionally, McConnell wrote that the University believes the unforeseen ICE order was a way to pressure universities to fully open campuses, and that it shows a disregard for the health risks surrounding the coronavirus outbreak. 

McConnell wrote that members of the CSU community and its leadership support international students and oppose this “outrageous” new order. 

“This is the latest and perhaps cruelest attack on the educational opportunities of our international students,” the email read. 

Incoming junior Elena Arcaroli explains that she had to sacrifice many things the past four years to be able to study in the U.S., and though she doesn’t regret it, the uncertainty of not knowing if her efforts will be in vain is stressful.

“I think (ICE’s decision is) extremely unfair,” Arcaroli said. “We contribute to the community in so many ways, we work so hard to maintain our legal status. We do everything like we’re supposed to, and they’re still not happy with us.” 

Even though Arcaroli has in-person courses this fall, she cannot travel back to the U.S. from her home in Italy due to current travel bans and will therefore lose her visa because she cannot attend them. 

“It’s just very disappointing to me,” Arcaroli said. “I thought so highly of America.” 

In an open letter against the student ban, CSU students, faculty and staff, along with many others from universities around the U.S., signed showing their opposition of ICE’s decision. 

The letter argues that this policy will uproot the lives of international students, sending them to a place that holds uncertainty for their futures. The letter continues, stating that it is unclear if these students will be able to return to the U.S. to continue their studies. 

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“(ICE’s policy) fails to take into account the profound social and financial investments that international students have made in their often difficult decisions to embark on their educational journeys in the United States,” the letter read.

Signee and CSU postdoctoral fellow Jonah DeChants heard about the open letter through social media, explaining that he signed because the decision is discriminatory.  

DeChants said that international students go through the same admissions processes and pay the same tuition as domestic students. 

“I believe that CSU and all schools should rely on expert opinion in determining when and how to offer face-to-face learning this coming year,” DeChants wrote in an email to The Collegian. “When the Trump administration contradicts those expert opinions, it causes me to conclude that they do not have our students’, international or domestic, best interests at heart.”

According to the requirements given by ICE, a student will be allowed to stay in the U.S. if their education is in-person. 

If courses are delivered using a hybrid method, both online and face-to-face, universities must confirm with the SEVP that “the program is not entirely online, that the student is not taking an entirely online course load this semester and that the student is taking the minimum number of online classes required to make normal progress in their degree program,” using Form I-20

At Colorado State University, there were just over 2,030 on campus last year, according to Vice Provost for International Affairs Kathleen Fairfax.

Fairfax said international students are a vital part of the CSU community, bringing their skills and perspectives to the University. 

“Since CSU is planning for hybrid in-person instruction in the fall, we are hopeful that our students’ ability to maintain their student visas will not be adversely impacted,” Fairfax said. 

The University is currently seeking clarification on several points regarding ICE’s guidance, according to an update from CSU’s international programs. 

The University of Northern Colorado is also inquiring about specifics, according to a message sent to the student body. Like CSU, UNC is moving forward with a hybrid model for the fall semester. 

Universities around the country are standing behind international students, making the decision to join an amicus curiae brief to strengthen the recent lawsuit filed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University on July 8. 

Additionally, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey tweeted that this directive is cruel and illegal and that she would join MIT and Harvard in legal action. 

McConnell also supports these institutions as they sue, stating that CSU will not be silent. 

“We want to be on the record that we support these attempts to block the order,” McConnell’s email read. “Furthermore, yesterday on a call with other presidents of state higher education institutions, I committed to working with these colleagues to oppose the order.”

ICE was unable to provide comment “due to pending litigation,” according to the agency’s acting deputy press secretary, Carissa Cutrell. 

Laura Studley can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @laurastudley_