A new directive by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement(ICE) announced on Monday threatens to strip international college students of their U.S.visas if they are not enrolled in any in-person classes. This has stirred panic and prompted extreme confusion amongst the massive communities of international students in the U.S.
What is the rule?
The policy notes that foreign students already studying in digital-only programs would need to exit the country promptly or shift to an in-person school to pursue their schooling lawfully. The note does not clearly differentiate between undergraduates and graduates. Students who go to schools offering “normal in-person classes” may remain, but they can not take upwards of “one or three hours of credit online”. In the 2018-2019 academic year, over 202,000 Indian students were studying at American universities.
What options do students have?
In effect, this indicates that Indians who are officially enrolled in schools or programs that are completely digital for the fall semester would have to leave the country. If they find different loopholes by going to a school that provides “in-person training” or contact classes, or choose “acceptable medical leave” only then they will be allowed to stay back.
Students who had returned to India because the pandemic prompted the closure of American campuses would not be allowed to enter the US because their classes are completely virtual. The same would be true for potential(or new) students who want to enroll in the fall semester.
Multiple student visa holders, who are still very far from home and have few means of support, worry that they will have no alternative but to conform to the current ICE law. The declaration from SEVP may motivate potential students to defer their admissions to the next term. The already active or registered students may very well take into account dropping a semester. Indians, after the Chinese, are the second-largest foreign student community in the US.
As per a QS survey of overseas applicants in June, owing to the COVID-related unpredictability, more than half of those surveyed planned to postpone or defer their enrollment into international schools until next year. The updated US rules would only further consolidate this aim, meaning that US university revenues, particularly all those that have declared an online fall semester, are guaranteed to dip.
How did the universities react?
As U.S. colleges closed down due to the evolving coronavirus earlier in the year and, they switched the spring/summer classes to a completely virtual experience. Since that time, ICE also chose to allow visa kids to attend several classes online than normally allowed. The declaration of July 6 revokes that allowance, although the outbreak in the United States has nowhere been stalled.
On Wednesday, universities like Harvard and MIT have pushed back on the order by filing lawsuits, asking a federal court to intervene and prevent ICE from implementing the outrageous new law. Harvard University President Lawrence Bacow has stated, “The order came down without notice —its cruelty surpassed only by its recklessness.” He even went on to say that the rule was only designed to pressure colleges to open in fall semesters, “without regard to concerns for the health and safety of students …, and others.”
Why has it been introduced?
Under the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) didn’t imply anything about the factors for reviewing the exemptions that had been allowed during the peak phase of the pandemic. The press release simply stated that there is “a concordant necessity to restore the carefully constructed safeguards enforced by federal legislation,” because several colleges and universities intend to reopen for the fall term.
The White House initiative is being used as an attempt to force institutions to reopen their doors and drop the prudent strategies that others have declared would be followed to limit transmission of COVID-19.
What will be its effect on America?
The policy comes at a precarious time when the US has been reaching a new high daily, about its number of infections, with over 300,000 new cases already reported since the start of July. In the middle of it all, students are scrambling to solidify their statuses while universities are relooking their fall reopening policies.
The result of its implementation could be a drastic drop in the number of foreign students registering in the fall semester. Along with disruptions in the issuance of visas as a consequence of the pandemic, immigration commentators believe the proposed regulations, that should be approved this month, may prevent several students overseas from entering American universities where they already pay full tuition. This will severely hit the economy of the American educational system. Apart from this, the exceptional diversity of the student bodies across universities foster enterprise and innovation, even expanding America’s soft power infinitely.
What does the White House think?
The Trump administration has demanded that, as swiftly as possible, colleges and universities come back to the physical classroom. “SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!” “Trump tweeted on Monday briefly after SEVP announced the latest recommendations.
At a Tuesday White House gathering, President Trump sharply criticized and opposed attempts to conduct online classes by Harvard as well as other schools. “I think it’s ridiculous. I think it’s an easy way out. They ought to be ashamed of themselves,” he said.