In light of backlash from universities around the country, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has decided to maintain guidelines that allow international students to stay in the United States, regardless of the status of their classes.
This decision is a reversal of new rules by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), announced by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on July 6. Originally, the SEVP planned to deport international students holding F-1 or M-1 visas if their classes were to be held entirely online.
The original guidelines faced opposition from other universities, including Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) filing a lawsuit in federal court. Since then, over 200 universities have backed the lawsuit, and several attorney generals planned to sue, according to Boston’s WBUR-FM. In a statement on July 15, Donald Nieman, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, revealed that New York State Attorney General Letitia James also filed a lawsuit in federal district court against the new rules.
Asan Anarkulov, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering and international student from Kyrgyzstan, was relieved to see the results of the lawsuits.
“During the Harvard and MIT hearing in the lawsuit against ICE and DHS, I was at a store getting groceries when I looked at my phone and saw a couple of missed calls and messages,” Anarkulov wrote. “I knew something major had happened. When I learned of the rescinding of the rules, immediately I was overjoyed and felt less anxious.”
Despite this, Anakrulov wrote that he is still concerned at the targeting of international students.
“I also felt somewhat disheartened and demoralized because I wish international students were not targeted that way to begin with,” Anarkulov wrote. “We face tremendous challenges in America in pursuit of education. In the back of my mind, I know there will be more adversities for us to overcome. But for now, I celebrate this grand moment ”
Although it remains unclear if the DHS will impose any other restrictions, Nieman approved of the DHS’s decision while supporting international students and their advocates in his statement.
“This [decision] recognizes the value that international students bring to our campus, community and country, and the special difficulties they face studying abroad in the midst of a global pandemic, “ Nieman wrote. “I thank staff in the President’s Office and the Office of International Education and Global Affairs for their work with our elected federal officials and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities to advocate for reconsideration of the guidelines.”
In response to ICE’s past changes, Binghamton University expressed support for international students. In previous emails, Patricia Bello, director of ISSS and assistant provost for international education and global affairs, and Nieman have expressed their willingness to help international students, also citing BU’s commitment to a hybrid model for classes.
However, there is a chance BU could go fully online if coronavirus cases were to rise. Because of this, many international students were still worried about their futures.
“We still have many difficulties to overcome as we plan for the fall semester,” Nieman wrote. “This decision means that there is one fewer!”
Anarkulov added that he hopes people will vote in Novemember to make an impact on these types of issues.
“I am immensely thankful to everyone who stood with us during this crisis by spreading awareness, signing petitions, calling congressmen and simply checking up on us to see how we are doing,” Anarkulov wrote. “I encourage everyone to continue learning about important issues, to help educate others and to prepare for November. Voting is the most effective activism.”