ICE: International students must leave U.S. if classes are online only

Harvard president says that the modification undermines the students' commitment to 'advance their education'

Students (adobe)

On Monday, the Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) announced modifications that will remove international students from the country, if their schools go fully online this fall due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has established the new exemptions as a Temporary Final Rule. The exemptions state that nonimmigrant students attending schools operating entirely online may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States.

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Nonimmigrant students who are attending schools with a hybrid model will be allowed to take more than one class online, however, their school must certify their scheduled students through the SEVP.

The rules further state that if a school begins with an in-person model and then converts to all online classes, they must leave the country, or take steps to maintain their nonimmigrant status such as reducing their course load or taking a medical leave.

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Spelman College (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for 20th Century Fox)

“Active students currently in the United States enrolled in such programs must depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status,” read a release from ICE’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program obtained by NPR. “If not, they may face immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings.”

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Fiona McEntee, an immigration lawyer, told NPR that in this time of “unprecedented public health crisis” allowances should be made for these students who contribute to their universities and to the U.S. economy.

Harvard University is one institution that is planning to conduct all classes online. The university’s president, Larry Bacow, called the new ICE policy a “blunt, one-size-fits-all approach to a complex problem.” The university has committed to ensuring its students can continue their studies without “undermining the commitments —and sacrifices— that many of them have made to advance their education.” 

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