AU applauds repeal of ICE ban on online studies for international students
A controversial directive that would have banned foreign students, including those at the University of Arizona, from taking online courses in the United States has been repealed.
Last week, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said international students would not be allowed to enter or stay in the country unless they had attended classes in person. Several universities and colleges had already made plans to stay fully online for the fall semester in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
The policy has faced a series of legal challenges from institutions across the country, including the University of Arizona. The three public universities in the state joined a class action lawsuit this week.
But the fight ended on Monday, when a Massachusetts district court announced that the Trump administration had agreed to reverse the policy ahead of the first hearing against him.
In a statement, UA President Robert Robbins said the university was pleased with the decision.
“We are thrilled that the Trump administration has rescinded these guidelines and that international students don’t have to choose between their education and their health and safety,” the statement said. “This change rightly recognizes our international students for their perseverance and determination to complete their study plans. We are very pleased to welcome international students back to the University of Arizona, and we look forward to We are committed to ensuring that they are treated fairly.”
Jeremy Fiel, assistant professor of sociology at UA, said the policy was the latest in a long line of hurdles for international students.
“International students have been kind of tortured over the past few years,” he said. “There have been constant threats of bans or restrictions on certain types of visas, and once the pandemic hits, if they leave the country, they’re not sure they can come back.”
Fiel and other UA instructors have been outspoken in their opposition to the policy since it was first rolled out by ICE last week. Fiel said it was a relief to see it repealed, but many students still wonder if a different policy will appear in its wake. Others wonder if they will be allowed to work in the United States after graduation or if they will have obtained visas to stay in the United States.
“This policy appears to be uniformly bad, I haven’t heard of a single constituency that has benefited from it,” he said. “We have relationships with these students and we couldn’t do our job without them.”
Robbins had echoed that sentiment earlier this week in a statement outlining the vital role played by international students at the university.
“Many of our 3,700 international graduate and undergraduate students remained in this country during the pandemic to ensure their education was not interrupted by visa issues,” the statement said. “We see this as a sign of their determination and commitment to study in the United States at a top research university, and this advice puts our international students unnecessarily at risk.”