Monday guidance from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that would affect many international students has Texas A&M University leaders working on contingency plans for the fall.
ICE announced in a broadcast message that nonimmigrant F-1 and M-1 visa holders in the United States under the Student Exchange Visitor Program will not be allowed to enter or stay in the country if they are attending American schools, as explained in the Texas Tribune, that will offer only online classes this fall. Students in those situations would be required to either transfer to a school with in-person instruction or “potentially face immigration consequences,” the broadcast message states.
Most state universities will fall into a “hybrid” plan with a mixture of in-person and online classes, the Texas Tribune says. For students at those schools, colleges will need to certify to ICE that students are enrolled in the minimum number of classes required to progress through their degree plans at a normal speed and that they are not only taking online classes, the article reads.
And if a school switches to online courses during the semester, the broadcast message states, nonimmigrant students would have to leave the country or transfer to a school with in-person courses.
When it comes to finding ways to assist students who would be affected by the policy, a Texas A&M official said “it starts with understanding the guidance.”
“We are also reviewing the schedules of students to see how they can be adjusted to have face-to-face courses where those are available,” the official stated, “and evaluating if some courses should be face-to-face. We are developing contingency plans should the circumstances change.”
The university is the academic home to more than 6,500 international students, the official said Even before the ICE announcement, A&M Provost and Executive Vice President Carol Fierke told The Eagle in an interview last week that the university was anticipating a “significant decrease” in international students because new students were facing challenges getting visas.
In an email to students, International Student Services at A&M said that the school will work with people so their schedules will have at least one in-person class.
The Association of American Universities President Mary Sue Colemen released a statement Tuesday calling the ICE policy “immensely misguided and deeply cruel to tens of thousands of international students who come to the United States every year.”
Coleman said AAU urges the administration to rescind the guidance, citing massive disruptions in student learning and research, as well as negative economic impacts since “international students spend millions of dollars in our communities every year.”
Dudley L. Poston Jr., A&M emeritus professor of sociology, said he is in favor of welcoming international students, according to a university news release.
“They provide an important diversity to our colleges,” he said in the release. “International students provide a lot of money to the U.S. economy. In 2018, there were just over 1 million international students in the U.S. (about 800,000 undergrad and grad college students). The international students contributed over $45 billion to our economy.”
A&M President Michael K. Young released a statement on Tuesday agreeing with AAU, saying he hoped the policy was rescinded.
“During a global pandemic, we must pull together to continue our educational mission not only at Texas A&M but across our nation,” his statement reads. “For our international students, you are all Aggies. We support you and will keep you informed as we continue to advocate on your behalf.”
Harvard, which had recently announced its move to online instruction for the upcoming school year, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology filed a lawsuit against ICE seeking a temporary restraining order against the policy, the Texas Tribune reported.
Harvard President Lawrence Bacow said the order was cruel and reckless, according to the Associated Press.
“It appears that it was designed purposefully to place pressure on colleges and universities to open their on-campus classrooms for in-person instruction this fall, without regard to concerns for the health and safety of students, instructors and others,” Bacow said in a statement Wednesday, the Associated Press said.
Since the ICE policy was released, Aggies and others have taken to Twitter to remark on A&M’s response to the issue, some commending the university for Young’s recent statement, as other users urge the school to follow Harvard and MIT in pursuing a lawsuit.
In a Wednesday Tweet, A&M’s ISS addressed a message to F-1 international Aggies, saying leaders are working on their behalf regarding the ICE policy.
The post said that ISS will host a Q&A webinar on July 16 at 4 p.m. to address people’s concerns. Questions can be submitted through a survey located on the iss.tamu.edu website. Updates regarding the guidance can also be found on the same site.
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