U.S. Senators Bob Menendez, Cory Booker (both D-N.J.), Jimmy Panetta joined a group of colleagues of 136 Congressman and 30 senators, all from opposition Democratic party to urge Trump administration to roll back its decision to strip international students of their U.S. visa if they do not have in-person classes to attend. Indian origin Kamala Harris is among this group who have condemned the “cruel ” order.
In another concerned letter to the Acting Secretary, Department of Homeland Security, Chad Wolf and Acting Secretary, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE ) Mathew Albence, the lawmakers expressed concern over the ICE’s recently announced modifications to SEVP (Students Exchange and Visitor Program).
On Monday, July 6th order, the ICE announced a temporary rule, declaring the non-immigrant F-1 and M-1 students taking classes fully online will not be permitted to take a full course load and remain in the United States.
The modifications in the order also limited many international students at normally operating schools from taking more than one class or three credit hours online in order to remain in the country.
The Members wrote, “Because ICE failed to provide any justification for its guidance, it is unclear what problems these new rules are designed to solve. It is obvious, however, that the guidance will impede attempts by colleges and universities to respond effectively to the COVID-19 pandemic, thus endangering the health of students, teaching assistants, professors, and others.”
The letter, which is signed by Senator Robert Menendez, Cory Booker and Harris, expressed concern that the ICE’s guidance is motivated not by the public health considerations, but rather by animus towards immigrants and non – citizens and is a flagrant attempt to hold international students hostage in order to force schools to reopen even as COVID-19 cases are rising.
“We call out this policy for what it is: a cruel, senseless, and xenophobic attempt to use non-citizens as political pawns in order to financially coerce colleges and universities to reopen campuses this fall, despite what is best for public health,” the lawmakers continued.
“This policy is dangerous to the health and well-being of numerous communities,” they said.
The letter also says that ” The announcement also raises questions of how ICE and DHS plan to treat international students in various scenarios under the new modifications:
- If a student is taking in-person courses that must suddenly move online due to local orders, will that student be required to leave the country?
The letter is co-led by Congresswoman Linda T. Sánchez (CA-38), Higher Education and Workforce Investment Subcommittee Chairwoman Susan A. Davis (CA-53), House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (NY-10), and Immigration and Citizenship Subcommittee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (CA-19).
Observing that the students and schools are facing unprecedented challenges, the letter said that ICE’s announcements only add to these burdens, and potentially put more students at risk.
By Rashmi Sharma