Academics, immigrant bodies, lawmakers oppose international student ban

Foreign students contribute $45 billion to US economy, support 460,000 jobs.

From academics to immigrant bodies to lawmakers all are up in arms against a new US policy that would force foreign students to leave the US if their universities offered online only courses.

Indian-American Senator Kamala Harris and House member Pramila Jayapal, have joined 100 fellow Democratic lawmakers in demanding a reversal of the rule which they have condemned as ‘irrational, xenophobic and a health risk’ to the community.

Two prestigious educational Institutions, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of

Technology (MIT) have filed a lawsuit against the rule with the University of Southern California (USC) joining an amicus brief in strong support.

Several other universities have condemned the policy with more than 15,000 academics signing an Open Letter Against the Student Ban organized by Boston University sociologist Heba Gowayed in opposition to this “cruel policy.”

RELATED: Harvard, MIT sue US authorities for barring online-only foreign students (July 8, 2020)

Another petition for anyone, not just faculty, in support of a million plus panic stricken foreign students, including some 250,000 from India, has garnered almost 200,000 signatures, according to

“We, faculty at institutions across the United States, condemn the Immigration and Customs

Enforcement (ICE) decision” that bars International Students with F-1 and M-1 visas from remaining in the US if they take only online classes, it says.

“To protect our university staff, students and workers (during the covid-19 pandemic) , some universities have chosen to go entirely online,” the letter noted.

“If universities change course based on this ICE decision, it would mean putting their other students and faculty at risk, forcing all back into classrooms during a pandemic.”

Calling the new policy “discriminatory,” the letter says, “ It fails to take into account the profound social and financial investments that international students have made in their often difficult decisions to embark on their educational journeys in the United States.”

RELATED: Foreign students face deportation if US schools go online (July 7, 2020)

“What’s more, this policy is economically dangerous for our country, particularly in the context of the current financial crisis,” the letter said noting  a million plus foreign students “are drivers of our national economy.”

It cited a Commerce Department report that puts international student contributions to the United States economy at $45 billion in 2018.

A 2019 report shows that 62% of all international students receive the majority of their funds from sources outside of the US, the letter noted.

Calling on ICE to rescind its decision, the academics asked “our university leaders to join us in prioritizing this issue, advocating for our students, and coming up with a quick response that minimizes the impact on international students so they do not have to make the impossible choice to return to their home countries in the context of a global pandemic.”

“We as educators reject the artificial distinction between foreign and domestic students, which undermines the pursuit of both knowledge and justice,” the letter said.

According to a report issued by the State Department and the Institute of International Education (IIE), international students made up 5.5% of the entire US higher education enrollment in 2018-19 school year.

Foreign students also supported around 460,000 jobs in the US in the 2018-19 academic year, estimates NAFSA, an international education advocacy group.

The majority of these jobs are in higher education itself, but accommodation, retail, transportation, and health insurance also benefit, it concludes.

Several other bodies have supported the reversal of the new ICE rule. These include Advancing Justice, South Asian Americans Leading Together, Central American Resource Center, Empowering Pacific Islander Communities, National Council of Asian Pacific Americans and Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund.


US says foreign students still welcome despite new rule (July 8, 2020)

Indian students asked to stay in touch with schools regarding OPT (June 18, 2020)

Canada leads the way in attracting and assimilating international students (May 13, 2020)

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