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COVID-19 impact: US universities, lawmakers say policy change on foreign students ‘misguided’

WASHINGTON: Several Congressmen and top educational institutions decried the policy change that will require international students who are in the United States with an F-1 visa to take at least one in-person course or else face the prospect of being deported.

The Trump administration has yet again announced a new policy that will damage the economy, harm the US institutions, and do nothing to improve America’s safety or security, said Congressman Bennie Thompson, chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, and Congresswoman Kathleen Rice, chairwoman of the Border Security, Facilitation, and Operations Subcommittee in a joint statement.

‘There is no apparent legitimate reason for the administration’s inflexibility toward international students attending colleges and universities that adopt online-only’ policies the Administration seems to just want them to leave,’ the two lawmakers said.

International students contribute billions of dollars to the US economy and barring them from our country will deprive Americans of badly needed income.

‘We cannot allow President Trump to continue destroying jobs and cause needless suffering just to satisfy his anti-immigrant base. We oppose this reckless policy and the lasting harm it will cause to universities and communities across the country,’ they said.

Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne expressed his concern that the decision will create more uncertainty and complexity for international students.

‘Our international students must be able to continue making progress toward completing their degrees, and as a university we intend to support them in doing so. We will be working with our peers and national associations to understand how best to accomplish that in the context of these new rules, as well as to urge the Administration to rethink its position,’ he said.

Congresswoman Debbie Dengell urged the Department of Homeland Security to review its decision.

‘Removing these students due to circumstances beyond their control is senseless and concerning. There does not appear to be any public benefit to the US, it will harm the quality of education students receive because of the many logistical challenges, while not in the classroom many remain on campus and in the community contributing to educations and cultural experiences in many other ways, and many have already signed leases and paid tuition as well,’ she said.

Among all the uncertainty, it’s disturbing that the federal government would initiate removal proceedings for international students especially given it is a reversal of an earlier decision taken by the agency at the on-set of the pandemic, she said.

‘Online courses are safe and sensible ways for universities to protect their students while continuing to provide a quality education while scientists study the best way to ensure students can learn in a safe environment,’ the Congresswoman said.

‘With the high probability that the coronavirus pandemic will continue to make distance learning the predominant mode of instruction at colleges across the country, the rule change means that most of the estimated 1.1 million international students will be forced out of the country in September,’ Chancellor Felix V Matis Rodriguez of the City University of New York said.

In a statement, he said that this misguided policy change also threatens to hurt higher education at a time when the nation’s universities are working hard to adjust to the dual health and economic crises caused by the pandemic.

‘We are once again disappointed that our country’s leadership continues to restrict and reduce opportunities for those who seek them in the United States,’ he said adding that he has instructed his administration to explore and pursue measures that would help these students remain in the country and continue their education at CUNY.

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