Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced on July 6 that all international students who are in the United States to pursue degrees will have to leave the country if their universities will opt for online-only courses.
Risk of deportation
ICE's new guidelines will affect thousands of foreign students who are currently enrolled in universities and training programs in the United States. This will also affect those that are on vocational studies and non-academic studies, as reported by CNN.
The new guideline came after universities announced that they will transition from in-person classes to online classes because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement or ICE stated in their guideline that foreign students who are under certain visas can remain in the country as long as they attend classes in their respective schools.
The guideline also stated that visas will no longer be issued to those who will enroll in online courses that are offered by their respective schools.
ICE suggested that international students who are currently enrolled in the United States should consider other measures, like transferring to schools with in-person classes. The vice president of the American Council on Education, Brad Farnsworth, said that ICE's announcement caught him and others by surprise.
Farnsworth stated that the new guideline will create confusion and uncertainty as foreign students are stuck in the United States because of the pandemic. Universities across the country are looking for ways to be able to continue their operations and keep the students safe.
Farnsworth added one concern that they have with the new guidance is if universities who are now offering in-person classes suddenly decide to shift to online classes during the fall in order to stay safe, where will that leave the international students who already changed courses?
Theresa Cardinal Brown, the director of immigration and cross-border policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center stated that the problem with the new guidance is that some of the countries that international students are from still have travel restrictions, which means they can't go home yet even if ICE deports them.
Way to slash immigration
The Trump administration has made a lot of changes in the immigration system in America. In June, the White House issued an immigration proclamation curtailing legal immigration to the US sending people and businesses up in the air as they do not know what their future in the country holds.
The Trump administration argued that the pandemic called for the suspension of employment-based visas. However, industries, immigration advocates, and experts stated that the administration is taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic to make immigration changes.
ICE's announcement could result in thousands of foreign students who pay high tuition to have to return to their respective countries.
According to the Migration Policy Institute, around 1.2 million students who are under the visas that will be affected by the new guideline, were enrolled and registered at 8,700 schools across the United States as of March 2018.
Farnsworth also voiced out his concern that this is a part of the larger plan of the Trump administration to remove immigrants from the country.