File Photo: A gavel, and a balance placed upon on open book.
Just one week after ICE announced they would require international students to attend in-person classes in order to remain in the country, the Trump administration has rescinded the controversial rule. In their earlier announcement, ICE had said that students on F-1 or M-1 visas would be required to leave the United States if they enrolled for courses held entirely online. Students attending universities holding courses entirely online in the fall would be forced to depart the country or transfer to a different school. This despite the fact that the number of new COVID-19 infections continues to rise, and that the CDC considers in-person college classes to significantly heighten the risk of coronavirus spread.
ICE’s announced rule was met with swift backlash from immigration rights activists as well as the nation’s colleges and universities. Within a day of the announcement, Harvard and MIT filed the first of eight lawsuits against ICE challenging the rule; others to sue ICE over the rule include John Hopkins University, the University of California, and 17 states as well as the District of Columbia. Over two hundred students, schools, local governments, and organizations also came together to file 13 amicus briefs in the Harvard and MIT lawsuit — all in support of Harvard’s and MIT’s position.
Recent spikes in the number of new coronavirus cases are threatening America’s reopening efforts, and suggest that some form of quarantine will persist through to the end of the year. In response to this possibility, many of America’s college and universities are announcing that some or all of their fall semester classes will be held remotely; other schools are still in the process of deciding how classes will be offered in the fall.
Either way, public health data are clear about one thing: we are still in the midst of a COVID-19 pandemic that has claimed over 130,000 American lives to date. College classes — wherein students spend an hour or more, indoors, crowded into tight quarters, and breathing recirculated air — can only exacerbate coronavirus spread on college campuses. While many instructors are still figuring out how to adapt their classes for remote learning (to varying degrees of success), one thing is irrefutable: online classes reduce the risk of coronavirus spread compared to in-person classes. Thus, it makes sense for schools to hold many of their fall classes — especially large lecture classes — remotely: this is the only solution that maximizes the safety of students.
And yet, in an announcement that is completely out of step from these discussions, ICE said today that international students on F-1 or M-1 visas will not be permitted to remain in the United States if they are taking all their classes online. Students attending schools holding some in-person classes will be permitted to take some (but not all) of their classes remotely, as long as the school certifies that they are taking the minimum number of classes online as would still allow them to progress to their degree. Students enrolled in schools that are offering all classes online would be required to transfer schools to avoid deportation.
Students who violate this policy will face consequences, including the possibility of deportation. In other words, this fall, ICE will require international students to take at least one in-person class – even at the risk of their own health – in order to remain in the country. Schools weighing how they will adapt coursework offerings for the fall will be incentivized to adopt a hybrid in-person/online model (or a fully in-person model) to protect international students, a decision that will risk not only the health of all students but also instructors and other campus staff.
The arrests come shortly after the Cambodian government announced over the summer that they would temporarily halt the issuing of travel visas for refugees facing deportation by the US government to Cambodia. Cambodian officials are seeking renegotiation of a 2002 U.S.-Cambodia agreement to address the separation of deported refugees from the American families.
In a major feature story published today, NBC News reports that three major White House Initiatives — each designed to coordinate outreach to and enhance educational opportunities for communities of colour — have not had expected or scheduled meetings with anyone in the White House since President Trump took office in January.
The three Initiatives each have their own Presidential Advisory Commissions comprised of a mixture of government officials and public advisors — many of them educators — as well as full-time staff to help carry out the Initiatives’ ongoing projects and objectives. Each have been instrumental in developing community outreach programs, sponsoring summits, and providing internship opportunities for their respective communities; and, many of those efforts remain ongoing even after Trump’s inauguration in January. With regard to the Asian American & Pacific Islander communities, WHIAAPI served as a communications hub that helped coordinate efforts between the federal government and community organizers on topics as wide-ranging as health disparities, language inaccess, data disaggregation, and classroom bullying. Furthermore, WHIAAPI provided unprecedented access for the AAPI community to voice public interest concerns directly to the White House.
However, according to NBC News, none of the White House’s three Presidential Advisory Commissions addressing Black, Hispanic, or AAPI communities have met since January, and there has been no communication between the Trump administration and commission members. The three Initiatives associated with these Commissions have received no direction from the Trump White House on their mission over the four years of the president’s term in office, and indeed, it remains unclear whether the three Initiatives will even continue to exist under the Trump administration.
Earlier this year, I reported on the hate crime murder of 32-year-old Srinivas Kuchibhotla, an engineer shot and killed at a bar in Olathe, Kansas by a man who yelled “Get out of my country!” moments before pulling the trigger. The shooting left Kuchibhotla dead and his co-worker — with whom he was enjoying happy hour drinks — critically injured; a third bystander who attempted to stop the crime, was also hurt.
Afterwards, the killer — 51-year-old Adam Purinton — fled the scene of the crime and was later apprehended nearly 70 miles south at an Applebee’s, where Purinton had boasted of killing two Iranians. After he was arrested, Purinton faced federal hate crime charges; he currently awaits trial on those charges.
Heartbreakingly, Purinton didn’t just take the life of Srinivas Kuchibhotla that night in February; the shooting also placed Kuchibhotla’s widow — Sunayana Dumala — at risk of deportation. Dumala, who was born in India, worked as a developer for InTouch Solutions; however, her residency status was linked to her husband’s H-1B visa. When Kuchibhotla was murdered in February, Dumala’s residency permit was terminated and she became at risk of deportation.