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International students face deportation over ICE modifications
California universities sue Trump administration
CSUS students walking
Thirty-seven international Stanislaus State students and over 200 estimated international students at UC Merced could be forced to leave the country if the universities go through with plans to have all courses online this fall (Journal file photo).

Following a directive from the Trump administration this week, tens of thousands of America’s international college students — and a number of those who go to school in the Valley — could be forced to leave the country unless their campuses resume face-to-face instruction this fall.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced Monday that it would not grant non-immigrant students with F-1 and M-1 visas if they are enrolled in schools or programs that are fully online during the upcoming fall semester. In light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the public health crisis it poses, both the University of California, Merced and Stanislaus State recently announced that a majority of fall instruction would take place online.

According to Toni Molle, director of Public Affairs for the California State University system, there are over 11,300 international CSU students throughout the state. In the UC system, there are about 41,000 international students who could be affected.

In a message to the Stanislaus State campus community, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Kimberly Greer emphasized the need to support the university’s 37 international students, 12 of whom are enrolled in Post-Completion Optional Practical Training, or temporary employment that is directly related to their major area of study.

Greer said Stanislaus State is working closely with the CSU Chancellor’s Office to reexamine the school’s online and in-person offerings to determine if they meet the new ICE directives.

“International students add to the vibrant diversity of our campus. We greatly value them as members of our Warrior community, and we stand together to support them. Please be assured that the Office of Extended and International Education is in contact with students who may be impacted by this guidance to provide them with information and support,” Greer said. “While we are planning for instruction this fall to be conducted in primarily virtual formats, the campus has had the opportunity to seek limited face-to-face exceptions that we have been pursuing with the Chancellor’s Office prior to the communication of this new guidance. We are going to do everything we can to accommodate and support our international students within the regulations with which we must comply.”

UC President Janet Napolitano said that the impact of how the ICE directives will affect UC campuses and international students is currently being assessed, and that the latest actions from the Trump administration “jeopardize our nation’s future as a worldwide leader in research and innovation.” At UC Merced, the fall 2019 semester saw 269 international graduate students and seven undergrads from 41 countries enrolled in courses.

“The University of California recognizes that our country benefits when the world’s brightest students and academics learn, teach and research on our shores. International students provide unique contributions that enrich our campuses and their perspectives ensure that we continue to be a leading academic force around the world. Making it more difficult for international students to study here undermines decades of collaboration between the United States and our international partners, particularly in fields that contribute to America’s economic vitality,” Napolitano said. “ICE’s announcement is perplexing, given that some degree of remote instruction is necessary for colleges and universities to protect the safety and well-being of their communities and the public at large, while still allowing students to continue their studies. Challenges and uncertainty related to COVID-19 are already weighing heavily on students; now is the worst time to burden them further with anxiety.”

Two lawsuits over the new rule have already surfaced: One from California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, and another from the UC.

Students who don’t follow the new modifications could face deportation. Under the modifications, students with F-1 visas enrolled in a mixture of online and in-person classes are permitted to take more than one class, or three credit hours, online. Students with M-1 visas pursuing vocational degrees are not permitted to enroll in online classes.

Becerra, who was joined by California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley and CSU Chancellor Timothy White when announcing the lawsuit, called the new policy “dangerous” as it could force students to take in-person classes during the pandemic, putting students, teachers and classmates at risk.

White called the modifications unfair and unjust.

“The California State University stands in the strongest opposition to the policy guidance issued Monday by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement,” White said. “It is a callous and inflexible policy that unfairly disrupts our more-than 10,300 international students’ progress to a degree, unnecessarily placing them in an extremely difficult position. And it deprives all of our students — and the communities, state and nation we serve — of the remarkable contributions of these international students. The CSU applauds the California Attorney General’s decision to take strong action to oppose ICE’s policy guidance, and we will fully support this effort.”