ICE’s new policy for international students is deeply un-American

2 min readJul 8, 2020

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) recently announced that international students on F-1 visas who will be doing 100% of their coursework online in the Fall 2020 semester will be required to leave the United States.

Acting Deputy DHS Secretary Ken Cuccinelli described the policy during an interview with CNN: “This is now setting the rules for one semester, which we’ll finalize later this month, that will again encourage schools to reopen.”

International students provide substantial revenues for US universities, nearly $41 billion in the 2018–2019 school year. ICE is using these students and the money they spend as a bargaining chip in order to achieve the Trump administration’s goal of re-opening the American economy.

Although there are legitimate arguments to be made in favor of resuming on-campus education, which universities may not be incentivized to pursue as they collect full tuition for online coursework, this cannot be done at the expense of students’ well-being.

ICE’s policy is deeply unjust towards students in that it:

  • Escalates an intensely stressful time for 1 million international students — many of whom are not able to return home due to flight cancellations — into an existential crisis by throwing their future into chaos
  • Endangers them by requiring them to take domestic and international flights during the Covid-19 pandemic
  • Ignores the existence of time zones — A student in China with a class at 12:00 PM Pacific Time would be forced to sign on at 3:00 AM local time; A student in Saudi Arabia with an evening lecture at 6:00 PM Eastern Time would be forced to attend at 1:00 AM local time
  • Overlooks connectivity issues for the 350,000+ Chinese students who will struggle to attend Zoom classes across the Great Firewall
  • Fails to recognize that international flights are still greatly restricted and essentially criminalizes the inability to find a suitable flight (I spent three months and thousands of dollars looking for tickets to return home from China, until finally succeeding in mid-June after four cancelled flights)

It is against America’s values to place these burdens on young people who came to the United States in order to improve themselves and potentially seek a future in this country. Furthermore, ICE’s new policy will cause a generation of the best and brightest students from around the world to lose faith in America’s willingness to live up to its commitments. We may, as a result, lose these students to a strategic rival such as China.

America’s power as a world leader comes in no small part by attracting the smartest, most ambitious people to live here and pursue their American dream. ICE’s policy dangerously and unnecessarily jeopardizes the foundation of this power.

For these reasons, ICE must reconsider its policy.

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