Immigration consultant Irwin Clare has described as harsh and unfortunate a US government announcement that it will not allow foreign students to remain in the country if all their classes are moved online next semester because of the coronavirus crisis.
US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on Monday said these students must depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status.
Mr. Clare says the decision will put many Jamaican students studying in the US at a disadvantage.
“I think that it is a harsh ruling by ICE. It shows no humane feelings towards persons who are now displaced. Those who’ll now have to go back home and do online, they’ll be in different time zones. In some of these countries, the internet service is intermittent, like Jamaica, even worse. So, they’re simply paying significant amount of fees as well and not getting the benefit of the experience here in the United States, because learning in the United States is not just academic alone, but it’s also the environment, the culture and all that goes with it,” he contended.
Mr. Clare said he hopes there will be push back against the ICE directive by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) as well as large universities who could see their income decline from losing students.
He said he is puzzled by the move since international students do not use public resources, “don’t participate in the health system, they don’t get food stamps, they don’t even get financial aid.”
“Their existence in the United States is funded by their private sources. So one would wonder what does this have to do with the United States? How does it impact anyone? How does it put anybody out?”
Caught by surprise
In the meantime, Brad Farnsworth, Vice President of the American Council on Education, said Monday’s announcement by ICE caught him and many others by surprise.
Mr. Farnsworth, whose organization represents about 1,800 colleges and universities in the US, said the decision will create more confusion and uncertainty.
He said one concern with the new guidance is what would happen if the public health situation in the US deteriorates in the fall and universities that had been offering in-person classes shift all courses online.
Meanwhile, in a statement Monday evening, Harvard University President Larry Bacow said the institution is deeply concerned that the guidance issued by ICE imposes a blunt, one-size-fits-all approach to a complex problem giving international students few options beyond leaving the country or transferring schools.
The Trump administration has made a litany of changes to the US immigration system, citing the coronavirus pandemic.
The changes have resulted in a large number of immigrants being barred from entering the US.