Being an International Student at the Mercy of Trump

On Monday the 6th of July US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced new regulations, which will be in place for the coming Fall semester. These regulations outlined that international students coming to the US to study will no longer have the right to stay in the US. They are told ‘they must leave the US or face immigration consequences’. This regulation is in place for students who, due to COVID-19, have their Fall classes set to be entirely online or if their institution has decided to do the fall semester solely online. 

I recently just graduated with my Masters here in the US, COVID style (AKA socially distanced on my couch watching a virtual ceremony through which John Legend sang the school fight song!). I of course was sad that I didn’t get the opportunity to celebrate surviving the blood, sweat and tears of my Masters with my friends, and my family were sad they couldn’t come over from Scotland to celebrate- but I understood the importance of staying safe during this unprecedented time.

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Aimée celebrating her graduation from the University of Philadelphia

Thinking of how fortunate I am to have had this opportunity to do my Masters in the US has constantly been on my mind, particularly when I look at the current situation in the world. I think of how I don’t know what I would have done if I was still in the midst of my program during this time. I don’t know how I would have felt if I was told that I would be getting deported and would have to continue classes online to complete my Masters from afar. How suddenly the ease of not just being on campus but in the same time zone would be taken away. I know that if that had happened to me I would have been one of the lucky ones in that I have access to a good Internet connection and a place to live with my family in Scotland, but I know this is NOT the case for all international students. I can’t imagine how many international students are feeling after investing so much time, effort and money into their studies and to have their opportunity ripped up from beneath them. 

This regulation is outright shocking and quite honestly unbelievable. What does the US achieve by kicking out their international students who bring in such a large proportion of money through their tuition fees, rent payments, and consumerism within the US? This regulation will deter students from wanting to gain an education from the US and then further hurt the country economically. 

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Aimée with her university friends last year – of which 2 were also international students.

This regulation also puts current international students who are in the US in danger as they will face the situation of either choosing the potentially life threatening choice of attending in person classes (if their institution is even offering such things these days!) or being deported during a pandemic. 

Being an international student in the US is not easy, particularly as a person of colour or someone who is from a country that the current leadership is not keen on. Navigating the US during this time has been frightful for many of us in the US, and although I have graduated and should feel a sense of relief, I hold onto the continued daily fear that one day I will wake up and Trump will have signed an executive order to revoke my current OPT work visa. The racist, xenophobic and divisive behaviour and words of the president are alarming and cause continued separation within this country. It doesn’t feel safe to be here when the president of the country denounces the legitimate rights, struggles and importance of many groups of people such as those fighting for the Black Lives Matter movement.

By Aimée Perera,

Note:

Since the blog post was written, there has been an update:

As of 14th July 2020, the Trump administration has since rescinded its plan to strip the international student visas if courses are online. This has been in result to various educational institutions such as Harvard and MIT as well as many states threatening lawsuits and opposition to the initial regulation.

Relevant articles:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/alisondurkee/2020/07/06/ice-says-foreign-students-cant-attend-online-only-college-this-fall-despite-pandemic/?fbclid=IwAR0VThWsnsHPNS-nup2PN6YS0Ek6poV-xCOSBrgqtKnduCLxelCPFZjrGqs#1bbb59225ee1

https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/07/06/888026874/ice-foreign-students-must-leave-the-u-s-if-their-colleges-go-online-only-this-fa?fbclid=IwAR0pLXkxPCDV9GOKvFDn6_vAq75Iu1whPSnkWJZrLSbCkn3T85TFb24hJzY

Petitions:

https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/allow-f-1-students-stay-us-through-fall-semester-if-instruction-online-due-pandemic?fbclid=IwAR2mbRlctk8GatjcOlUpOfE023WmL3jW9eXFOuObTOrZZ-1SVUsGXJWLrtE

https://www.change.org/p/ice-let-international-students-stay

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