The Cruelty of ICE’s Guidance for International StudentsRoundup
tags: immigration, ICE, COVID-19, International Students
Brian Rosenberg is president emeritus of Macalester College.
Every time we think there is a bottom, we are reminded that the Trump administration is in fact a dark, bottomless pit of racism, xenophobia, and cruelty. Every time we think it can’t get any worse, it gets worse.
The latest act of malignity is the decision on Monday by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that international students whose colleges are offering courses exclusively online as a consequence of the pandemic will not be issued student visas or otherwise be allowed to enter or remain in the United States. "Active students currently in the United States enrolled in such programs must depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status. If not, they may face immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings."
The statement itself is both ignorant and ominous. As anyone with even a casual knowledge of higher education would know, “transferring to a school with in-person instruction” is close to impossible in mid-July, let alone in the middle of a term, and “not limited to,” given the history of ICE, is chilling.
This past spring, ICE had waived the requirement that international students take in-person classes, in recognition of the extraordinary circumstances created by the spread of Covid-19. This made it possible for colleges to do the right thing and transition quickly to online delivery when the pandemic took hold. That waiver has not been extended into the fall, presumably because the pandemic is over, or a hoax, or harmless to 99 percent of people.
In truth, the ruling should be unsurprising, since it manages to accomplish in one stroke three of the central objectives of the current administration.
First and most important, it continues and extends the pattern of this administration of treating the pandemic not as a public-health emergency but as an opportunity to advance policy objectives, and in particular the objective of excluding as many immigrants as possible from the United States. No matter if these immigrants are permanent or temporary: the fewer the better.
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