- Title: U.S. to force out foreign students taking classes fully online
- Date: 7th July 2020
- Summary: GAMBIER, OHIO, UNITED STATES (JULY 7, 2020) (REUTERS VIA ZOOM) (SOUNDBITE) (English) KENYON COLLEGE STUDENT, RAUL ROMERO, SAYING: "Yesterday, the first thing that happened as soon as this was announced, I was just crying. And I heard the same reaction from a lot of people, friends who have been here in the U.S. whose parents or whose families have suffered COVID and they haven't been able to go back home. There's so much pain in a lot of people because of the pandemic, and this is only putting more lives at risk."
- Embargoed: 21st July 2020 21:03
- Keywords: F-1 ICE Trump foreign students international students online classes universities
- Location: GAMBIER, OHIO + RICHMOND, KENTUCKY + LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES / INTERNET
- City: GAMBIER, OHIO + RICHMOND, KENTUCKY + LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES / INTERNET
- Country: USA
- Topics: Education,Society/Social Issues
- Reuters ID: LVA004CLTASLJ
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Foreign students in the United States, numbering in the hundreds of thousands, will have to leave the country if their classes are all taught online this fall or if they transfer to another school with in-person instruction, a government agency said.
It was not immediately clear how many student visa holders would be affected by the move, but foreign students are a key source of revenue for many U.S. universities as they often pay full tuition.
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency said it would not allow holders of student visas to remain in the country if their school was fully online for the fall. Those students must transfer or leave the country, or they potentially face deportation proceedings, according to the announcement. The ICE guidance applies to holders of F-1 and M-1 visas, which are for academic and vocational students. The State Department issued 388,839 F visas and 9,518 M visas in fiscal 2019, according to the agency's data.
Raul Romero, 21, an international studies student at Kenyon College in Ohio said he got a call from his school on Tuesday (July 7) morning telling him they were offering in-person classes and that he would not be immediately affected by the rule. Still, they told him, if a local outbreak of COVID-19 forced them to suspend classes, he would have to leave the country.
"Yesterday, the first thing that happened as soon as this was announced, I was just crying," he said.
Romero, who is from Venezuela, which is in a political and economic crisis, said he doesn't know how he would be able to continue studying from there.
"It's almost impossible," he said. "Going back to Venezuela would mean not having a reliable supply of food, not being able to get income. It would certainly put me in a very unequal playing field with the rest of my friends from school."
His mother and brother are living off their savings, sometimes struggle to find food and don't have reliable internet at home. Romero is at Kenyon on a scholarship, and hasn't been back to Venezuela since December 2018.
And that's if he could even get there - there are currently no flights between the U.S. and Venezuela.
Romero first came to the U.S. in 2016, on a 75% paid scholarship to the United World Colleges boarding school. To raise money for the remainder of his tuition, his mother handed out fliers to customers at her cheese shop, soliciting donations from neighbors and local companies. She has since had to close her cheese shop.
Olufemi Olurin, 25, from the Bahamas is about to start the second year of her MBA at Eastern Kentucky University. After her U.S. bachelor's degree, she worked for two years cleaning blood during surgical procedures and she now wants to pursue a career in healthcare management.
Her university is planning to offer in person classes next year, but has warned her that that could change if there is a local outbreak.
"For 11 years since I came here when I was 14, I've done what I was supposed to do," she said. "So it kind of feels like, when your parents tell you to do all your chores and you still get punished. It's like, what else could I have done? I did everything you told me to do and it's still like, oh, we're going to take that mat out from under you. So it's nerve-wracking. I was very upset."
If she has to go back to the Bahamas, she is not sure she will finish her MBA.
"I don't know if I would spend that type of money to get an American degree that I can't even use in America," she said. "I'm not sure if I would finish. I would want to because I didn't come to school to pay for a year and not get the degree. But if I don't know if I can use my degree, you know, master's degrees aren't cheap."
U.S. colleges and universities have begun to announce plans for the fall 2020 semester amid the coronavirus pandemic. The University of Southern California said its fall semester classes will be mainly online. Harvard announced it would conduct course instruction online for the 2020-2021 academic year.
The guidance does not affect students taking classes in person. It also does not affect F-1 students taking a partial online course-load, as long as their university certifies the student's instruction is not completely digital. M-1 vocational program students and F-1 English language training program students will not be allowed to take any classes online.
The American Council on Education (ACE), an organization representing university presidents from 1,700 colleges and universities, called the guidance "horrifying."
"While we would welcome more clarity about international students studying in the United States, this guidance raises more questions than it answers and unfortunately does more harm than good," ACE president Ted Mitchell said in a statement on its website on Monday (July 6). "Colleges and universities have announced and continue to announce multi-faceted, nuanced models for reopening campuses this fall. Some are proceeding with online learning only, others intend to be primarily in-person, and many others have a range of plans for hybrid models. Regrettably, this guidance provides confusion and complexity rather than certainty and clarity."
President Donald Trump's administration has imposed a number of new restrictions to legal and illegal immigration in recent months as a result of the pandemic. In June, the administration suspended work visas for a wide swath of non-immigrant workers that it argued compete with U.S. citizens for jobs. The administration has also effectively suspended the admission of asylum seekers at the southern border with Mexico, citing health risks as justification.
(Production by Kristina Cooke and Roselle Chen)
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