Las Vegas, Nev. – U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) joined a bicameral letter led by Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) to Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Chad Wolf calling on him to revise recent guidance that would prohibit new international college and university students with a full-time online course load from entering the U.S. The letter follows a xenophobic Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) directive that would have deported and barred all international students with online-only course loads, which was overturned after a legal challenge and pressure from congressional Democrats.
“Many institutions of higher education will begin classes in the coming weeks, the majority of whom are planning predominantly online instruction, and there is still ongoing disruption stemming from your agency’s guidance for students located abroad,” the legislators wrote. “There are an estimated 250,000 international students planning to enter the United States for the coming academic year, either as new or returning students. These students and universities need clear answers in order to plan their lives and prepare for their studies for the upcoming fall term.”
The original and subsequent guidance for international students has caused a great deal of harm and confusion for international students and higher education institutions. For international students, there is still no definitive guidance to ensure that the State Department will accept visa applications from students who would have online-only course loads, making it impossible for them to properly plan their next few months. For colleges and universities, many of whom are still finalizing and updating their plans to ensure that students can learn safely this fall, the lack of clear guidance and seemingly arbitrary rules make it difficult for them to develop safe and consistent methods of instruction for all of their students. In the letter, the Senators called on ICE to overturn the guidance blocking new international students, as it limits higher education institutions’ ability to flexibly adapt their instruction and safety protocols during this pandemic.
“With respect to newly enrolled international students, DHS should recognize that colleges and universities are exploring a variety of instruction models, including hybrid in-person and remote instruction as well as innovative attendance schedules, to best serve students’ health and education needs simultaneously. Implementing a blanket, one-size-fits-all policy in which all new international students are banned from entering the United States shuts off avenues of instruction unnecessarily,” the legislators continued.
Full text of the letter can be found here.