Following legal backlash from multiple universities and major businesses, on Tuesday the Trump administration dropped its plan to transfer or deport international students whose colleges and universities offered online-only instruction.
On July 6, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program stated that it would not grant visas to foreign students taking all online classes next semester due to the COVID-19 pandemic and that those still in the U.S. must leave the country or take other measures.
Pilar Ellis of the International Student Center of Fullerton College emailed visa holding students with the announcement that the campus would adopt a hybrid instruction model for the upcoming Fall 2020 semester. The document presented multiple pathways for foreign students including registering in one face-to-face class, enrolling part-time in or transferring to another institution, receiving a reduced course load authorization from a doctor if dealing with an illness or medical condition or completely departing from the country before the start of the semester.
Continuing Fullerton College students outside the U.S. would have had their SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) records wiped from the system as ICE proposed that only students from a 100% online-only institution could engage in remote learning from their home country. These students would have needed Initial Attendance-20 granted to re-enter the country, else return to the United States before the next semester, and follow the suggested guidelines.
A Forbes article listed how students nationwide started to take action to protect the immigration status of their peers. This included petitioning their schools for one-credit in-person courses, dropping their classes to free up space and creating class spreadsheets for scheduling.
The policy directive was rescinded on July 14 following the suit filed by Harvard and M.I.T. on the basis that the rules were unlawful, severe and put students at risk. ICE and the Department of Homeland Security agreed to go back to the guidelines planned in March, allowing visa eligibility to be more flexible.
“I want to thank the Fullerton College community for immediately responding to the arbitrary policy changes on July 6, which caused undue stress and concern for our students. We will always stand by our international students’ right to pursue a college education free of fear or intimidation and will do all we can to create a college that is a safe and welcoming place for students,” President Schulz said in a memo published by the News Center on Wednesday.
Fullerton College also reposted to their social media accounts a statement from California Community College Chancellor Eloy Ortiz. “We remain cautious about the intentions of ICE and the Trump administration as it relates to international students, and we will continue to pursue further clarification and protections for all our students.”