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MEXICO CITY – At first SG thought it was fake news.
An undergraduate student from Venezuela, SG has lived in Florida for four years. The news she received earlier this week seemed as bizarre and implausible as some of the rumors that regularly circulate in her home country. But it was happening in the United States, and it was happening to him.
On Monday, the Trump administration announced that international students whose course loads are taught exclusively online in the middle coronavirus the pandemic is expected to leave the country. Soon after, SG’s cell phone began to light up with a frenzy of messages and links.
“It must be a lie. Surely that’s a rumor, ”thought SG, who asked that only his initials be used for fear of seeing how his immigration status might change in the coming days. “Why should we leave if we are here legally and have a visa?”
His parents, SG said, decided to spend a large chunk of their savings on his college education, even as Venezuela’s economy plummeted. His parents still live in Venezuela, unlike many of their friends and neighbors who have fled widespread insecurity, hyperinflation, a crumbling healthcare system and frequent blackouts.
If she is forced to go home, how will SG be able to take online classes in the event of a power failure?
The new policy, issued by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which manages the exchange student and visitor program, is the latest in a series of directives aimed at curbing legal immigration to the United States. It puts more than a million international students in the United States at risk of deportation amid a global pandemic that has severely restricted air travel.
If forced to return home, many of these students will be in different time zones and places where internet access could be spotty at best, making them more difficult to take the course than s ‘they were in the United States.
Change “will encourage schools to reopen,” Acting DHS Assistant Secretary Ken Cuccinelli said Told CNN. Holders of F-1 and M-1 visas, which are intended for university and professional students, must transfer to a school that offers partial in-person classes or leave the country. The State Department issued more than 398,000 of these types of visas in fiscal 2019.
On Wednesday, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration in an attempt to end the new policy.
In one letter To students and faculty, Harvard President Lawrence Bacow said the policy was to pressure universities to open their campuses in the fall despite a record number of coronavirus infections, and said that his cruelty was “only exceeded by his imprudence.” Harvard announced last month that next year’s classes would be held remotely, with rare exceptions.
Professors across the country have struggled to understand the effects of the loosely-worded policy, and many have offered to deliver face-to-face classes, redesigned to protect students from transmission of COVID-19.
“If the outside is the safest place and we have to meet in person, I’ll find a palm tree,” Joshua Scacco, professor of political communications at the University of South Florida, told BuzzFeed News. There are over 4,700 international students from 141 different countries at USF.
Professors from the University of California, Columbia University, DePaul University and Syracuse University, among others, made similar offers on Twitter. SG said several professors reached out to her on the social media platform to offer support, even if it was only emotional.
More than half of the 1.1 million international students in the United States come from China and India, according to the Institute of International Education. Many more come from Latin American countries, where they often flee drug-related violence and political oppression.
When SG left Venezuela in 2016, shortages of food, water and electricity were already widespread. But things got worse and now – they only get running water for 30 minutes a day.
“I can’t imagine going back to it now,” said SG, who estimates that there are at least 300 other Venezuelan students at his university.
For now, SG is waiting to see what happens with the policy, given the massive decline in universities. She is afraid for herself and for the many Venezuelan students in the United States who will have nothing to return home because their families are no longer there – millions have fled to neighboring countries and even Europe. , these last years.
The policy, if passed, would also pose a serious financial challenge to colleges and universities, which rely heavily on the income of foreign students. International students contribute $ 45 billion to the U.S. economy and support 455,000 jobs in the U.S., according to the Commerce Department.
Like most international students, Garry Fanata, a fourth-year software engineering student at the University of California, Irvine, pays the full tuition fee. Her biggest concern right now is not being able to stay in the United States after graduating to work for a few years at a high-tech company.
“It was my plan to be able to reimburse my parents for the investment they invested in my studies,” he said.
Fanata, who is the first generation of his Indonesian family to study in the United States, said he is not yet looking for flights home because he is confident his university will find a solution. “However, that may not be the case for smaller colleges and universities,” he added.
Others are less optimistic, including a computer engineering student who said he plans to visit his family in India in September. The 20-year-old student, who wanted his name used for fear of being targeted by ICE, said for months he feared his plans would be derailed by the coronavirus. Now he fears the US government will allow him to return to the country.
“This week has been one of the most stressful weeks ever,” he said. In addition to the stress, “I have to keep doing my best. America is ready to kick me out. “
While much of the discussion currently centers on the economic impact of international students, Scacco says it’s important to remember that those affected by this policy are young, law-abiding people who wish to learn in the best universities.
“These students are human beings who deserve respect, who deserve certainty about their educational processes,” he said. “We have made agreements with these students.”