Photo: Ryan Brandenberg/Temple University
Photo: Ryan Brandenberg/Temple University

How will ICE’s recent statement affect international students?

Immigration and Customs Enforcement ruled on Monday that international students enrolled in universities going online will have to either transfer to in-person…


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Despite the efforts of people to overcome the global pandemic and go back to their daily lives, the norms proposed by the so-called “new normal” seem to be everything but normal. 

“We sense an absence of future, because the present has become too overwhelming, so the future has become unimaginable.” -Lost Children Archive, Valeria Luiselli.

Such is the case with international students in the U.S. that Tuesday morning woke up with the news that all their plans would suddenly have to be changed.

The statement presented by ICE on July 5 established that international students already enrolled in universities with a plan to hold online classes next semester, must transfer to institutions with in-person classes, otherwise, they will be deported back to their countries. 

The solutions offered by ICE are slim, if not non-existent, showing the agency’s propensity for binary thinking regarding the population it interacts with.  

Just a few weeks before the beginning of the Fall semester, the answers presented have only helped to increase uncertainty for international students. 

Students that, like everyone else during these unexpected circumstances, are trying to adapt as soon as possible to the new normal. 

Concerns presented by COVID-19 throughout the last couple of months have been used by the Trump administration to continue with the radical changes to the U.S.’s immigration system first proposed at the beginning of his four-year term. 

During this period, Trump has aimed to reduce the flow of immigrants into the U.S., including legal immigration, such as work and student visas. 

July 15 is the due date established by ICE for universities to announce fall plans and conclude whether they will hold in-person or online classes during fall semester, planned to start in mid-August for most of them. 

This means that all international students, around 1.1 million individuals, 5.5% of the total higher education population, have less than a month to decide their near future when lots of questions remain unanswered.

What about international students that cannot go back to their countries because borders are closed?

What if international students decide to transfer to an in-person university and it decides to go online for half of the semester?

What about international students with scholarships? Let’s remember, international students do not receive any government aid and any scholarships they receive are solely merit-based. Not to mention, they pay out of state tuitions and the same taxes as Americans without receiving any benefits.

What about housing and leasing contracts international students have already signed until the end of the school year? 

What is going to happen with their belongings if they can’t go back?

What about international students who decide to go back home and take online classes from there? 

Has anyone thought about the different time zones and how this may affect students’ performance?

What about international students who need to take specific classes for their major that are only offered online to graduate and get their degree?

What about, not only international students, but also professors who will be forced to teach in-person classes risking their health?

An exception was presented by ICE last semester, when the pandemic was just starting, by giving international students the alternative to take online classes and go back to their homes.

However, a couple of months later, with almost no time left to change their plans, international students woke up one morning with the news that the exception they had been offered was removed, while the pandemic that changed their plans in the past remained.

This is all coming from an international student who is waiting for all these questions, and even more, to be answered.


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