Earlier this week, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced a policy change that would deny visas and bar entry into the United States for international students who are enrolled in schools that have gone fully online, or who are in hybrid in-person online programs but are taking all of their classes online. In the policy, ICE also threatens “immigration consequences” such as “removal proceedings” for such students currently residing in the United States. The announcement came as universities, including Texas Christian University, have increasingly announced plans to offer some or all classes online only in the fall in an effort to protect health and safety of both students and university employees.
We have more than 600 international students from more than 80 countries at TCU who could be affected by this ban. Their home is here, and they are an irreplaceable part of the TCU community. While the university has made efforts to offer both in-person and online courses available to students, the rapid spread of COVID-19 in Tarrant County makes it a genuine possibility that we will once again have to shift to remote learning this fall, at least temporarily.
Members of the American Association of University Professors at TCU offer our unequivocal support for our international students. We will work to protect our students from being barred from entry or expelled from the country for seeking an education in our institutions of higher learning.
We urge TCU leadership to advocate forcefully on behalf of international students, both in our community and elsewhere, to block this attempted ban. Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have already filed a lawsuit to overturn the ban, recognizing both the bureaucratic burden it would place on universities and the fact that “for many students, returning to their home countries to participate in online instruction is impossible, impracticable, prohibitively expensive, and/or dangerous.” Like these institutions, we aim to provide a world-class education to students around the world, and we urge TCU leaders to follow their lead and initiate or join similar efforts to protect our students in this jurisdiction.
At TCU, we are fortunate that leadership has adopted a flexible plan for fall, recognizing the value of in-person instruction, the risks for employees and their families, and the potential for spread of COVID-19 in our community. It is imperative that TCU leaders retain the flexibility to shift to online learning as circumstances dictate this fall without having to worry about the administrative and practical burdens of subjecting our international students to bans and deportation. Following TCU’s dedication to diversity, equity, and inclusion, leadership must take action to support our international students, as many other universities have in their response to this policy.
The new ICE policy is yet another cruel effort to inflict harm on immigrants, in furtherance of racist and xenophobic views from our nation’s leaders. ICE has terrorized immigrant communities across the country, and now they are coming to punish international students and the universities that welcome and value them. The international student ban places undue hardships on our community, and we pledge to oppose it and protect our students.