Xenophobia (noun): dislike of or prejudice against people from other countries. Similar: racism, nationalism, ethnocentrism
Very on brand for the United States, with some exceptions if you’re white or come from a place we like.
Inhumane (adj): without compassion for misery or suffering; cruel. Similar: evil, unfeeling, uncaring
Also par for the course, reinforcing the structures that uphold the social hierarchy deemed acceptable by those who benefit from it the most.
Contempt (noun): the feeling that a person or a thing is beneath consideration, worthless, or deserving scorn. Opposite: respect
What do we expect from our current fascist administration, bound and determined to double-down on mass deportation in any way possible?
On Monday, July 6, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced new regulations barring international students from remaining in the United States if their college or university moves to an online-only model in the fall. This effects up to one million students.
Let’s think for a moment. What message does this send to them?
Essentially, “Get the hell out or go to school. If you get sick or die, so be it.” It says our country, and all its institutions and systems, does not value you and sees no reason to protect you. Protect anyone. Reopening colleges and universities isn’t just hazardous for international students. Multiple universities are already reporting a surge in positive cases, like the 121 students who have tested positive at the University of Washington.
This ruling will make it all but impossible for students to prioritize health, learning, or anything else they need to focus on to get the full value of the educations they’re paying for. As other countries and continents are closing their borders to us, America is making moves to further isolate us, put us in harm’s way, and minimize opportunity for all.
It’s becoming much harder for a student to look to America and think, “Yeah, this is really the land of opportunity. I think I’ll build a life here.”
This move is going to hamstring colleges and universities and put pressure on faculty and staff. They’re already hard-pressed to want to return, despite their commitments to education and their students. It’s not that they don’t want to teach; it’s that they don’t want to risk their lives or livelihoods in the process.
According to the American Council on Education president Ted Mitchell: “At a time when institutions are doing everything they can to help reopen our country, we need flexibility, not a big step in the wrong direction,” he wrote. And not just flexibility — we also need autonomy for students and professors. We need to help them respect their privacy and health information, as well as give them the opportunity to individually adjust as the circumstances change.
The new regulations serve as an attempt to move the goalposts for those holding a valid student or work visa. By adding these unrealistic and illogical stipulations in order to continue their education, they are adding another layer of stress and contributing to the ongoing trauma on this pandemic.
Schools and universities are toying with a wide range of learning models. Currently, 60% of schools plan to hold in-person classes while 24% are considering hybrid models that combine virtual or online learning. Only 9% of schools have committed to online-only, but a small percentage (2.2%) remains undecided. With so many uncertainties and variables, it’s exceedingly difficult to predict if any of these plans will come to fruition.
Although ICE did say students already in the country may take an alternative path to maintain their status if their school goes fully online, what are those alternatives? A reduced course load slows their progress towards a degree, which may extend their need to rely on funding aid, housing support, and convoluted paperwork to legally remain in the U.S. Appropriate medical leave was cited as another possibility, but there is little clarity on who grants and acknowledges this “appropriate leave.”
To expect international students to risk their health and wellbeing to continue their education is cruel. To force colleges and universities to choose between keeping students, faculty, and staff safe through virtual learning and offering in-person courses is asinine. If Ivy League universities, despite their deep pockets of endowments and funding, cannot ensure a safe learning environment, what are smaller or less-prestigious schools to do?
And please, just stop with the quantifying of “economic contributions” made by those with student or work visas.
There is dignity in work regardless of the education or path it took to do it. It’s dehumanizing to assign value to a person or grant them the right to exist in this country based on their potential to bolster the one thing our current administration lives and dies by (and in the process, is forcing the rest of us to do the same).
You can’t put a number on someone’s worth or declare them “better” or more “worthy” than someone else based on their education, income, or birthplace but that’s exactly what these systems and institutions have done and continue to do.
And you can’t punish international students with valid visas for the incompetent handling of a public health crisis spiraling further out of control.
Want to take action? Here’s what you can do today:
- Sign the petition to allow F-1 and M-1 students with valid visas to stay in the United States.
- Learn more about the history of ICE, immigration law, and what it means to “abolish ICE.”
- Use intuitive, simple tools like The Action Network to contact your senators and representatives, or sign up for action alerts and get involved.