July 14, 2020

Student Visas

Last Monday, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced that during the fall semester “Nonimmigrant F-1 and M-1 students attending schools operating entirely online may nottake a full online course load and remain in the United States.” ICE.gov

Last week, Harvard, MIT, and the state of California filed lawsuits challenging the policy. AP News, Reuters

See past issues

From the Left

The left criticizes the decision, arguing that it will deprive colleges of vital funding and harm the US economy.

“According to the 2019 Open Doors Report on International Education, there are more than 1 million international students in the United States. These students typically pay full tuition, which subsidizes the costs of enrolling more U.S. students. For public colleges and universities, the revenue generated from international students also helps moderate the effects of federal and state education budget cuts…

It isn’t only universities that would feel the gaps in their budgets: In 2018, international students contributed $45 billion to the U.S. economy through consumption and federal, state and local taxes. Small college towns and cities reliant on revenue from the student population would be hit the hardest if international students — who are more likely to continue living in the areas where their schools are based while learning remotely — are forced to leave.”
Margarita Konaev, Washington Post

“Ken Cuccinelli, the acting deputy secretary of Homeland Security, told CNN that the policy change was meant to ‘encourage schools to reopen’ — part of the Trump administration’s goal of forcing American life to resume even as Covid-19 continues to spread and the death toll mounts. Foreign students who have made significant sacrifices and commitments, both financial and personal, to study in the US are thus being used as political leverage.”
Nicole Narea, Vox

“To be clear, the students now at risk of deportation are already studying and living here; they have received visas and passed all security and other protocols. We would kick out these students with no benefit to the United States while striking an immediate blow to our economy and lasting damage to the reputation of American higher education. No family and no country will forget if their students are summarily banished during a pandemic; it is the opposite of hospitality and decency, and it will stain us for years to come.”
David Coleman and Ted Mitchell, Washington Post

“Let's look around us. Who are our doctors? Who are our medical researchers? Who are the country's top scientists? Ask yourself -- who works to make America stronger than she already is? The fact is, immigration is a mutually beneficial and beautiful relationship… President Donald Trump may think that with this new guidance he is just hurting foreigners and immigrants, but as with most Trump-related policies, ultimately it is America who he is hurting the most.”
Anushay Hossain, CNN

America’s science and technology research… is critically dependent on international students, as is its start-up ecosystem. International students accounted for 54 percent of master’s degrees and 44 percent of doctorate degrees issued in STEM fields in 2016-17, while 25 percent of the founders of billion-dollar start-ups came to the U.S. as international students. (These disproportionate statistics are even more staggering when one considers the fact that international students represent no more than a million of the U.S. college student population — about 5.5 percent of the total.)…

“The next time you get on Zoom for a meeting or a meet-up, keep in mind that (for all its faults) the platform that is your lifeline for work or a family birthday or happy hour was founded by Eric Yuan, who is from China. He had to apply nine times before he earned a visa to enter the U.S., where he got a degree from Stanford. And if you need to Google the status of re-openings in your state, or you need Lysol to wipe down the table before you eat in that outdoor restaurant? The companies that let you get that stuff done are run by — you guessed it — former international students Sundar Pichai… and Laxman Narasimhan.”
Bhaskar Chakravorti, NBC News

From the Right

The right argues that foreign students are beneficial but worries about ICE unilaterally relaxing visa rules.

The right argues that foreign students are beneficial but worries about ICE unilaterally relaxing visa rules.

“Higher education is simply not a zero-sum game, and academic research has documented this trend at length. For example, one paper found that for every 10 international students admitted to U.S. colleges and universities, schools were able to admit eight additional American students thanks to the subsidization of high international tuition rates.”
Brad Polumbo, The Dispatch

“Schools will have to choose between reopening and holding in-person classes or staying online while losing lucrative international students. Many universities insist reopening their campuses and offering in-person classes is too risky given the ongoing pandemic. Data from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, however, show that Americans who are 24 or younger have experienced much milder COVID-19 symptoms with fewer deaths when compared to older Americans. For example, on June 20, 2020, the CDC reported two COVID-19 related deaths of Americans younger than 24 and 512 deaths of Americans who were 85 and older…

“On the other hand, even before the COVID-19 pandemic, a steady increase in depression, anxiety, and suicidality among U.S. college students was observed. Scientists say for young people, socialization and bonding are not a luxury but are critical for biological development… Mental health experts believe that campus closing and pandemic-mandated social isolation have severe negative impacts on the ‘sense of belonging’ sought by college students…

“[The latest CDC data] shows that more than 40 percent of Americans between 18 and 29 reported symptoms of anxiety or depression, almost twice the rate as Americans who are 60 and older. For American youth, continued social isolation poses a much greater risk to their health than COVID-19 does.”
Helen Raleigh, The Federalist

“Since it is commonly understood that the power to grant and revoke visas resides in the executive, these well-intentioned legal efforts made by universities to protect their students will likely be futile… The DHS rule states that students adopting a ‘hybrid model — that is a mixture of online and in person classes — will be allowed to take more than one class or three credit hours online.’ The vagueness of the rule suggests that in-person instruction can be minimal under such a model, where students could continue to take nearly all of their classes online…

“I encourage university faculties to adapt and think creatively about how to reopen their schools and to try minimal in-person coursework rather than place all blame on the administration and engage in a long-drawn political fight in the courts that will likely be too slow and too futile to meaningfully help students and researchers.”
Jon Hartley, National Review

“While media outlets are widely reporting this announcement as a ‘rule change’ and students and faculty are expressing outrage at this supposedly arbitrary decision, the reality is more nuanced… F-1 visas have always excluded online-only programs, and in fact the rules used to be more strict, permitting a maximum of one online class out of a full study load. The federal government had granted a temporary exemption only for the first half of this year due to lockdowns…

“College administrators are correct to point out that these are still extraordinary times, and in many places lockdowns are still ongoing or even intensifying. ICE, for its part, naturally wants to avoid another case of creeping rule relaxation, especially if large numbers of colleges end up switching to a semi-permanent online format. That would leave hundreds of thousands of foreign students free to travel — and possibly work under the table — wherever they please.”
John Jiang, The American Spectator

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Libertarian Perspectives

“These rules will penalize students whose colleges have decided to go online—without securing any discernible economic, educational, health, or security upside for America. To the contrary, in fact. So why is the administration doing this? Basically to purge as many immigrants from the country as possible before the November elections—and discourage new ones from coming in…

“Moreover, new students will be reluctant to enroll next fall out of fear that if Trump gets re-elected, he'll renew his slams on them at the drop of a hat. This means that regardless of whether Trump wins or loses in November, these rules will succeed in deterring foreign students for at least yet another year—after three years straight of declining enrollment.”
Shikha Dalmia, Reason

“ICE waived the rule for the Spring and Summer 2020 semesters due to the Covid emergency. Given that Congress has now had four months to address the issue but has not, it's not clear that ICE would be legally justified in asserting a continuing ‘emergency’ that would allow it to ignore a binding regulation

“Why are so many university ‘leaders’ acting like the government actually enforcing the rule once the immediate emergency has passed is a complete surprise? Surely it was *possible* that ICE would agree to continue to not enforce a rule, but surely any decent university lawyer would have understood that it was not a certainty, and would have been advising the provost to make contingency plans for foreign students.”
David Bernstein, Volokh Conspiracy

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