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Associations Write Homeland Security Secretary on Maintaining U.S. as Destination of Choice for International Students, Scholars

January 31, 2017

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​ACE and 50 other higher education associations sent a letter Tuesday to Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), John F. Kelly, that offered assistance with the challenges the department faces in connection with international students, faculty and scholars at U.S. institutions of higher education.

The letter notes that the roughly one million international students that attend U.S. colleges and universities add to this country’s intellectual and cultural vibrancy, and they also yield an estimated economic impact of $32.8 billion and support 400,000 U.S. jobs, according to recent estimates.

It adds that international students, faculty and scholars have served America well throughout the nation’s history and enrich campuses and the country with their talents and skills. However, the letter also notes that steps intended to protect national security may inadvertently hamper these exchanges, potentially depriving the country of one of its best tools for global scientific and economic preeminence and extending democratic values and cultural understanding throughout the world.

“Unfortunately, even temporary restrictions can be damaging,” the groups wrote. “President Trump’s executive order, ‘Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,’ has created uncertainty and fear across the country and on our campuses, particularly among students, faculty and scholars from the affected countries, as well as others who worry the restrictions may expand to other countries.”

The letter adds that, “We are concerned about the problematic implementation of the 90-day freeze on visas, such as cases of people with valid visas being turned away. We fear the chilling effect this will have on the ability of international students and scholars to continue to see the U.S. as a welcoming place for study and research.”

Noting that the executive order contains language indicating that DHS has some flexibility in implementing the order, the groups thanked Secretary Kelly for “exercising that authority in the case of lawful permanent residents (‘green card’ holders). We urge you to continue to use this discretion whenever possible for students and scholars who clearly pose no threat​.”

The organizations wrote that they are eager to meet with Secretary Kelly and his staff as soon as possible to discuss specific concerns with the executive order and to help him and the department carry out their duties.

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