Statement by ACE President Ted Mitchell on ICE Guidance on International Students
July 06, 2020

“On its face, the guidance released today by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is horrifying. While we would welcome more clarity about international students studying in the United States, this guidance raises more questions than it answers and unfortunately does more harm than good. Colleges and universities have announced and continue to announce multi-faceted, nuanced models for reopening campuses this fall. Some are proceeding with online learning only, others intend to be primarily in-person, and many others have a range of plans for hybrid models. Regrettably, this guidance provides confusion and complexity rather than certainty and clarity.

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. ICE should allow any international student with a valid visa to continue their education regardless of whether a student is receiving his or her education online, in person, or through a combination of both, whether in the United States or in their home country, during this unprecedented global health crisis. Iron-clad federal rules are not the answer at this time of great uncertainty. Imagine a student who starts in-person classes at a college that physically reopens. If the college decides it must shift to remote instruction midway through the fall, this guidance could force the institution to tell that student to leave the United States and face an impossible return to another country that has closed its borders.

Some one million international students attend U.S. colleges and universities annually, contributing greatly to this country’s intellectual and cultural vibrancy. They also yield an estimated economic impact of $41 billion and support more than 450,000 U.S. jobs. The Trump administration has indicated in the past that it understands the value to the United States of being the destination of choice for the world’s most talented students and scholars. That is why this guidance is both disappointing and counter-productive.

We urge the administration to rethink its position and offer international students and institutions the flexibility needed to put a new normal into effect and take into account the health and safety of our students in the upcoming academic year.”

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