The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced new guidelines this summer enabling the federal government to expel international students from the halls of higher education. As university campuses transition to online courses due to COVID-19 over 1 million international students — all of whom are on F-1 student visas — were given an ultimatum. They must either transfer to a college with in-person courses, or be expulsed from the United States this Fall, according to the ICE.
Rutgers, Harvard, Princeton and Georgetown Universities are adapting a host of practices – such as limited class sizes, truncated semesters and online course delivery – to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and to deliver on their essential mission during the extraordinary 2020 Global Coronavirus Pandemic. Yet new guidance from the Trump Administration issued in June tried to obliterate these efforts and ostensibly those of the American dream.
Our international students pioneer innovations, found companies, and create jobs in the United States. Moreover, they contribute $41 billion annually to the U.S. economy through tuition, housing, domestic travel, food, and spending in local communities. Higher education is America’s fourth-largest export.
Student mobility in the 21st century was transformed by two major external events; 9-11 and the Great Recession. The US tightened visa requirements for students and thus reduced its international presence to 4% in the US, according to the OECD.
The number of international students in the United States set an all-time high in the 2019 academic year with more than one million international students. The total number of international students in the United States was 1,095,299 and the majority come from China, India, and South Korea.
Asylum in the United States
Each year, thousands of people arrive in the United States in one of two ways. They cross the border as either an international student or a refugee seeking asylum.
The United Nations 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol define a refugee as a person who is unable or unwilling to return to his or her home country, and cannot obtain protection in that country, due to past persecution or a well-founded fear of being persecuted. These include, but are not limited to, “race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.” Congress incorporated this definition into U.S. immigration law in the Refugee Act of 1980.
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is a United States immigration policy that allows some individuals with unlawful presence in the United States after being brought to the country as children to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and become eligible for a work permit in the U.S.
The Supreme Court however rejected the Trump Administration’s attempt to dismantle the program protecting undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children this June, a reprieve for nearly 650,000 recipients known as “dreamers," and the Administration inexplicably backed off of its plan to send foreign college students home just a week later. The 5-to-4 decision, written by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., stunned President Trump, who said in a tweet that it was another “shotgun blast into the face of people that are proud to call themselves Republicans or Conservatives.
A Pew Research survey conducted this month found that 74 percent of Americans favored granting permanent legal status to immigrants who came illegally to the United States when they were children, while 24 percent opposed, and therefore confirms that the vast majority of the nation understands and embraces the constitution.
No single individual, of course, and no single group has an exclusive claim to the America Dream. For America was designed, and ostensibly built, by a nation of immigrants. Since 1776, immigrants have fled tyranny, dictators, and most particularly kings — from the four corners of this earth — for the promise of freedom and prosperity. As the Supreme Court blocks Trump’s bid to end DACA, a win for undocumented Dreamers, it not only plays its hand as expositor of the U.S. Constitution, but warmly extends it to every immigrant throughout the world.