College denounces Trump administration decision to block international students from staying in US while taking online courses

By Charlie McKenna

Emerson joined local universities to condemn Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s decision to ban international students whose classes are held mostly online this fall. 

ICE announced Monday that international students attending schools that shift to remote learning will have to transfer to an institution offering in-person classes or leave the U.S. in order to maintain their student visas.

In an email sent to international students Wednesday, the Office of International Student Affairs expressed frustration with the new policy. 

“We were deeply disturbed and angered by the recent guidance from US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which places unfair and xenophobic restrictions on international students who study at US colleges and universities,” the statement reads. “Rest assured that we will work with academic coalitions vigorously to oppose these actions.”

The college also sent out a school-wide statement through email and Twitter Wednesday afternoon.

Under Emerson’s current plan, the announcement should have little effect on Emerson’s international student population, which makes up 13% of the undergraduate student body. Students planning to go to the Boston or LA campuses in the fall will be able to maintain their student visas, as the college’s hybrid model satisfies ICE’s requirements for in-person study. However, the possibility of classes being shifted entirely online due to rapid growth of the pandemic in Boston or an outbreak in the community still looms. 

OISA’s email stated students can also take courses at one of the college’s global partners or attend the Kasteel Well program and maintain their visas. 

Harvard and MIT filed a lawsuit Wednesday in US District Court in Boston to put a restraining order on ICE’s policy for 14 days. The universities have requested a hearing with the federal court while they push to permanently block the regulations.  

“If allowed to stand, ICE’s policy would bar hundreds of thousands of international students at American universities from the United States in the midst of their undergraduate or graduate studies,” the suit by the schools reads. “ICE’s decision reflects a naked effort by the federal government to force universities to reopen all in-person classes notwithstanding their informed judgment that it is neither safe nor advisable to do so. The effect—perhaps even the goal—is to create chaos for schools and international students alike.”

President M. Lee Pelton told the Beacon the college also intends to file a friend-of-the-court filing—otherwise known as amicus curiae briefs—in support of the suit.

Northeastern University has also joined the suit, according to the school’s Instagram account.

ICE’s statement notes exemptions were made for international students remaining in the country during spring and summer semesters due to the COVID-19 pandemic. These exemptions will no longer apply in the fall, despite surges in case numbers across the country, according to the announcement.

OISA Director Andrea Popa could not be reached for comment.