Several Asian American Congressmembers including Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) have co-signed a letter urging Immigration and Customs Enforcement to withdraw guidelines they created that would prevent international students from staying in the country if they don’t register for in-person classes, The Hindu reports.
Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ed Markey (D-MA), two other senators and six members of Congress authored the letter. The letter is now supported by 136 congressmen and 30 senators, according to The Hindu.
Addressed to ICE deputy director Matthew Albence and Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf, the writers expressed “deep concerns” on the policy that would “punish” international students as educational institutions move online to protect their communities from COVID-19. They recommended the policy be withdrawn immediately.
“We are concerned that ICE’s guidance
is motivated not by public health considerations, but rather by animus toward immigrants, by a goal of forcing schools to reopen even as COVID-19 cases are rising, and by a desire to create an illusion of normalcy during this unprecedented public health emergency,” the letter read.
It also pointed out that forcing international students to attend in-person classes to retain their visas is against guidelines provided by public health authorities within the Trump administration.
A statement published by Harris’ office also supports that this may leave existing and incoming international students with no options but to transfer to another school with in-person classes or face deportation.
“Although the Trump Administration is attempting to blame this new guidance on existing regulations, it is failing to preserve or pursue options to provide flexibility to international students and to institutions of higher education,” the statement read.
The guidance is unfair to colleges as well, it stated, which developed virtual instruction policies in consultation with public health experts.
“We call out this policy for what it is: a cruel, senseless and xenophobic attempt to use noncitizens as political pawns in order to financially coerce colleges and universities to reopen campuses this fall, despite what is best for public health,” the original letter stated. “This policy is dangerous to the health and well-being of numerous communities.”
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