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Damned If You Do. Damned If You Don’t: The Predicament of International Students

Damned If You Do. Damned If You Don’t: The Predicament of International Students

  • President Trump’s new regulations leave foreign students between a rock and a hard place.

On Monday July 6th, Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced that if their universities were switching to online learning for the upcoming term, international students studying in America would have to leave the nation or face the risk of deportation. This new legislation states that students enrolled in universities that have gone online for the rest of the year will not be issued visas by the United States and if students are enrolled in hybrid schools, that are a mix of both online and in-person learning, they will be able to remain in the country but will have to leave immediately if the schools decide to switch to an entirely online option. 

This legislation creates uncertainty for students that have already had their education disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. It states that if students refuse to leave the country, they will be deported and that international students will be stopped at the airport or while they are travelling. Beyond this criminalization of innocent students, this new legislation also harms students that are willing to comply and return to their own countries as it states that international students attending online school will only be able to enroll in one online class, or a maximum of three credit hours, with the standard full-time load being 30 credit hours per year for a student getting their bachelor’s degree. So, not only does this legislation displace students, it hinders the ability of international students to receive their degrees in time. 

The growth of international students coming to America to pursue a higher education has greatly aided the U.S. economy, with these students contributing nearly $45 million in 2018.

Furthermore, if these students attend a university that has a hybrid system, they are required to prove that they are attending the in-person classes in addition to the online classes. This forces international students to risk their lives, regardless of their own health concerns, and attend classes in person, or risk being forcibly removed from this country. If the institution decides to suddenly transition to completely online courses, international students are given only ten days to transfer to a different university that offers in-person courses or go back to their native countries. 

Last year, there were over a million international students enrolled in American universities and institutions, meaning that this legislation will displace thousands of college students. While the world faces a global pandemic that has killed hundreds of thousands of people so far, the current administration expects these students, who have come to America to pursue a higher education and a better life, to put their lives on the line by defying the advice of health experts and forcing them to travel. 

This is harming not only the displaced international students, but the economy and reputation of the United States. The growth of international students coming to America to pursue a higher education has greatly aided the U.S. economy, with these students contributing nearly $45 million in 2018. International students create jobs, enrich the economy, and strengthen alliances with other countries. With education being the nation’s 5th largest service export, international students are an extremely important asset to this country, yet the Trump administration and ICE are displacing and putting the lives of these individuals at risk. 

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Ishani Peddi is a rising senior at Starr’s Mill High School in Peachtree City, Georgia. Born and raised in Southern California, she moved to Georgia last year. She has been writing as long as she can remember and published a fictional work in middle school. A passionate poet, who has won numerous literary competitions, Ishani is involved in various clubs and organizations within her school and community. She is the Communications Director for the Georgia High School Democrats, the Vice President of the Starr’s Mill High School Young Democrats, a Civil Air Patrol Cadet, and an AAPIs for Biden Intern, to name a few.

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  • Great article and good points. One query: are you sure it’s only $45 million that international students contribute? I teach Chinese students in China who come to the States for undergraduate education. Most of their parents earn high incomes, thus can afford to send their children to the States. I think this would have a tidal effect on the U.S. economy. In addition to paying tuition at international rates, they spend money in their communities: rent, groceries, daily items, cars, travel, electronics. Wouldn’t this sink college towns? I read that Johns Hopkins is suing to reverse this policy. I am surprised that more universities are not fighting back, but I’m not in the States now, so I don’t see the whole story.

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