On Monday July 6, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that under a new rule, international students studying in the United States either must leave the country or be deported if they do not take in-person classes at their respective institutions. Many universities across the country have elected to be online-only due to the coronavirus pandemic, meaning thousands of international students now face the risk of deportation, including those attending Oregon universities.
With the University of California, Harvard, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology already having announced plans to sue the Trump administration over this new rule, Oregonian students and citizens are looking to the state’s universities for answers about their own plans of action.
Impacts at Oregon Universities
The state’s three largest public universities, Oregon State University, Portland State University, and University of Oregon, all retain high numbers of international students. International students account for more than 7% of total enrollment at PSU, more than 11% at OSU, and more than 12% at UO.
In total, according to an economic analysis done by NAFSA: Association of International Educators, international students attending U.S. colleges and universities contributed a whopping $41 billion and supported 458,290 jobs in the 2018-2019 academic year alone. Losing international students, for any college that supports them, would be a great loss financially.
This is also true for Oregon universities, which are very reliant on international students who often pay full tuition and room-and-board, helping to fund the maintenance of the many services and resources the institutions offer. For Oregon specifically, international students contributed $424.7 million and 4,454 jobs in the 2018-2019 academic year.
More than that, international students are considered extremely valuable for the unique perspectives they bring to college campuses, having a substantial impact on college life for all students.
OSU in particular is struggling to decipher what the rule means for them and their students, considering the combined course offerings the school currently employs. Vice president of university relations, Steve Clark, explained, “Neither ‘in-person’ nor ‘online’ was defined in the guidance. [These] definitions are very important to understand as during spring term at OSU, in compliance with Governor Kate Brown’s executive order for colleges and universities, OSU offered course instruction using remote conferencing tools, such as Zoom. While Ecampus courses are fully taught by OSU faculty, they are designed for exclusive online instruction. Meanwhile, remote instruction using Zoom or a mix of in-person and remote Zoom instruction planned this fall are designed to support public health during a pandemic.”
This combination plan for the fall has led OSU officials to conclude that this new ICE rule may not generally apply to Oregon State’s international students. In addition to this, OSU officials say that for those international students who already returned to their home countries due to the pandemic, OSU can provide new documentation for them to reenter the U.S. and take classes at the university.
Other Oregon Universities’ Responses
University of Oregon also acknowledged that more details are needed before officials can fully understand the impact on the university’s international students. For the time being, UO is advising that international students need to take some classes that have an “in-person instructional component” to avoid the possibility of deportation.
UO also released in a statement on July 7 that “With our dedicated colleagues in UO Government Relations and other departments across campus, we are fighting this latest move by the Trump administration in coordination with many of the major higher-education associations.”
The state’s largest urban university, Portland State, is anticipating conflict as a result of the new rule. Director of international affairs at PSU, Christina Luther said in an email to Portland State administrators, “I expect there will be vehement pushback on a few of these decisions by our professional association, [the National Association of Foreign Student Advisers] NAFSA, and by the membership. There are institutions that still have thousands of enrolled international students.”
ACLU Weighs In
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has not yet filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration, but the organization expressed their disgust with the new rule on Wednesday July 8.
Andrea Flores, ACLU deputy director of policy stated, “This policy is incredibly cruel. It is inhumane, and it disrupts the lives of hundreds of thousands of young people who are planning to continue their education in the United States. It also unfairly burdens universities who are going above and beyond to make sure that students and faculty and communities stay safe.”
“This administration — rather than develop a coherent public health response — continues to make significant changes to our immigration system that only advance an agenda against immigrants.”
By Cara Nixon