On July 6, ICE announced that international students with valid student visas would be forced to leave the United States if their university moves its classes online due to the pandemic.
I was once an international student at the University of South Carolina, on a valid F-1 visa, and now I teach at Wabash College and volunteer in the local community. Forcing international students out of the country means separating them from their loved ones and friends, disrupting their ongoing research and making them violate lease agreements and other important commitments.
The international student ban is not only inhumane but it is also financially damaging to higher education and to the country. International students often pay the highest tuition to colleges and universities, which in turn subsidizes domestic students. According to the US Department of Commerce, in 2018 alone, their total contribution to US economy was $45 billion.
Opening face-to-face classes during a pandemic is unsafe in the states with a high number of hospitalizations and deaths. ICE’s announcement will force universities to choose between endangering their communities or losing a large percentage of tuition-paying, hard-working and productive students.
For almost two decades, I’ve taught many international students who are brilliant, industrious and innovative scholars. They bring a much-needed global perspective to our classrooms, an invaluable contribution in the age of international business. After graduating, they often become leaders in scientific discoveries, successful liaisons between business partners in the U.S. and abroad and outstanding artists. This country needs international students in the age of growing xenophobia and economic uncertainty.
ICE’s cruel decision to ban international students reveals that at the heart of this action is not valid paperwork (which these students have) but simply the foreign origin of law-abiding immigrants and visitors. I call on our representatives to challenge this inhumane and damaging decision.