Numerous universities, including Harvard and M.I.T., have long valued their international students for bringing diverse global backgrounds onto their campuses. However, in July 2020, the Trump administration made a shocking decision to ban international students from residing in the United States if universities moved their fall semester classes online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Affected students have strongly opposed this ruling, as many come from underdeveloped countries and are searching for a better life. Many universities, including Harvard and M.I.T., have instituted policies to create a safe haven for these students from lower-income families and third-world countries amid the national ban.
The Cause of the Lawsuit Against the Trump Administration
After the ban was announced, Harvard and M.I.T. filed a lawsuit on the Trump administration for violating the Administrative Procedure Act. This act states that in times of emergency, international students can take more than one online course without facing penalties. However, the Trump administration has failed to be specific about declaring this pandemic as an “emergency situation”. As of now, this means that over 1 million international students who are taking online classes are subject to deportation.
Stories From International Students
Many international students feel that this policy will impair both their safety and their learning environments. For example, Valerie Mandela, a student at Harvard University, comes from a high-risk population in Mexico and is confused about what these policies will mean for international students like her.
“…where should I go exactly? Like my parents’ house? My parents are from a high-risk population. Where exactly are we supposed to go?” Valerie, along with numerous other students, feels frustration towards these policies.
“I can’t go back to Venezuela. There are no flights there. It is a very, very unsafe situation. It would put me at risk. It would put 8,000 Venezuelans under F-1 at risk. It would put thousands of other people who are from countries that are currently under humanitarian crisis…[at risk].” Raul Romero, a student at Kenyon College, also feels disadvantaged given the United States’ stance on international students and its immigration policies.
The Harvard Crimson recently had the opportunity to interview international students from disadvantaged communities. Student 3, an anonymous name given to protect the privacy of this student, is from Kashmir and claimed to study abroad to escape the violence of their home country.
“‘If I return to my parents’ home in Kashmir, I will not have consistent access to the Internet that can support high-quality video conference calls’, Student 3 wrote.”
Similarly, a Harvard medical student from Ethiopia would have to defer for a year because of inadequate internet access and a differing time zone. In fact, over 1,000 Harvard students hold F-1 visas from countries with restricted internet, such as Ethiopia. Student 2, from Lebanon, also states that their country is experiencing one of its worst economic crises and access to the internet would be nearly impossible due to the political climate. Another Harvard student from Hungary also feels unsafe returning back to their country due to a lack of LGBTQ rights and health insurance. Meanwhile, a student from South Africa also faces potential struggles such as poor electricity, differing time zones and lack of internet access.
Justice is Given to International Students
As multiple students have come forward with their concerns about I.C.E’s policies, the Trump administration has overturned the restrictions over online curriculums for its international students. Harvard, along with many other universities, considers this a major victory, as it assures international students the right to study in the United States amid the implementation of distance learning in the upcoming fall. After a long legal battle against the Trump administration, international students have obtained justice.
– Aishwarya Thiyagarajan