New ICE policy puts international students at risk of deportation

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

New ICE policy puts international students at risk of deportation

By Megan Loreto, Raven Yamamoto

The LMU community took action last week to confront a new consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic: the potential deportation of their international students as a result of a new policy put forth by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). 

On July 6, ICE announced changes to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), meaning that full-time international students with F-1 or M-1 visas cannot remain in the United States if they are taking all-online classes in the fall.  

According to the U.S. and Customs Enforcement website, students attending schools that have confirmed an all-online semester “must depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status.” Failure to comply will result in “the initiation of removal proceedings.” 

President Timothy Snyder announced last week that LMU has joined over 200 universities backing Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and ICE stating that the new policy has thrown “virtually all of U.S. higher education into chaos.”

A petition to the SEVP was also made, asking ICE to allow F-1 and M-1 students to remain in the U.S., and has since garnered over 405,000 signatures.

Nathan Stefani is a rising junior from France who worries about his future, knowing that he’ll be deported upon arrival to the U.S. if LMU goes completely online for the fall.

“I first thought it wasn’t that big of a deal, but then I started reading more about it and realized the gravity of the actual law,” said Stefani. “Don’t get me wrong, I would totally understand if we go online to save lives and stop the spread of coronavirus, but with that new ICE law it becomes trickier.” 


Sophomore Varun Senthilraja, who is originally from Bangalore, India, explained that he’ll be “forced” to transfer universities because of ICE’s new policy and a 12-hour time difference between LA and Bangalore.


“Our hopes lie in how much the community understands our situation and the complexities surrounding it,” said Senthilraja. 


LMU alumnus Madhuri Thackeray (‘20) raised concerns about what she perceives to be underlying xenophobia motivating ICE’s sudden policy changes. 

“Your life should not be burdened or questioned because you were born somewhere else and sought opportunities somewhere else,” said Thackeray.

Originally from Mumbai, India, Thackeray is set to start her graduate studies in the fall and worries about ICE’s policy interfering with the pursuit of her master’s.

“You should be able to avail the opportunities that are given to you or create them for others who are denied humanity based on where they are born,” said Thackeray.

According to ASLMU International Student Senator Anastasia Glushneva, the Office of International Student Services (OISS) received over 100 emails the day ICE made the announcement, all from students with concerns about the new rules.

Glushneva released a community letter via ASLMU’s Instagram account last Thursday in response to the news, offering her personal support to those affected.

“I figured that people are panicking. I realized that I had to do something,” said Glushneva. “Words have a great power to uplift and I think that’s what we all needed at the moment.”

From Krasnoyarsk, Russia, Glushneva explained that ICE’s new rule would force her to navigate her classes with a 15-hour time difference and leave the U.S., where she’s lived for six years. She would also have to find a flight to Russia, where borders are closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Students and universities nationwide were quick to take action to prevent international students from having to make such difficult decisions. 

According to the SEVP announcement, international students attending schools operating on a hybrid model are allowed to take more than one class or three units online. Students from the University of California (UC) Berkeley discussed the possibility of creating an in-person, one-unit class run by students with the help of a faculty mentor. The University of Southern California (USC) is offering free, in-person classes to their international students, despite their recent switch to online instruction for the fall. 

 Senior Charlie Martin took to Twitter, calling on her peers to pressure LMU to do the same.

“I have a bunch of friends who are interested in spearheading a one-unit course, including making syllabuses, creating the plan, grading, being there and all of that,” said Martin.

LMU students are also circulating a spreadsheet via social media created by junior Jade Kinomoto that lists classes being held in-person in the fall. The purpose of the document is to encourage domestic students who are unaffected by the ICE’s rule changes to give up their seat for an international student that will allow them to stay in the U.S. 


Kinomoto’s spreadsheet also lists other resources for international students, including local housing opportunities near campus and a link to LMU’s “Free &  For Sale” Facebook marketplace. 


Martin explained how domestic students like her can support their international peers by sharing the class spreadsheet as well as making others more aware of the policy.

“Find faculty and staff that you know pretty well and contact them saying, ‘I want to do this, how can you help?’ Put the pressure on them and try to keep [an] account of who is helping and who wants to help,” said Martin. “Eventually, we can compile all that together and force the institution to do its work.”

In their latest community advisory letter, the University stated that they are “committed to providing the in-person and hybrid courses needed to meet the current requirements,” for the ICE policy as it stands. 

Senior Nat├ília D’Amorim worries for her fellow international students across the country, especially those that attend universities that have already announced that classes would be exclusively online in the fall.

“I have no doubt that [LMU] has our best interest at heart,” said D’Amorim. “However, I feel like there has been a lack of communication to explain what this means to the international community and the steps that are being taken to assure the best possible outcome.” 

LMU stated that they would be sharing more information about their plans to support their international students sometime this week.

“The longer it takes [for] them to officially give a statement, the more the anxiety and uncertainty grow within the community, making people feel neglected,” said D’Amorim.