July 15, 2020

ICE reverses policy on international students

Gage Skidmore

President of the United States Donald Trump speaking with attendees at the 2019 Student Action Summit hosted by Turning Point USA at the Palm Beach County Convention Center in West Palm Beach, Florida. (Flickr/cc)

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement walked back its plan to prohibit distance learning for international students Tuesday.

The plan which targeted students on nonimmigrant F-1 or M-1 visas from being able to take all of their course work online this coming fall threw a few thousand students in New Mexico into uncertainty. The University of New Mexico and New Mexico State University have 1,100 and 1,000 international students respectively. New Mexico Tech has 134 and Western New Mexico University in Silver City has about 50 international students while Highlands University in Las Vegas has about 60.

Highlands University President Sam Minner told NM Political Report on Tuesday the ICE policy issued last week is “shameful.”

Minner said where possible, the university was advising international students to take a thesis class in the fall to satisfy the ICE requirement that at least one class be in-person. But, part of the requirement from ICE was that the in-person class had to further the student’s progress toward their degree and a thesis class could not work for everyone.

For some students, taking in-person classes that advance their degree in the fall would have been impossible as many classes will be held online.

Related: NM universities respond to new ICE rule targeting international students

Two international students who participated in an online discussion with Minner on Monday expressed concern about the rule. One asked if he should continue his education.

New Mexico is one of 18 states that launched a lawsuit against the Trump administration and asked for an injunction on the rule. That suit was led by the Massachusetts attorney general. California also sued separately.

Related: New Mexico one of 18 states to sue Pres. Trump over international student policy

But it was during a hearing for another lawsuit led by Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) against the Trump administration that led to ICE reversing the new policy it implemented a week ago.

Minner said Highlands University signed an amicus or “friend of the court” brief, had reached out to congressional leadership and was “fighting this in every way possible.”

“I think the policy is very ill advised,” Minner said.

University of New Mexico President Garnett Stokes called the ICE policy “unfair.”

“It is especially irresponsible to mandate any particular course of instruction for any students during a global pandemic, when colleges and universities must be permitted the flexibility to adopt policies, protocols, and means of instruction that protect the health and safety of the entire university community,” she said through a statement.