By: Erin Freeman | Lynnwood Times Staff
A recently issued ruling that would prohibit international students from residing in the U.S. while studying at higher education institutions only offering virtual instruction in the fall, has been rescinded.
As many higher education institutions transition to virtual instruction amidst the coronavirus pandemic, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued new guidelines on July 6, requiring international students to leave the country or transfer to another school offering in-person learning, if enrolled in institutes operating exclusively online this fall. The new rule, now relieved, would have taken effect on July 15.
The reversal follows legal action taken by colleges and universities nationwide, as well as 17 U.S. general attorneys, including Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, against the Trump Administration’s issued ICE order.
Ferguson filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington on July 10, arguing that ICE’s new guidelines would pressure higher education institutes to fully reopen this fall amidst the pandemic, asserting the rule to be potentially harmful to students and faculty.
“President Trump and ICE need to let colleges and universities make their own decisions about the health, safety, and education of their students, not arbitrarily and illegally punish schools that want to provide classes remotely,” wrote Ferguson in a statement.
Washington ranks as 11th in the nation for the highest number of international student enrollment in a state, with approximately 27,000 international students registered at higher education institutions, according to the Institute of International Education. The ruling would have potentially impacted nearly one thousand students attending colleges throughout Snohomish County.
“The rule was arbitrary, risked public health and threatened the futures of hundreds of EvCC international students,” said Everett Community College (EvCC) President Daria Willis in a statement. “I appreciate that Washington state was part of the legal challenge that led to the implementation of the change being stopped.”
This coming fall, EvCC plans to offer little to no in-person instruction, opting to operate online to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. If ICE’s new ruling had been implemented, the school would have needed to change its instruction model to include hybrid options or dismissed the fall enrollment of a speculated 300 international students.
“We are relieved that the Trump Administration has rescinded an unfair rule that would have required international students to transfer or leave the country if their classes were offered entirely online because of the coronavirus pandemic,” stated Willis on behalf of EvCC.
Edmonds College (EdCC) students would’ve been exempt from the ruling, the school planning to offer in-person instruction as well as hybrid and online alternatives in the fall. Still, the institution expressed concern, the ICE’s announcement unclear on what will happen if the school were to transition to online courses in the middle of the quarter based upon revised recommendations or requirements from health officials.
“When I heard that the ruling was being rescinded, I was very excited, relieved, and so happy for our students,” said EdCC President Dr. Amit B. Singh. “It really means a lot to our campus community that our Triton family will stay united.”
The Fall quarter at Edmonds College (EdCC) is the institution’s largest enrollment period of the year, typically seeing upwards of 1,100 international students enter the student body. As of July 13, the school has more than 700 international students represented from 60 countries with the highest percentage traveling from Mainland China, Vietnam, Indonesia, South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and France.
EdCC’s international program traces back to 50 years ago, Dr. Singh commenting that the decades of student presence have contributed to cultivating a global society on campus.
“The diversity of our student body enhances and enriches the culture of our campus and community,” stated Singh.
EvCC would feel the absence of international students from its student body, the students traveling from over 30 countries worldwide says Willis, explaining that their presence brings various viewpoints to academic and social interactions to campus, a benefit to the school’s domestic students.
“Our domestic students are able to obtain real-life experiences without having to leave the United States,” said Willis in a statement. “International students introduce diverse perspectives into classroom discussions, break stereotypes, and make our campus more vibrant. Our students are able to make more informed opinions, [and have a] real-life understanding of international issues and foreign affairs.”
Congressman Rick Larsen, Representative for Snohomish County and the surrounding area responded to the rescinding of the rule, describing it as “great news,” remarking that international student participation in American academia affirms the values of American culture.
“‘Attracting the world’s best and brightest students is essential to American prosperity and helps spread American values,” said Larsen in a statement.