International Life Column

Oct 2, 2020 | By Anusha Khanal | Illustration by Patil Khakhamian

Once again furthering its anti-immigration policies, the current administration is proposing a new rule that would allow international students to stay in the U.S. for only a fixed duration of time. At the moment, students are allowed to stay as long as the terms and conditions for their non-immigrant category (F, J, or I) are being fulfilled, or their “duration of status” is being maintained.

The proposed fixed term would be capped at four years, with international students from some countries having as short as two years, meaning that students would have to reapply for a visa even if their study is not over. To apply for an extension, they would have to prove to the administration that their reasons are valid.

The document published by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Sept. 25, 2020, expressed concerns over the potential threat posed to national security as a result of international students overstaying their visa.

The document states, “This change would provide the Department with additional protections and mechanisms to exercise the oversight necessary to vigorously enforce our nation’s immigration laws, protect the integrity of these nonimmigrant programs, and promptly detect national security concerns.”

In 2019, the U.S. accepted over a million visas in the F status (the visa category required to enter as an international student). The DHS claims in its document that it “appreciates the academic benefits, cultural value, and economic contributions these foreign nationals make to academic institutions and local communities throughout the United States.” However, it clearly alleges that a higher number of non-immigrant aliens make the ‘monitoring’ of these groups difficult.

Although the proposed rule has not gone into effect and could be reversed if there is a change in the administration, there has not been a shortage of messages to international students from the current administration that they are not welcome here.

The administration attempted to take away international students’ visa status in July this year if they did not take at least one course in person. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, many students decided to return back to their home countries not only to be with their families during a global pandemic, but also because colleges did not provide students a space to live. 

Although Harvard, MIT, and other universities sued the government and the plan was rescinded, it clearly highlighted how insignificant and objectified international students are, given that their health was not even a concern.

Nine percent of the student body at Colorado College is made up of international students. International students have had to face immense amounts of uncertainty, fear, and emotional, physical, and psychological hardships, not only due to the pandemic, but also due to the different administrations that continuously decide their present and future.

International students have constantly been tokenized or used for a political agenda, whether to force universities to open or, with the new proposed rule, to spread the narrative that international students coming into the U.S. pose a national security threat.

There is a need for conversation within CC to also talk about how international students are represented by the administration of the school. How is the school administration participating in reproducing these narratives and representations? What can we do as a community to support international students during these times?

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