Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,
I am deeply disappointed in and oppose new policies from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) regarding international students and remote learning issued in a Broadcast Message for COVID-19 and Fall 2020 received on July 6, 2020.
The rule states that visas will not be issued to international students enrolled in universities that offer only online instruction this fall. Under the directive, students who are already in the U.S. will need to leave the country or transfer to another school that offers in-person instruction. This will undoubtedly bring additional negative impacts on international students and colleges and universities throughout the country.
On July 13, the State of Illinois and Illinois Attorney General’s office filed a lawsuit on behalf of Illinois State University and other universities in the state seeking an injunction to stop the implementation of the entire new federal rule. The multistate lawsuit includes a group of 18 states and was filed in the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts against the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. ISU joined 15 other institutions in Illinois’ opposition. I have also joined other university presidents from across the country in signing a letter by the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities (APLU) calling on Congress to urge the withdrawal of the new rule and instead restore flexibility needed to support international students during the pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic has presented a host of anxieties and challenges for students and universities across the nation. Many U.S. embassies and consulates are closed at this time, causing a delay in visa application processing and students’ ability to travel to campus. This, in addition to the new policy from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) creates additional significant challenges.
As part of the actions Illinois State has taken and with my full backing, Provost Aondover Tarhule has communicated the University’s support to all international students. Under the Redbirds Return plan, Illinois State will offer a combination of face-to-face, hybrid, and online courses. We believe that this approach will lessen the potential impact of this rule on our international students. University faculty and staff are working with departments and schools to ensure that we can offer our international students courses in the modalities required for them to begin or continue their degree programs so that this rule has the least impact possible. In addition, the University will host a town hall on Thursday, July 16, 2020, with our international students to listen to their concerns, provide them updates on the actions we have taken, and learn how best we can continue to assist and support them going forward.
We will continue to monitor the potential impact of this federal directive and communicate with returning and incoming international students to provide guidance for the upcoming fall semester. Illinois State remains committed to fostering a diverse, inclusive, and welcoming campus for all students and scholars.
Larry H. Dietz