A controversial directive that would have prohibited international students, including those at the University of Arizona, from taking online courses in the United States has been repealed.
Last week, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said international students would not be allowed to enter or stay in the country unless they attend classes in person. Several universities and colleges had already made plans to stay fully online for the fall semester in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
The policy has been the subject of a series of legal challenges from institutions across the country, including the University of Arizona. The state’s three public universities joined a class action lawsuit this week.
But the fight ended on Monday, when a Massachusetts district court announced that the Trump administration had agreed to reverse policy ahead of the first hearing against it.
In a statement, AU President Robert Robbins said the university was happy with the decision.
“We are delighted that the Trump administration has rescinded this directive and that international students do not have to choose between their education and their health and safety,” the statement said. “This change rightly recognizes our international students for their perseverance and determination to complete their study plans. We are very pleased to welcome back international students to the University of Arizona and we are committed to ensure that they are treated fairly. ”
Jeremy Fiel, assistant professor of sociology at the AU, said the policy was the latest in a long line of hurdles for international students.
“International students have been kind of tortured over the past few years,” he said. “There have been constant threats of bans or restrictions on certain types of visas, and once the pandemic hits if they leave the country they are not sure they can return.”
Fiel and other AU instructors have openly expressed their opposition to the policy since its first deployment by the ICE last week. Fiel said it was a relief to see that it had been repealed, but many students still wonder if a different policy will emerge in its wake. Others wonder if they will be allowed to work in the United States after graduation or obtain visas to stay in the United States.
“This policy seems to have been uniformly bad, I haven’t heard of a single constituency that has benefited from it,” he said. “We have a relationship with these students and we couldn’t do our job without them.”
Robbins echoed this sentiment earlier this week in a statement describing the vital role international students play at the university.
“Many of our 3,700 international graduate and undergraduate students have remained in this country during the pandemic to ensure their studies are not interrupted by a visa problem,” the statement said. “We see this as a sign of their determination and commitment to study in the United States at a top research university, and this advice is needlessly putting our international students at risk.”