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Jayapal Urges Trump Administration to Withdraw Student Visa Guidance

Jayapal and Warren Lead Bicameral Effort Urging Trump Administration to Immediately Withdraw New Xenophobic Guidance That Threatens International Students With Deportation

More than 11,000 students could be impacted in the Seattle-area alone

[Read the full letter here.]

U.S. Representative Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Co-Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, joined United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) in leading a bicameral letter to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) urging the agencies to withdraw new guidance that imperils the status of more than one million international students who would be studying online at U.S. universities this coming academic year. The guidance threatens international students with deportation if they do not comply with the requirement that they take in-person classes.

More than 11,000 students could be impacted in the Seattle-area alone including more than 7,400 students at the University of Washington, 900 students at schools in the Seattle Colleges District, 755 students at Seattle University, 1,000 students at Edmonds Community College and 800 students at Shoreline Community College.

“As someone who was once on a student visa, I will fight this all the way,” said Congresswoman Jayapal. “This is yet another cruel, xenophobic and unacceptable attack on immigrants. We would be foolish to lose out on the greatness of the world’s best and brightest. We are all better off when these students contribute all they have to offer here on our campuses, throughout our communities and in the United States — a nation of immigrants.”

In the letter, the lawmakers expressed deep concerns that the Trump administration is once again making it clear that it is never about the economy. It is never about American greatness. It is never about public health. It is about xenophobia, hatred of “the other” — pure and simple.

“ICE’s announcement of their plans to force out or deport international students who remain at U.S. colleges and universities and who are taking a full online course load is cruel and unconscionable,” the lawmakers wrote. “These students are already in the United States, are established members of educational communities, and have been determined through the visa screening process to pose no danger to the United States.” 

“We call out this policy for what it is: a cruel, senseless, and xenophobic attempt to use noncitizens as political pawns in order to financially coerce colleges and universities to reopen campuses this fall, despite what is best for public health,” the lawmakers continued. “This policy is dangerous to the health and well-being of numerous communities.” 

Read the full letter here.

Some colleges and universities have transitioned to online learning due to the pandemic, consistent with guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which recognizes the diversity of various institutions of higher education and advises them to “adjust to meet the unique needs and circumstances” they face when trying to keep their communities safe. 

On Monday, ICE issued guidance that altered the Student and Exchange Visitor Program’s requirements for international students, imposing a one-size-fits-all standard on all colleges and universities. According to that guidance, international students on F-1 visas (for full-time study at an academic institution) and M-1 visas (for vocational or other nonacademic training) will not be allowed to take a full online course load while in the United States. This affects incoming students, who will not be permitted to receive their visas or enter the country, as well as international students already in the United States. Under the new guidance, current international students in the United States will have to transfer to another school with in-person classes or leave the country—or else face deportation.

Due to the Trump Administration’s catastrophic mishandling of the pandemic, COVID-19 continues to rage throughout the United States, causing many institutions of higher education to move most or all of their courses online to protect their students, faculty, and staff. Some colleges developed these plans in consultation with local public health officials, and these plans are consistent with the CDC’s guidance for colleges and universities, which advises them to “offer virtual learning and telework options, if feasible.”

 In addition to urging ICE and DHS to rescind this policy immediately, the lawmakers requested a staff briefing to discuss the Administration’s rationale for this reckless policy by July 16, 2020. 

The letter was also signed by Senators Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawai’i.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.),  Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), and Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.). 

Additionally, it was signed by Representatives Jesús G. “Chuy” García (D-Ill.), Nydia M. Velázquez (D-N.Y), Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.) Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Danny K. Davis (D-Ill.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Lori Trahan (D-Mass.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Yvette D. Clarke (D-N.Y.), Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), Dina Titus (D-Nev.), Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr. (D-GA.), James P. McGovern (D-Mass.), Rosa L. DeLauro (D-Conn.), David Price (D-N.C.), Judy Chu (D-Calif.), Grace F. Napolitano (D-Calif.), Juan Vargas (D-Calif.), David N. Cicilline (D-R.I.), Adam Smith (D-Wash.), Deb Haaland (D-N.M.), Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), Lois Frankel (D-Fla.), Sylvia R. Garcia (D-Texas.), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), Gregory W. Meeks (D-N.Y.), Val B. Demings (D-Fla.), Emanuel Cleaver, II (D-Mo.), Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), Ted W. Lieu (D-Calif.), William R. Keating (D-Mass.), Albio Sires (D-N.J.), Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.), John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), Joseph P. Kennedy, III (D-Mass.), Filemon Vela (D-Texas), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.), Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), André Carson (D-Ind.), Nita M. Lowey (D-N.Y.), Mike Doyle (D-Penn.), Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.), Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Paul D. Tonko (D-N.Y.), Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.), Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.).

The American Immigration Lawyers Association also supports the letter.