Editorial | International student guidelines show why ICE must go


Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images/TNS

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement released new guidelines Monday, which said if universities move classes fully online, the agency will move to deport international students.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement released new guidelines Monday, which said if universities move classes fully online, the agency will deport international students. These guidelines are abhorrent, though it’s not shocking.

ICE has long proven that it isn’t a legitimate law enforcement agency and instead furthers an anti-immigration agenda, especially from the current administration. These guidelines for international students are nothing more than a way to advance the administration’s current anti-immigrant agenda and kickstart the economy by forcing students back to work. ICE doesn’t work to keep immigrants or American citizens safe, and these guidelines show how mismanaged the agency is. It should be abolished.

Existing regulations generally ban international students from taking online-only classes while living in the United States, though ICE temporarily waived this rule this spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Immigration experts have noted that ICE could — and should — easily extend this exemption, considering that the circumstances in the United States are even more dire than they were in March. Essentially, the guidelines are forcing international students to put their lives at risk by entering the classroom if they want to stay in the United States.

Many states are reporting disturbingly high caseloads, and the total cases reported in the United S-tates are at an all-time high right now. ICU beds in some parts of Florida, Texas and Arizona are nearing full capacity, and some universities have reversed fall reopening plans for public health safety reasons.

“This is very shortsighted,” Doris Meissner, the head of the U.S. program at the Migration Policy Institute, told CBS News about the recent ICE guidelines. “I don’t see the public interest or national interest reason for doing this.”

Many universities rely financially on international students, who usually pay full tuition to their respective institution. Even if their attendance didn’t benefit university budgets, the guidelines would still be horrific — but this goes to show that ICE’s guidelines are literally nothing more than a way to get international students out of the country.

The Trump administration has been particularly inhumane with immigration policies. Trump has made obtaining green cards more difficult for poor immigrants. His administration ruled that children could be kept under the horrific conditions in border detention for more than 20 days. His most violent language is usually reserved for immigrants. The existence of ICE only helps to further this.

ICE is technically a law enforcement agency that’s supposed to keep people safe. But there’s frankly nothing unsafe about having international students in the United States. International students are vital to creating a diverse learning environment and furthering research. Deporting international students makes learning even more difficult. Many would be in a different time zone, and some might not have a conducive learning environment to go home to.

Combining the latest international student guidelines with everything that’s happened under the Trump administration — and previous administrations — it’s quite clear that ICE has never been here to keep anyone safe. Instead, it violates human rights and justifies doing so by calling the violations “law enforcement.”

International students belong in the United States, where they are studying. Yes, ICE should extend the exemption for online classes due to the national emergency. But really, in the big picture, we cannot forget that it needs to be abolished altogether.