International students were facing quite the dilemma. If their school was offering on-line classes only this fall, they would be facing deportation. Now, the Trump administration was facing a dilemma of their own, lawsuits...and lots of them.

In a follow-up to our July 9th article (below), the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) has rescinded its controversial rule barring international students from living in the U.S. while taking fall classes online. Media outlets including USA Today are reporting "18 state attorneys general had sued the Department of Homeland Security over the rule, which would have forced foreign students to leave or face deportation if they were enrolled in only online classes this fall".

Some people would say it was a politically-motivated rule that completely back-fired on the Trump administration. The rule, which was met with much controversy and push-back from universities, will now revert to the policy instituted in March, at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, stating all international students would be allowed to attend all classes online during the pandemic. All this while universities across the nation, try to make the decision to offer on-campus classes, on-line only instruction, or some sort of hybrid.

Besides adding culture and diversity to the student population, international students typically pay full price tuition. According to data from the U.S. Department of Commerce; international students contributed nearly $45 billion to the U.S. economy in 2018. The now-rescinded ICE order would have dealt a major economic blow to colleges and universities.

Below is a joint statement from the presidents of the state of Iowa's three major universities:

Source: USA Today

*Originally posted July 9, 2020*

We're into the part of the summer where higher learning institutions must start deciding whether they will will re-open campuses for classroom instruction, offer on-line instruction only, or some sort of hybrid mixture of in-person and on-line classes. To go along with that confusion, the Department of Homeland Security has imposed a new rule that is causing quite the stir among students, faculty and immigration advocates.

U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued a broadcast message that states:

"Students attending schools operating entirely online may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States. The U.S. Department of State will not issue visas to students enrolled in schools and/or programs that are fully online for the fall semester nor will U.S. Customs and Border Protection permit these students to enter the United States. Active students currently in the United States enrolled in such programs must depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status or potentially face immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the
initiation of removal proceedings."

It all very confusing, as the statement calls it a "temporary final rule"  and then in the next sentence it states these are "temporary exemptions". Either way, it comes across harshly and is being met with much criticism. There is one exception to the rule: "that international students attending schools adopting a hybrid model—that is, a mixture of online and in person classes—will be allowed to take more than one class or three credit hours online."  Those students will be able to remain in or return to the U.S. as long as the program is not entirely online.

There's also a lot of "what ifs". For instance, what if a school starts out on-line, then the number of Covid-19 cases start to drop, or a vaccine becomes available? Or vice versa, what if the school starts out with on-campus instruction and moves to on-line? These students will either have trouble getting back to the U.S. or be forced to leave the country.

Here's what our three universities in the state of Iowa had to say about it on Twitter:

Now international students will be forced to make a decision between either leaving the country abruptly or scrambling to find a new program or institution that offers on-campus instruction or a hybrid. In the meantime, some experts are predicting, the ICE decision could actually backfire and "force the hand" of many universities in an effort to side with the international students. Many universities might decide to hold classroom in-person instruction that otherwise would have kept classes online. That brings students back to campus and jeopardizes the entire community's health. On the other hand, a reminder, that they pay their tuition, just like everybody else. So is this decision being made in the interest of public health or is it politically motivated?

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