MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - With recent changes to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program, international students are speaking up.
“We are here because we are looking for opportunities that we don’t have back home,” said Jose Pablo Villa, international student at Christian Brothers University.
Monday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement modified the Student and Exchange Visitor Program. To view the full news release, click here.
The agency says “Non-immigrant F-1 and M-1 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.”
Villa says, “I don’t think it’s fair that we’re treated like this.”
He says thankfully he will be able to stay in the country and finish his last year because CBU is offering hybrid classes. But Villa knows he has it easy compared to other international students.
“Who may not have a safe way to go back home, who may not have a safe country back home, who may not have an environment with fast internet connection for online classes or their time zones may be so different,” said Villa.
Harvard and MIT have filed a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security and ICE.
Universities in the Mid-South are also showing support for students.
LeMoyne-Owen College is still finalizing their plan for the fall but say, “We consider it a privilege to serve our international students, which make up less than two percent of our student population. Given the recent ICE policy changes, we expect that our international students will return in the Fall, and we are reaching out to them to monitor and gauge the impact.”
The University of Memphis says, “We are aware of the latest announcement by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement arm of the Government. The new rule is actually comparable to those that existed in January 2020 (pre COVID-19). As shared previously, the University of Memphis will provide a range of educational offerings this fall to include classes in person, hybrid and online. Accordingly, these rules will not pose a problem for our international students. Our CIES staff is dedicated to helping each student navigate compliance with the rules and regulations that govern their visa status.”
As a way to speak up and raise awareness Villa started a petition online. He wants everyone to understand the impact this will have on international students.
“Try to understand what it’s like to be far from home in the middle of a global pandemic and on top of that the government is trying to use you as a bargaining tip,” said Villa.
Villa says CBU has always shown support for its international students and in a statement the president said he stands in solidarity with the universities who have challenged this mandate in the courts. CBU’s presidents made an announcement on Thursday, to view the video click here.