CLEVELAND (WJW)- New federal guidance could force international students to leave the country as some universities plan for online learning amid the coronavirus pandemic.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, announced a temporary change to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program, stating non-immigrant students taking all online classes because the pandemic during the fall semester will not be allowed to remain in the United States.
During a virtual student town hall Wednesday, Cleveland State University President Harlan Sands said he would fight for their international students.
“We need to do everything possible to keep our international students here, keep them engaged, keep them on track,” Sands said.
Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are suing regarding the change.
A spokesperson for Case Western Reserve University released the following statement:
“We are reviewing the details of the announcement and consulting with immigration experts regarding its implications. This fall, the university will offer a combination of courses that are entirely in-person, entirely online and a blend of in-person and online instruction.”
In 2019, Case Western Reserve University reported international students accounted for nearly 20 percent of their student population.
“It’s ridiculous because it’s not their fault that they gain admission here to go to school and they should not be sent back because schools are online,” said Ruth Oluduyile, recent Cleveland State University graduate.
The president of the non-profit Global Cleveland, which seeks to attract international people to economic and educational opportunities in Cuyahoga County, said the change would hurt Northeast Ohio and the long-standing companies that help Cleveland excel.
“My initial reaction to the decision to make it even harder for international students to study in Northeast Ohio, to study in Cleveland, to be here in the United States, to spend billions of dollars a year is, what is this for what is this about?” he said.
ICE states the U.S. Department of State will not issue visas to students enrolled in fully online school classes or programs and those students will not be permitted entry to the U.S.
Students already enrolled in those programs or classes “must depart the country or take other measures such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status.”