Did We Just See Positive Changes for International Education?

This week we’ve seen a few positive signs on the international education front. Nothing’s great because, well, this is the Trump Administration, but they’re better than they were.

  • - Immigration and Customs Enforcement reversed its own rules and announced that foreign nationals in the United States to go to university would be subject to removal if their entire course loads were delivered online. It appeared to be an effort to coerce universities into holding in-person classes and creating the air of normalcy that it has hoped to maintain amidst the Coronavirus pandemic while simultaneously making the United States a less appealing option for international students. 
  • But on Tuesday, the administration rescinded the rule. At that point, it faced eight lawsuits over the decision including ones from Harvard and M.I.T., and the decision had sparked criticism from hundreds of universities that were trying to decide how to have fall classes safely. 
  • - The White House may have allowed an exception to the Executive Order that temporarily stopped the issuance of many work-related visas. As we’ve talked about before, the decision particularly hurts teachers in second language-immersion schools, which often get their teachers on J-1 visas. The premise of the Executive Order was to create jobs for out of work U.S. nationals, but few people are sufficiently fluent in French or Spanish to teach math, science, and social studies in that language. That order left 73 jobs vacant in Louisiana with the first day of the fall semester a month away. On Wednesday, Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser and the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana (CODOFIL) announced that “the United States Bureau of Consular Affairs has communicated their intention to begin processing visas for International Associate Teachers coming to work in Louisiana schools during the upcoming 2020-2021 school year,” according to a press release. It goes on to say, “While approval for these exceptions rests with U.S. embassies and consulates in affected areas, the exceptions apply broadly to Louisiana’s International Associate Teachers and signal progress in ensuring these teachers will be able to work in Louisiana in the upcoming school year.” This sounds like Nungesser and CODOFIL have found a work-around and have not actually convinced the Trump Administration to carve out an exception. Still, we hope for the best.
  • - After the Supreme Court upheld DACA, the relevant communities have been watching to see what happens next. As the Center for American Progress observed, “U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has taken no public steps to restore DACA to the way it operated pre-rescission. Rather, the agency has been silent—with exception of a post-decision statement that opened by questioning the legitimacy of the Supreme Court itself. As of the date of publication, the Trump administration is in open defiance of the law.” When asked about the status of DACA and when it would begin enrolling new DREAMers, President Trump told Telemundo’s José Diaz Balart, “They're going to be part of a much bigger bill on immigration. It's going to be a very big bill, a very good bill, and merit-based bill and it will include DACA, and I think people are going to be very happy.” He went on to say that it would include a road to citizenship. Since a White House spokesperson quickly walked back the president’s words and said that his plans did not include “amnesty”—“path to citizenship” in Conservative-speak. The announcement had the tell-tale marks of the president winging an announcement that was news to his staff, so it’s risky to get your hopes up for someone who has yet to put the health and welfare of immigrants first during his time in office. Still, bad news on the immigration front has been such a regular occurrence that we’ll take even guarded news when we can get it. 


Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash.

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