The agency announced new regulations on Monday.

Por Eliza Thompson
Julio 07, 2020

In a new set of regulations released Monday, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said that foreign students cannot remain in the United States if their schools move to an entirely online model this fall. ICE suggested that students currently enrolled in online-only programs transfer to schools with in-person classes, leaving thousands of students with a horrible choice — attend class while the coronavirus pandemic is still raging or return home.

The agency's new regulations state that students enrolled in a hybrid program may continue to study in the U.S., but those in online-only programs may face deportation if they do not transfer to a school that offers in-person instruction. ICE hasn't addressed what will happen if schools currently planning in-person instruction switch to online-only in the event that the pandemic worsens.

According to the Institute of International Education, there are more than 1 million international students studying at American colleges and universities. So far, the Chronicle of Higher Education has found that 9 percent of colleges are already planning for remote-only learning this fall. One of these is Harvard University, which is planning to hold classes remotely while some students return to campus.

"We must do all that we can to ensure that our students can continue their studies without fear of being forced to leave the country midway through the year, disrupting their academic progress and undermining the commitments — and sacrifices — that many of them have made to advance their education," Harvard President Larry Bacow told NPR about the new regulations, which he called "a blunt, one-size-fits-all approach to a complex problem."

The American Council on Education has also condemned the regulations and asked ICE to reconsider their decision. "This guidance raises more questions than it answers and unfortunately does more harm than good," the statement reads. "At a time when institutions are doing everything they can to help reopen our country, we need flexibility, not a big step in the wrong direction. ... We urge the administration to rethink its position and offer international students and institutions the flexibility needed to put a new normal into effect and take into account the health and safety of our students in the upcoming academic year."