International students come from all over to attend America’s universities, and they give American students like myself direct access to the cultures and goings on of countries around the world.
However, amid a worsening pandemic and uncertainty, international students face a new challenge. New rules written by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement threaten to pull their lives out from under them. They state that any international student enrolled in online-only courses will have to depart the U.S. or risk deportation.
For universities, this presents a choice: Hold in-person classes and risk the health and safety of students and employees from COVID-19, or go fully online and force international students to leave and potentially never come back. In normal times, forcing out international students would hurt our school, town and country. But during a pandemic where the future is already uncertain, it is needlessly unfair, cruel and senseless.
In the short term, our communities will suffer by abandoning international members. These students came to the U.S. in search of a brighter future. Many stay and work to help create the next great American company and fuel American industry. As students, they contribute to Bloomington’s economy.
The long-term effects are even more severe, because this policy sends a very clear message to international students — you are not welcome.
It doesn't matter if you have lived here and paid tuition for years — you are not welcome.
It doesn’t matter if cost or travel restrictions keep you from returning home — you are not welcome.
It doesn’t matter that you came to the U.S. in search of the American Dream and want to make this country better — you are not welcome.
This is personal for me. My wife is an international student. We pray that this rule change won’t impact us, but even if we’re safe, now we have to consider whether to build our lives here. Because what happens next? Will she be welcome here? Or will a new policy threaten to break up our family, sending us to a country that welcomes us both?
This is the true cost of this policy and ones like it. The U.S. is at risk of no longer being a country that benefits from welcoming the world with open arms. Instead, we are making the lives of immigrants and their families precarious — rules and policies can change quickly, and the life they worked so hard for can be taken away at any moment.
The consequences will be felt for decades. Without international students, IU will be forced to lay off workers. Without attracting global talent, large employers in Indiana such as Eli Lilly and Salesforce could move out of the region. This has already happened in Pittsburgh, where the company Duolingo just announced its move to Canada. Which Indiana company will follow?
IU announced a hybrid model for the fall, meaning international students can enroll in in-person classes. But the future is unclear. Will they be forced out of their homes if COVID-19 swells in Bloomington and the school goes fully online?
This rule has made the lives of our international community difficult. My family is anxiously awaiting more news. In the meantime, all I can do is fight this rule and to make Bloomington and the U.S. a more welcoming place.
Dakota Murray, IU graduate student in Informatics