Late Monday afternoon, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), an agency of the Department of Homeland Security, issued guidance concerning fall 2020 immigration requirements for international students. Upon initial review, the rules appear to be highly restrictive, barring international students on F-1 visas from entering or remaining in the United States if their fall 2020 classes will be taught exclusively online. Although the guidance makes exceptions for students taking classes in person or via hybrid instruction, the policy — which would take effect in early August — has the potential to disrupt the lives of many international students at a time when colleges and universities, including Tufts, have transitioned some of their instruction online in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This is a fluid situation, and we are still reviewing what the potential impact of this guidance could mean, legally and practically, for our community. Needless to say, our international students, who contribute to the vibrant and diverse community we treasure at Tufts, are understandably concerned about their future. I want our international students to know: We support you, we’re here for you, and you are an important part of our community.
The International Center is reviewing the guidance and working with colleagues at other institutions to develop a comprehensive analysis and response. They are working proactively and creatively with all of Tufts’ schools on steps to protect the status of students already here and preserve the benefits and opportunities of students still outside the U.S. They will host meetings for international students and administrators and faculty and also have issued FAQs reflecting the center’s current interpretation of the new rules.
At the same time, I want to make it very clear that the university is opposed to any policy that forces our students out of the country due to changes made to our curriculum and programs in response to COVID-19. It is a policy that seemingly ignores the impact of COVID-19 and the measures that Tufts and other colleges and universities have been forced to take to address the health crisis in our country. At a time when people throughout the world have had their lives upended by the pandemic, the policy appears to needlessly exacerbate the worry and uncertainty that we deal with today. Tufts will be working with other colleges and universities to make clear our vehement opposition to this policy and seek to have it changed. Tufts will also provide a declaration, with other Boston-area institutions, toward a lawsuit being filed by the Massachusetts attorney general to obtain an injunction blocking these guidelines.
We are fortunate to have at Tufts a community that welcomes people from all walks of life and that opens our eyes to the wonderful possibilities of the world. We learn not only in our classrooms but also from each other. We are committed to preserving this essential quality of our community and to advocating for the members of our international community in this moment of uncertainty.