Chancellor Blank condemns ICE policy threatening to deport international students in online-only programs.

While UW Madison’s plan for hybrid instruction should qualify its international students to remain in the U.S., Blank issued a statement against the new policy. Photo: Richard Hurd

Author: Sam Buisman

UW Chancellor Rebecca Blank urges ICE to scrap a new policy that forbids international students from remaining in the United States if their course load is entirely online. 

On Tuesday evening, Chancellor Blank published a statement condemning a July 6 rule change from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that threatens to deport any nonimmigrant international students studying at an academic or vocational institution this fall if their courses are all online.

While Chancellor Blank said that UW Madison’s plan for hybrid instruction should qualify its 5,800 international students to stay in the U.S. under this rule, she implored the federal government to end or change this policy due to its inflexibility and the value of international students to UW Madison and its community. 

“Since the start of the pandemic, international students have faced numerous difficulties and hardships, including travel restrictions, closed consulates, required and recommended quarantine periods, not to mention acts of xenophobia, hate and bias,” wrote Blank in the statement. “These students are valued members of our community, and we will continue to support and advocate for them.” 

While ICE exempted international students from its normal limits on online courses during the spring and summer 2020 semesters to account for COVID-19, it announced on Monday that the State Department will not issue academic or vocational student visas to students enrolled in online-only programs for the fall and threatened to deport any such students if they remain in the U.S. 

Many American colleges and universities, including Harvard and the University of Southern California, had already decided to shift to online-only instruction before ICE instituted this policy. 

The policy does allow international students to remain in the U.S. if they are enrolled in a hybrid program, such as what UW Madison has planned for the fall, and can certify that they are taking the minimum amount of online courses possible to progress towards their degree. However, no such exemption exists for international students in intensive English or vocational programs.

According to the Report on International Educational Exchange, there were well over 1 million international students studying in the U.S. during the 2018 school year.