UW-Madison students respond to ICE rule, demanding protection for international community

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that international students may face deportation if universities switch to online-only courses for the fall semester
Published: Jul. 9, 2020 at 10:41 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - UW-Madison students demand protection for the international student community after federal authorities called for deportation under certain circumstances.

On Monday, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that if universities switch to online-only courses for the fall semester, their international students must transfer schools, leave the country or face deportation.

Prior to the announcement, Priya Loganathar, a graduate student on an F-1 visa at UW-Madison, said she had never feared deportation.

“I feel dehumanized and upset,” she said. “I either have to attend in-person classes and put my life in jeopardy, or I have to go back to my country.”

As part of its “Smart Restart” plan, UW-Madison will offer certain courses in-person until Thanksgiving break, at which point, all learning will take place online.

Chancellor Rebecca Blank responded with an official statement Tuesday, saying that the hybrid plan for coursework “we believe would allow international students to enroll in face-to-face classes and remain in the United States while continuing their studies.”

NBC15 asked university spokesperson Meredith McGlone to explain what will happen to international students between the Thanksgiving break and the end of the fall semester—when courses will be online only.

She wrote, in part, “We interpret this [ICE rule] to mean that students should not have to return to their home countries after this holiday break.”

McGlone added, “We are nonetheless working to stay or amend this proposal through lobbying both as an institution and in cooperation with national higher-education organizations. ICE’s proposal fails to provide the flexibility institutions and students may need to adapt to changing conditions, as we did during the spring semester.”

According to McGlone, there are roughly 6,500 international students in the university community, making up 14 percent of the total student body. The top three countries they hail from are China, India and South Korea.

But three American students are behind a petition calling for administrators to show solidarity and protect international students.

The petition’s co-creator Rebecca Kite explained, “There has to be tangible action to protect these students because they are a part of our community. They deserve as much a right to their education. Their dollars are paying for the exact same thing that we are.”

This call comes as other major universities—led by Harvard and MIT—filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration, seeking a temporary restraining order and injunction to prevent authorities from enforcing the policy.

Meanwhile, Loganathar said she remains confused about her plans for the fall. “We could all go to sleep one night and wake up to saying that I need to be deported tomorrow,” she said, adding that her peers feel a similar way.

“Our international community is a community that’s generally inherently afraid to speak up because we’re not citizens,” Loganathar said. “Although legally we are here on a visa, we’re still afraid to speak up. I don’t think that’s right. Why should we be scared?”

McGlone wrote, “These students are valued members of our community, and we will continue to support and advocate for them.”

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