University President Marc Tessier-Lavigne wrote in a Wednesday email that he has sent a letter to the acting secretary of homeland security in opposition to new immigration regulations that will strip international students of their visas if they aren’t taking at least one in-person class in the fall. He added that Stanford will file an amicus brief “shortly” in support of Harvard and MIT in their lawsuit against the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
“We are joining our peer institutions in an amicus brief to support Harvard and MIT in a lawsuit filed today to prohibit enforcement of the new rules,” Tessier-Lavigne wrote. Like Stanford, MIT will be offering classes mostly online, with a few in-person classes. Harvard intends to operate all undergraduate course offerings entirely online.
Cornell, Princeton, Dartmouth and the University of Pennsylvania have also announced intentions to file amicus briefs (legal documents written by parties who are not involved in the case but have strong interests and expertise in the matter) in support of Harvard and MIT.
The University of California has declared its intention to file a separate lawsuit against the federal government, seeking “temporary restraining order and preliminary and permanent injunctive relief” to prevent ICE from enforcing the directive.
“We applaud Stanford’s decision to join other universities in appealing the policy,” wrote Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU) President Munira Alimire ’22 and Vice President Vianna Vo ’21 in a statement to The Daily. “It is our hope that, together, we can reverse the latest announcement and affirm the [country’s] commitment to welcoming students and scholars from around the world.”
Typically, nonimmigrant students (those who hold temporary visas for studying in the United States) can count only one online class toward a full course of study in a given semester, but for this past spring, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) made temporary exceptions. The new directive now indicates that students at universities that are transitioning to online-only instruction “must depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status.”
“The modifications to the [previous] exemptions add another level of stress to what is already an incredibly difficult situation,” German student Luca Pistor ’23 wrote in a statement to The Daily. “Countless studies have shown that immigrants bring incredible value to every country that accepts them, and it’s almost beyond belief that the DHS would seek to place international students in such a precarious economic and political situation.”
Tessier-Lavigne published his letter to the acting secretary of homeland security expressing “strong opposition to this order.”
“Our international students have come to the United States to fulfill a lifelong dream to study and learn, and once here, they become a part of the fabric of our community,” Tessier-Lavigne wrote. “We must keep the commitments we made when we first welcomed them here to study in the United States and allow them to continue to make progress toward completing their degrees.”
Tessier-Lavigne added that the regulation “forces international students and institutions to make choices they should never have to make — between students’ health and safety and their education.”
He urged the acting secretary “to rescind this announcement, and instead extend and expand the flexibility provided in April 2020.”
Darryl Frimpong Asmah Thompson ’23, a student from Ghana, called the new regulations “worrying.”
“I’m just being hopeful that everything works out fine,” he said.
“I think they’re doing a good job so far,” he added, referring to the University.
Pistor also welcomed the new information released in the statement, saying he appreciated how quickly Stanford “was able to take action against this ridiculous demand.”
Alimire and Vo wrote that though they were relieved to read the president’s recent statement, and “encouraged by Stanford’s firm stance in opposition to the strict visa policy,” they had “hoped for a quicker response to Monday’s announcement.”
“In times like these, we look to our University’s leadership for direction and for guidance,” they added. “We look for reassurance and for empathy. We understand that it is difficult to foresee exactly what the next steps will be yet as leaders of our community, it is our responsibility to take a stand.”
Students began circulating a petition almost immediately following the news of the ICE regulations, demanding that University leadership guarantee every international student the ability to take in-person classes for three quarters. The petition has gathered almost 4,000 signatures.
“Simply put, ICE’s harsh and uncalled-for policies are an attack on our community’s accomplished international scholars,” reads the petition. “It also harms the whole Stanford community that gains so much from them.”
Tessier-Lavigne offered to work together with the acting secretary and educators across the country on addressing the concerns while expressing opposition to the initial rule.
“International students desperately need strong signals that the United States welcomes them,” Tessier-Lavigne wrote. “The proposed temporary rule does the opposite.”