Harvard President Bacow Condemns New ICE Guidelines Jeopardizing International Students


Students attending colleges and universities operating entirely online will not be allowed to remain in residence in the United States, according to guidelines released Monday by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The State Department will not issue visas to students who are taking all of their courses online for the fall semester and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection will not allow these students to enter the United States.

University President Lawrence S. Bacow said he condemns the guidelines in a statement on Monday.

“We are deeply concerned that the guidance issued today by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement imposes a blunt, one-size-fits-all approach to a complex problem, giving international students, particularly those in online programs, few options beyond leaving the country or transferring schools,” Bacow wrote.


Earlier the same day, Harvard announced that it will hold all courses online and allow just 40 percent of students — including all freshmen and approved sophomores, juniors and seniors — to live on campus in the fall semester.

The Harvard International Office and spokespeople for the University did not respond to questions about whether the current reopening plan will place international students in the category of students who will not be allowed to remain in the United States.

However, Bacow wrote that the guidance “undermines” the planning the University laid out for the fall.

“This guidance undermines the thoughtful approach taken on behalf of students by so many institutions, including Harvard, to plan for continuing academic programs while balancing the health and safety challenges of the global pandemic,” he wrote.

International students who are currently in the United States must depart the country or transfer to a college or university with in-person instruction, or risk facing “immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings,” per the new guidelines.

Students attending colleges and universities that adopt a hybrid model, meanwhile, will be allowed to remain in residence and receive visas if they are taking at least some of their coursework in person rather than online.

Bacow wrote that Harvard will “work closely” with other colleges and universities nationwide to “chart a path forward.”

“We must do all that we can to ensure that our students can continue their studies without fear of being forced to leave the country mid-way through the year, disrupting their academic progress and undermining the commitments—and sacrifices—that many of them have made to advance their education,” he wrote.

Dean of Undergraduate Education Amanda J. Claybaugh said that Vice Provost for International Affairs Mark C. Elliot is reaching out to ambassadors on behalf of international students at a virtual panel discussion on Monday.

“He is personally reaching out to the ambassadors — the U.S. ambassadors — in all countries that our international students are coming from and figuring out what we can do to expedite visa processes,” Claybaugh said.

Ege Yumusak ’16 — a Ph.D. student and member of the bargaining committee for the Harvard Graduate Students Union-United Automobile Workers — said the issue is “incredibly important” to the union, and that she is looking forward to working with the University to fight the guidelines and potential deportations.

“Whether it is engaging in political action such as suing the Trump administration, or working together with our political allies to make sure that this notice doesn't become law, we'll be organizing on this issue to represent student workers,” Yumusak said.

Yumusak added that HGSU-UAW expects Harvard to show their policies “put people first” and protect students from deportation and COVID-19.

“We think that this is a hard challenge that they are facing and we're open to collaborating with them,” Yumusak said. “As organizers in the community, we should be aligned on this issue and we hope to work together.”

—Staff writer Camille G. Caldera can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @camille_caldera.

—Staff writer Michelle G. Kurilla can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @MichelleKurilla.