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CEO DATELINE – Academic, business groups blast decision to pull visas for foreign students

July 10, 2020
By Walt Williams

Multiple associations representing academics, universities and businesses are decrying a Trump administration decision to essentially yank student visas from potentially thousands of foreign students if their U.S. colleges adopt online instruction because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The Immigration and Customs Enforcement issued a regulation July 6 telling foreign students they must return to their home countries if their colleges or universities switch to fully virtual classrooms. The decision was met with swift condemnation from several sectors and lawsuits from Harvard University, M.I.T. and the state of California.

Numerous academic groups have condemned the regulation. Organizations representing universities also weighed in, with Association of American Universities President Mary Sue Coleman calling it “cruel” and “misguided.”

“This policy change would also have negative economic impacts, because international students spend millions of dollars in our communities every year,” Coleman said.

In a letter to government officials, the American Medical Association urged the administration reconsider “its ill-advised regulation on international students that could jeopardize the status of current medical students.”

“At a time when physicians are needed in the U.S. more than ever, it is unwise to deter medical professionals from coming to the U.S. now and potentially in the future,” AMA said. “Moreover, this modification will likely cause medical students to attend school in other countries leading ... to a brain drain as other countries obtain and likely retain the brightest young medical minds from across the world.”

U.S Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Donohue also weighed in, saying the decision “needlessly injects an immense amount of uncertainty into our nation’s higher education system at a time when colleges and universities are grappling with significant logistical and financial challenges.”

“We urge the administration to rethink this ill-conceived policy,” he said.