The Executive Council of Rutgers AAUP-AFT, representing full-time faculty and graduate workers, and the International Students Working Group have issued the following statement on proposed new DHS regulations.
On Thursday, September 24th, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) proposed new regulations for international students in the U.S that represent the biggest changes in 20 years. The proposed regulations state that international students will no longer be issued student visas lasting the duration of their studies. Furthermore, under this proposal, students from certain countries, primarily those from Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia, would be issued visas for a maximum of two years.
Citing unspecified “risk to national security,” DHS has proposed modifications to F, J, and I category visas that would broadly affect international students pursuing an education inside the United States. At present, a student entering the country on an F-1 visa is generally granted “duration of status” (“D/S”) for the time that their academic studies require. The proposed changes dramatically alter this, imposing a flat four-year maximum before a student’s visa expires, regardless of degree status, and with very few options for extensions. Worse still, DHS is severely restricting eligibility by nationality; dozens of nations would fall into a category in which the maximum length of stay is only two years.
Rutgers University prides itself on the diversity of its student population and in attracting talent from across the globe. Earlier this year, when ICE sought to deport international students who had no in-person classes, Rutgers filed an amicus brief in support of the Harvard-MIT lawsuit that eventually pressured DHS into withdrawing the new position. We hope that Rutgers recognizes the new proposed policy changes represent another overreach by the DHS, following a pattern of xenophobic actions antithetical to Rutgers’ values. NAFSA, an organization representing international educators, has already come out against this policy.
This proposal is fundamentally flawed, racist, and serves only to hurt both international scholars and academia inside the United States through broad, vaguely defined policies of exclusion. Our inequitable immigration system is already challenging for international students. The only outcome of this policy change would be further harm, targeting groups who are already underrepresented and discriminated against.
This rule change would hurt undergraduate and graduate students at all levels and across all disciplines, as well as visiting scholars and exchange students. Furthermore, it is no coincidence that most African and Middle Eastern nations are included among the most severely impacted by this proposal, with the restriction of two years on visas from these countries. We cannot allow this racist policy to go into effect, and urgent action is required to prevent it from becoming law. The DHS must hear, in no uncertain terms and from all voices, that this proposal is unacceptable.
Rutgers AAUP-AFT and the International Students Working Group unequivocally oppose this policy. Thus, we:
1. Call on all members of our community to immediately speak out against this proposal. Compromise is not an option. International students are not bargaining chips, and they are not a national security threat. We cannot and will not accept this treatment. We must all maintain unequivocally that D/S is a crucial policy that allows flexibility for international scholars to finish their degree and that D/S does not lead to increased visa overstays, as DHS claims. There will be a 30-day comment period ending October 25th, 2020. Rutgers needs to speak out early to prevent this rule from being implemented.
2. Demand that Rutgers University leverage its power to protect its students and our entire community by (1) lobbying for the overturn of the new policy, (2) filing for an injunction to stop the regulations from taking effect before the Spring semester starts, and (3) providing legal counsel and prioritizing financial support for international students who will be trying to enter for spring and for international students who need accommodations.
DHS must quickly and unequivocally withdraw this intentionally damaging, hateful policy.
In solidarity and action,
International Students Working Group