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Support for International Students in the Wake of ICE Ruling

A message from President Suzanne Rivera

Dear Macalester Community, 

While this message is directed specifically to, and in support of, our international students, we are sharing it with all members of our campus community. 

As you know, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued guidance on Monday, July 6 to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) that would remove temporary exemptions for international students taking online classes due to the pandemic for the fall 2020 semester, and would bar them from entering or remaining in the country if their fall classes are taught exclusively online.

Since the announcement, we’ve been working with legal counsel and with many other colleges and universities to understand the ruling, and to advocate for its rescission. We recognize much of our work has been happening quietly behind the scenes, and want to ensure we’re sharing the work we’re doing with you.

We understand this is a frightening time. As we shared in our public statement mid-day on July 9, we find the ruling appalling and cruel, and we will fight to support you, advocate for your right to learn, and protect your health and safety.

On the evening of July 9, a number of senior college leaders met with a small group of international students who shared questions and concerns with us about the new ICE/SEVP policy. We had a good conversation with the students and agreed to communicate what we discussed with all international students, and with all of you.

Our primary focus has been on ensuring that you get the support you need. This includes access to information through the group conversations and 1:1 support that our ISP office is providing. They plan to share a frequently asked questions document with you shortly based on your questions.

In addition, we’ve been:

  • Engaging our elected representatives, on our own and in partnership with peer institutions, to ensure they understand the deep and damaging impact this ruling has, and the fear and insecurity it creates.
  • Working on alliances with other colleges and universities, including signing onto the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration amicus brief to support the Harvard/MIT lawsuit challenging the ruling. We also signed the American Council on Education (ACE) letter to Congress condemning the ICE directive. The letter asks Congress to encourage the DHS to withdraw the ICE directive. If DHS is unwilling to withdraw the directive, the letter asks Congress to swiftly pass legislation that grants needed flexibility for international students and institutions during the global pandemic. In addition, we’ve been informed that Minnesota will join the legal case being initiated by the Massachusetts Attorney General.
  • Consulting with faculty on creative strategies for ensuring international students have the support and protection they need in order to safely and effectively continue their studies.

Right now, we are working to learn more about the guidance in order to determine how we as an institution can best support you and how we can most effectively navigate the complexities. We are committed to working together to figure it out.

Here’s what we can share today:

  • We recognize that many international students will need more time to determine their plans for the fall. While we have requested that students share leave of absence requests by July 15 in order to help us plan most effectively, we want to clarify that you may apply for a leave of absence at any time.
  • The ICE/SEVP ruling states that, should a college move to fully remote instruction, international students will have to leave the country. In the event that public health dictates that our courses must be offered remotely, we will develop strategies, in consultation with legal counsel and ISP, to protect our international students to the extent that is legally possible. We also will strategize with other colleges, both in Minnesota and nationally, to collectively find ways to protect our international students.
  • Hybrid classes will be flexible enough to meet a variety of needs and include a range of activities, some of which will be remote and some in-person. For some classes, students might expect the six hours per week to be spread across a mix of recorded lectures, synchronous discussions with the full class online, and small group discussions with the faculty member in person, using physical distancing practices. Students who feel that they are at risk have the option to engage in hybrid classes remotely.
  • Our staff in ISP will continue to provide both group and 1:1 support, and assistance to answer your questions related to visas. We will partner with immigration legal counsel to support the ISP staff in this endeavor.
  • We will remind our faculty and staff about appropriate procedures should ICE make an inquiry about a student. Our protocol is that if anyone is approached by ICE, they should refer the agent to Macalester Public Safety.
  •  We will continue weekly zoom calls for international students led by our ISP office to answer questions, share updates on plans, and provide general support and community.

As we gather more information, we will host information sessions with appropriate campus leaders, and will include updates in both broad communication to the campus community as well as targeted communication specifically for international students.

Thank you to those of you who are taking time to share expressions of care and concern for our international students during this uncertain time. 

If you are an international student with questions, please reach out to Aaron Colhapp or directly to me. Our commitment to internationalism is core to who we are as an institution, and we fiercely stand with all of you.

July 11, 2020