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The University of California announced Wednesday it plans to sue the federal government over an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) order threatening to deport any international students not enrolled in in-person courses this fall. The order demands that international students studying on M-1 or F-1 visas transfer to institutions offering in-person classes, or face “initiation of removal proceedings,” according to a July 6 release from ICE.
Described in the UC’s announcement as “mean-spirited, arbitrary and damaging to America,” the order has added another source of uncertainty to the lives of international students, who are already struggling to find normality as the COVID-19 pandemic disrupts universities and makes visiting family members extremely difficult.
The order is seen by many as another example of ICE, despite its claims to be focused primarily on preventing criminal activity and pursuing dangerous lawbreakers, pushing deportation campaigns against communities that pose no discernible threat to public safety.
“This isn’t just an unethical decision, it’s a counterproductive one,” said Santa Barbara immigration attorney Kraig Rice. “Not only do these students offer an economic shot in the arm to our academic institutions and the communities where they go to school; they also introduce students to different cultures and perspectives that really enrich the academic experience.”
According to the University of California, over 25 percent of graduate students and over 10 percent of undergrads are non-resident internationals.
Rice said that the order is consistent with a larger, consistent campaign by the Trump administration to reduce immigration, documented and undocumented, and promote a vision of the United States based on white identity and ethno-nationalist appeals. “This isn’t an isolated policy; it’s part of a larger effort to keep America white,” said Rice. “If you look at this administration’s policies on immigration, the most consistent thing you’ll find is that they’re focused on keeping people of color out of this country. It doesn’t have any sort of economic or public safety logic.”