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Here’s How College Professors And Students Are Trying To Stop ICE From Deporting International Students

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  • Several top universities and professors are pushing back against a recent ICE mandate that could deport international students taking only online courses. 
  • Online-only schooling has become commonplace since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, but college professors at some institutions have sought to establish in-person dummy classes to shield international students from ICE.
  • Harvard and MIT, along with other institutions, sued the Trump administration in an attempt to block federal enforcement of the new mandate. 

Several of the nation’s top universities and professors have started developing plans to prevent Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from deporting students holding educational visas that aren’t attending in-person classes.

Starting this fall, students would be eligible for deportation unless they are taking at least one in-person course, ICE announced Monday. Students who hold F-1 or M-1 visas, which are for educational purposes, may not remain in the U.S. if their course load is entirely online, ICE said.

Numerous universities switched to online courses following the outbreak of coronavirus, but some are rethinking this decision in light of the ICE mandate. Several students and professors at universities that had previously shut down on-campus activities have begun to find ways to establish in-person classes to safeguard foreign students, and some institutions have sued the federal government.

Acting Deputy Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Ken Cuccinelli defended the ICE mandate claiming it promotes “flexibility” and the re-opening of schools in a CNN interview Wednesday.

“The current regulations that govern foreign students allow at most one online class, so we’re expanding the flexibility massively to a level never done before,” Cuccinelli said during the segment. “So that schools can use hybrid models and can design re-openings — anything short of 100% online is a direction that we’re headed.”

The DHS secretary said the goal of the policy is to “encourage schools to re-open.”

University of Florida (UF) computer science professor Kyla McMullen, who advocated for the abolition of ICE, expressed her plans to create a dummy class that would allow international students to register, take the class in-person and avoid deportation.

The professor also said her course has been approved by UF leaders and she’ll “go rogue” if necessary.

UF issued a statement Wednesday that said international students could adjust their course schedules as early as Friday in order to comply with ICE regulations.

University of California-Berkeley students have suggested a similar approach.

“[Berkeley] students are creating a 1-unit, in-person, student-run class to help international students avoid deportation due to the new ICE regulations. love my school sometimes,” according to a screenshot from now-deleted tweet that went viral.

The Tweet shared a post from a group called “Overheard at UC Berkeley” in which a user, whose identity was concealed, mentioned the potential course was “ONLY for students who are international and need a physical component to remain in the United States.” The post also claimed that at least one faculty member was on board with the plan.

Senior director of strategic communications for UC Berkeley Janet Gilmore told the Daily Caller News Foundation that if the course is student-run, it might not be approved for in-person attendance. (RELATED: Berkeley Students Aim To Create In-Person Class To Stymie ICE And Avoid Student Visa Deportations)

Gilmore told the DCNF in an email that student-led classes, known as DeCal courses, are all online. “Campus leaders determined last week that all such courses will be remote only,” Gilmore said.

Yale University law school dean Heather Gerken said her colleagues “all volunteered to teach one-on-one classes” for international students and called the ICE policy “reckless and cruel.”

Associate professor of political science at the University of Texas El Paso (UTEP) Todd Curry described the ICE policy with expletives after he offered to teach an in-person class in a previous Tweet.

“I will comply to the letter of the stupid rule just to throw in their fucking face,” Curry Tweeted. “Independent study called, ‘Fighting the Resistance.’ Even put the syllabus online.”

UTEP claimed it would “work individually with each” international student affected by the ICE mandate in a Monday statement.

UTEP, Yale and the University of Florida did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the DCNF.

Some schools have chosen to sue the government directly over the in-person course rule for international students. Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) sued President Donald Trump’s administration Wednesday with hopes to restrain the federal government from enforcing deportations, according to Forbes.

“ICE’s action also leaves universities across the country, including Harvard and MIT, in the untenable situation of either moving forward with their carefully calibrated, thoughtful, and difficult decisions to proceed with their curricula fully or largely online in the fall of 2020—which, under ICE’s new directive, would undermine the education, safety, and future prospects of their international students and their campus community,” the lawsuit read, according to Forbes.

Harvard and MIT also were concerned about the potential implications of re-opening amid the COVID-19 pandemic for in-person classes, the lawsuit said.

Northeastern University, Penn State and Carnegie Mellon reportedly joined the suit Thursday.

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