International students at the college and around the country were struck by devastating news on July 6 that jeopardized their legal status in the country.
The United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced a policy which required foreign students to leave the country if they are only enrolled in classes that would be exclusively taught online during the fall. This news affected the future of many students that decided not to leave the United States when the COVID-19 pandemic began. Due to the severity of the disease many countries around the world closed their borders. Some students chose to remain in the United States, in hopes that the pandemic would not last as long as it has.
“Whenever I heard the news, I was shocked I had no idea what I was going to do, my countries borders were still closed, and I could not go back,” student Soyung Che Joung said. At the end of the Spring semester, the International Office sent out an email saying that we could take as many online classes that we wanted and following that email all the classes that I [had] registered [for] were online.”
The International Office at the college assumed like many other institutions around the country that international students would be able to take as many online classes as they wanted in the 2020 Fall semester. However, that was not the case, and as soon as this new policy was announced the International Office had to contact students and find out a way to help them.
“If you are taking at least one in-person course (three credits minimum, including hybrid courses) you are not required to adjust your schedule or depart the country,” Program Director, PDSO Kim Steinmetz said. “If JCCC adjusted to all online to prevent the spread of COVID-19 you may be required to depart the US according to the guidance.”
Students at the college were required to add three face-to-face classes even if it didn’t match up with their degree, just to keep their visa status legal and to prevent being deported to their countries in the middle of a global pandemic.
“I had to add a music [course] to my [schedule] even though my major is nursing,” student Marcela Perez said. “I had to since I needed three credits face-to-face. Our situation is not as bad as other students that are in universities which only have online classes, at least we have a choice. This is unfair to [international students], we came to this country full of hope and excitement to start a new phase of our lives. It’s hard to make it to this country and to get an F-1 visa I don’t understand why the government keeps making it harder for us to come here [when] all we want is an opportunity to leave with a degree.”
On July 14 the Trump administration rescinded the policy that would have stripped visas from international students whose classes were only offered online. This came after universities, like Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology demanded it through several lawsuits. They were supported by various universities from 17 different states.
Although the restrictions have changed, international students live in constant fear that the Trump administration may make another policy change regarding their status as students. Throughout this pandemic, their status is still rather unsafe. This policy change only applies to international students who currently possess an F-1 visa. However, the incoming students will need to follow the starting rule which is a three face to face credit requirement.
Visit the JCCC International and Immigrant Student office website for any more information regarding student status and updates regarding international studies.
By Mariana Figueroa