Macalester Must Protect International Students


Macalester flies both the US flag and the UN flag on Old Main Lawn. Photo by Hannah Catlin ’21

On Monday, July 6, the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that international students have two choices this semester: complete in-person instruction for fall 2020, or face deportation. Threatening students studying in the U.S. on F-1 visas is nothing short of blatantly xenophobic and cruel, and in this moment institutions like Macalester must take action. We demand that Macalester’s administration commit to providing sanctuary to international students at all costs.

There are several conditions to the newly enacted policy from ICE. At a school like Macalester that is offering a hybrid model, students studying on F-1 visas must take at least one class in-person, but the rest can be online. ICE’s new requirement reverses an earlier decision that allowed international students to maintain their visas even with no in-person instruction. The new policy singles out international students in a dangerous and potentially life-threatening way, especially for those who are high-risk for developing complications from COVID-19.

At the same time, sending international students out of the country poses innumerable barriers, many of which could make it almost impossible for them to complete their coursework. There are international students at Macalester for whom flying back would pose a significant financial barrier, and many who rely on their school for consistent and free Wi-Fi — going home would mean limited or very expensive internet access. Some countries pose restrictions on what internet users can access, creating further hurdles for students to complete their coursework. Some might have no access to the internet whatsoever.

And in many cases, time zone differences would require students to wake up in the middle of the night just to make it to class on time.

There are also global health risks that accompany sending students back to their home countries from the United States. Many nations have closed borders, airports and suspended flights from the United States because of the severity of the outbreak in this country.

We recognize that Macalester’s decision to pursue a hybrid model is subject to change based on recommendations from the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). While infections skyrocket in the US, Macalester must do everything in its power to provide sanctuary to international students and prepare for the moment when the MDH and CDC may require that Macalester goes fully online. We demand that Macalester begin lobbying the city of St. Paul and other regional colleges to help protect and provide sanctuary to students across the region and across the nation. The college must also commit to barring ICE from campus to protect its students. Unjust laws are worth breaking.

Making up 15 percent of Macalester’s student body, international students are integral to the fabric of our community. Without them, the college’s commitment to internationalism is nothing but a broken promise. The time to act is now.

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