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US colleges rally against Trump immigration policy with legal challenge

Numerous US colleges and universities joined together to oppose a new federal policy they say will have destructive and harmful consequences for international students and scholars on F, J and M visas in the country.

Pomona College (above) said the policy puts institutions and international students in an "untenable position". Photo: flickr/ Dave & Margie Hill

Some international students will face reentry bans for technical and administrative errors that are "frequently beyond the students’ control"

International students may incur reentry penalties for errors they are not aware of because of the policy, the 66 institutions have said in an amici curiae brief.

Earlier in 2018, four institutions submitted a legal challenge to the Trump administration’s new restrictions on international students ‘unlawful presence’.

“International students are deprived of any meaningful opportunity to avoid potential deportation”

The latest brief urges a North Carolina court to grant the motion for a Preliminary Injunction and Partial Summary Judgment submitted by Guilford College and others, against secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen and others.

The document emphasised the “immeasurable value” international students and scholars make to host institutions, including specialised knowledge and a diversity of viewpoints.

“The new DHS Policy Memorandum on regarding the calculation of unlawful presence introduces significant and destructive uncertainty,” the document read.

The policy’s backdating rule means “international students and scholars are deprived of any meaningful notice and opportunity to avoid potential 3- or 10-year bars for reentry into the United States”, it continued.

Some international students will face reentry bans for technical and administrative errors that are “frequently beyond the students’ control” under the new policy, according to the ‘friend of the court’ document.

In many cases, infractions will not be discovered until individuals reapply for another immigration benefit, such as an optional practical training allowance or an H-1B visa, it continued.

“We believe the rule will chill international student interest in US schools”

A spokesperson from the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office noted that the new unlawful presence rule could “lead to students being deported for periods of three or 10 years”.

“We believe the rule will chill international student interest in US schools, impact the diversity of our campuses, deprive California of the economic value of deported students, and will likely unfairly impact the life prospects of our current students,” they added.

Ultimately, the document argues that America will become a “less attractive destination” for international students, and it will be more difficult for American institutions to continue attracting and recruiting the best international talent.

Among signatories of the amici is Pomona College, whose president G. Gabrielle Starr said the brief supports the college’s international students against harmful immigration policies, and underscores the importance that international students and international education brings to higher education and the US as a whole.

“Higher education and our country benefits tremendously from the talent, energy, innovation and scholarship of international students,” she said.

The new policy puts international students and higher education institutions in an “untenable position”, she noted.

The backdating rule will “create significant uncertainty in the calculation of unlawful presence and needlessly exposes international students to potential devastating reentry bans that could impact the their education and their contributions to our College and the country,” she added.

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