International students in Arizona scrambling to figure out new ICE rule on student visas

Many international students going to school in Arizona are trying to figure out what a new rule by Immigration and Customs Enforcement means for them.

On July 6, it was reported that ICE announced a new rule, where non-immigrant students taking online classes due to the COVID-19 pandemic for the fall 2020 semester will not be allowed to remain within the United States.

If returning to their home country is not possible, students will have to take alternative steps to maintain their non-immigrant status, such as finding a school that will cater to in-person classes, a reduced course load, or appropriate medical leave, according to an ICE news release.

On July 8, it was reported that Harvard University and MIT are suing the Department of Homeland Security over the new ICE rule.

"By all appearances, ICE's decision reflects an effort by the federal government to force universities to reopen in-person classes," Harvard wrote in a press release. "The effect — and perhaps even the goal — is to create as much chaos for universities and international students as possible."

Many universities have considered an on-line only model for the fall semester because of COVID-19.

Students speak out

On July 8, FOX 10 spoke with some students about their different struggles.

The students say their universities have been proactive in finding solutions, but they’re concerned about what will happen if COVID-19 grows even more.

Hui Yang, who attends law school at the University of Arizona, said she is concerned.

"If I miss this last, one year, I don’t know," said Yang. "That was just another bomb drop."

Nand Javia, who went back to Zambia at the end of last semester at TCU, and is concerned about returning if the virus spikes halfway through the semester. also spoke out.

"If that could be right after one week or right after five weeks if TCU decides to go completely online, then we’ll have to leave the country immediately in the next ten days," said Javia.

University officials respond

Officials with UArizona have assured Yang that they will make sure there are on-campus classes, and confirmed that in a statement. Officials at Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University have released similar statements to ICE’s announcement.

Officials with Grand Canyon University say they are working with every student individually to find on-site class options, while officials with DeVry say they are evaluating their options.

Immigration attorney reacts

"It’s irrational. Nonsensical. Lacks any basis or merit in law," said Gabriel Vadasz, an immigration attorney with Diamondback Legal.

Vadasz says he’s had talks with universities to help them navigate the rule change, so students can stay.

"A lot of these international students are putting virtually everything they have on the line just to get their education," said Vadasz.

Javia has connected with Vadasz.

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