New visa rule worries Korean students and their U.S. schools

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New visa rule worries Korean students and their U.S. schools

Korean students fear being blocked from the United States because of a controversial new visa rule for international students announced last week that has provoked a backlash from American universities.  
 
On July 8, a student at DePaul University in Chicago returning from Korea was prevented from entering the country at San Francisco International Airport.  
 
This was the first known case of a Korean student being barred entry since a new directive revealed last week by U.S. immigration authorities.  
 
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced on July 6 new requirements stating that international students need to take some form of in-person classes in the fall to enter or remain in the United States amid the coronavirus pandemic.  
 
The DePaul student was blocked on the grounds that he had not yet registered for classes and “thus could not establish that at least some of his coursework would be in-person,” according to an amicus brief signed by a group of 59 U.S. institutions of higher education. An amicus curiae or “friend of the court” brief offers expertise or advice from someone who is not party to a case. 
 
The brief described the Korean student as an example of a student being blocked from re-entering the United States and being “told they will be unable to obtain visas until their schools comply” with the directive.  
 
The universities filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and ICE Monday calling for an injunction blocking the federal government from enforcing the July 6 directive on foreign students.    
 
The amicus brief says that the latest directive forces schools to "choose between opening their campuses regardless of the public health risks, or forcing their international students to leave the country.”
 
The modification to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) will apply to all F-1 non-immigrant students pursuing academic coursework and M-1 non-immigrant students pursuing vocational coursework while studying in the United States.  
 
Students currently in the United States enrolled in programs without in-person classes must leave the country or transfer to a school with in-person classes.  
 
At the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak in March, ICE temporarily suspended such requirements for international students.
 
Last week, a group of American universities including Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and ICE seeking to prevent federal immigration authorities from enforcing the rule against international students.
 
Their amicus brief filed with the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts — and supported by some 200 universities — says that ICE “blindsided the whole of higher education.” It adds, “Rote disregard for institutions’ and international students’ reliance interests is by definition arbitrary and capricious.”
 
As of Monday, 17 U.S. states and the District of Columbia have also filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration’s new visa guidelines.  
 
The legal complaint filed by the U.S. states says that during the 2018-2019 academic year, “international students studying at U.S. colleges and universities contributed $41 billion and supported 458,290 jobs in the U.S. economy.” A loss of international students “would damage local economies at a time of already severe economic disruption caused by the pandemic,” it said.
 
New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal in a statement Monday called the ICE directive “reckless, irresponsible, immoral and illegal.”
 
Korea is conveying its “concern” to the United States over the reports of denial of entry of Korean students, according to a Seoul Foreign Ministry official Tuesday.  
 
It is in the process of cooperating with the Korean embassy in Washington and consulates to figure out how many universities will be conducting online-only classes in the fall.  
 
Some 52,000 Korean students studied in U.S. universities last year.
 
The White House has been pushing for the reopening of schools despite a surge in the number of new Covid-19 cases. The United States has more than 3.3 million coronavirus cases and over 135,000 deaths as of Monday.  
 
According to the Institute of International Education, more than 1 million international students take courses in the United States every year, or about 5 percent of the total student body.
 
BY SARAH KIM  [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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