I was going to email this letter to elected federal politicians, but fortunately, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) seems to have repealed their misguided policy about forcing international students to take classes in-person. Nonetheless, here’s the letter, and in case a similar policy somehow re-emerges, I will start sending this message. This particular letter is addressed to U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein given my California residency, her particular Senate Committee assignments, and because of the six offices I called last week, only hers had an actual human on the line for me to address my concerns. The letter is based on this template. Unfortunately I’m not sure who wrote it.
Dear Senator Dianne Feinstein,
My name is Daniel Seita. I currently reside in the San Francisco Bay Area. I am registered voter and thank you for your many years of service in the United States Senate representing California.
I am emailing to insist that you stop the recent student ban.
On July 6, 2020, the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced that they will be modifying their Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) impacting F-1 and M-1 international students. Under the modified SEVP, F-1 and M-1 students with valid student visas would be forced to leave the United States if their college or university was not offering in-person classes.
International students pay the highest tuition to colleges and universities and shifting to an online-only syllabus does not reduce and shrink the economic burden of the high costs. Forcing international students to pay these high costs while also making them leave the country is unfair on many levels. Furthermore, the funds that international students bring in subsidize domestic students.
With the COVID-19 pandemic still spiking, the opening of in-person classes is unsafe and unnecessary. These new SEVP modifications force universities to choose between opening in-person classes even if it is not safe or lose their international student body who account for billions of dollars to the US economy.
International students have built lives for themselves while at school, and it is cruel to take it away. Students have signed leases and agreements, have possessions and belongings, and have loved ones and friends that they are being ripped apart from because of the unpredictable consequences of COVID-19. Many domestic students are unable to take classes in-person and it is an unfair expectation that international students who are here, legally, for school must be able to enroll in on-campus courses in order to stay in the country. With the fall semester rapidly approaching there is little time for students to transfer schools or find somewhere else to live.
The US has many of the best universities in the world, and a large part of that is due to immigration and international students. Our country has an unparalleled ability to recruit the best and brightest from all over the world, many of whom choose to stay in the country after their education. Without the contributions of international students and faculty, the quality of our education, research, and innovation would plummet.
I am a computer science PhD student at the University of California, Berkeley, and I work in artificial intelligence and robotics. I would guess that one-third of the people who I regularly collaborate with in my research are internationals. They have taught me so much about my field and have helped to raise my quality of research. Severing these collaborations will not only disrupt our research, but damage America’s global reputation.
I hope you consider these concerns and convince ICE to overturn the student ban.
Thanks to every international student and collaborator who teaches and inspires me.