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Cal Poly international students weigh-in on ICE directive to take in-person classes this Fall or leave country

Posted at 10:47 PM, Jul 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-09 01:47:37-04

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, also known as ICE, announced this week that international students would not be allowed to remain in the country if the classes they were taking were solely online.

Cal Poly international students make up fewer than 5-percent of the student body and if the ICE decision stands, that number could become even less.

Students KSBY spoke with Wednesday night asked for their identities to be concealed out of fear of deportation.

The pursuit of higher education and making a better life for your family is something that many international students have in common with their fellow classmates at Cal Poly.

"My family is not rich. We used all the money in savings we had to support my education, and also I'm working on campus too to help with my living expenses," said one international student.

But now those dreams could be on hold, following a new directive from ICE.

"We now have to take a least one person class. So for me, because my department is computer science, it doesn't offer a lot of in-person classes because it's on the computer and you don't really have to be there. So it can be hard to find an in-person class," the student said.

Another international Cal Poly student who also did not want to be identified over deportation fears says even if some students do continue school from their home countries, some websites needed to do school work are blocked in foreign countries, and the time difference would make it very difficult to be a part of the lectures.

A Cal Poly spokesperson says in a statement:

Our International Center has been working diligently to keep Cal Poly students — both international students and students who have been planning to study abroad — up to date on evolving policies and procedures related to COVID-19 and how they are impacting our campus. This has involved regular communications with impacted students and with faculty and staff who work with them, to ensure that students’ academic and extracurricular needs are being met and that they are keeping their health and safety top of mind in charting their academic course.

Cal Poly’s more than 300 international students are valued members of our university community.

Specific to the recently released ICE guidelines, the International Center is working closely with the CSU to understand the new guidance and determine how best to serve our impacted international students.

The center will reach out to international students with information about the guidelines and a survey that aims to determine how many students intend to be in the U.S. and take at least one in-person class in the Fall 2020 quarter. Students who intend to be in the U.S. will be urged to work with their academic advising centers to identify in-person courses in which to enroll.

The center also is providing students with information about the processes for their visas (both for those intend to be in the U.S. in the fall and those who don’t) and will offer virtual meetings for students to discuss these impacts and answer questions.

These students say, however, it's still not fair to make them have to choose to risk their health or their pocketbooks over adding a class they might not even need.

"If I were a U.S. citizen, I could choose if I want to go to the class or not, and I would prefer not to go to class because of the coronavirus situation. I want to protect myself and other people."

Wednesday night, the U.C. System joined universities like Harvard and M.I.T. who are suing ICE over this new policy.

It's unknown at this time if the CSU system will begin litigation as well.

It's estimated there are about one million international students in the U.S., with more than half of international students coming from Asia.