Pakistani student Taimoor Ahmed is one of hundreds of thousands of foreigners enrolled in American universities now fearing for their future after Donald Trump’s administration threatened to revoke their visas.
The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced this week that foreign students whose entire courses have moved online because of the coronavirus pandemic must return to their home country.
“I might be affected if they don’t offer any sort of in-person class,” said Taimoor Ahmed, an information technology student at Cal State University in Los Angeles.
“I’m concerned. This can potentially change my future and plans,” the 25-year-old told AFP.
Harvard and MIT launched a lawsuit Wednesday, asking the court to revoke the order that Harvard President Lawrence Bacow said had thrown higher education in the US “into chaos.”
But the action has done little to alleviate the worries of foreign students, of which there were more than one million in the United States in 2019, a doubling in 20 years, according to the Institute of International Education (IEE).
“I’m kind of scared actually,” said an Indian graduate student at a major Texas university, who asked not to be named.
He planned to continue with online classes in the fall but is now obliged to return to the campus – in a state where COVID-19 cases are soaring—or face deportation.
Students are not the only ones concerned: the universities themselves are worried that Trump’s immigration policies are making their institutions less attractive.
They fear losing foreign students to cheaper colleges in Europe.
“These decisions risk damaging one of the United States’ strongest assets, which is our top-rate, best-in-the-world international education system,” said Aaron Reichlin-Melnick of the American Immigration Council.