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Federal Order Puts Central, South Coast International College Students At Risk Of Being Sent Home

The college world has been rocked by a move by the federal government which threatens the ability of international students to continue their educations in the United States.  It potentially affects thousands of students on the Central and South Coasts, and is an unexpected offshot of the coronavirus crisis.

If a foreign student is enrolled at a college which only offers online instruction in the fall, they either have to switch schools or go home.

James Gotcher is a Senior Partner with Global Immigration Partners, an Agoura Hills based law firm which specializes in immigration issues.  He says the announcement caught everyone off guard.

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program, which is part of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, announced the policy change this week.

Gotcher says even if an international student is at a campus with some in-person classes, or transfers to one which does, a big coronavirus surge could still force them to leave.

The announcement has created emotions ranging from concern to panic among international students.  It’s already been a rough spring, and summer for international students.  Many were afraid to go home after the start of the coronavirus crisis because of concerns they wouldn’t be allowed back into the U.S. in the fall.  Now, as the crisis has grown, Gotcher says some students can’t go home even if they want to, because their homelands have closed their borders to people coming from the U.S.

The immigration expert says if international students are forced to leave, the impacts on America’s college system.  They pay tuition at a much higher rate at public universities.  The foreign students contribute 30% of the total tuition at public universities.  It would be a huge financial blow for California’s UC and Cal State university systems, which are already reeling from coronavirus impacts.

Ironically, the federal agency behind the new policy is advising students enrolled at colleges which have announced they will be online-only in the fall to try to transfer elsewhere, which isn’t easy so close to the new academic year.

So, what advice is Gotcher giving to students impacted by the new policy?  He says for now, students should sit tight, and wait and see if their college modifies its plans to accommodate the in-person requirement.

International students who opt to return home, and take classes at U.S. universities which are all online will not be able to return to the United States until in-person classes resume.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.