January 2, 2019

PU Supports International Students Against New Fed Policy

By Donald Gilpin

Princeton University will support a lawsuit against the Secretary of Homeland Security and others over a recent change to immigration policy that could make it easier to ban international students from the country for up to ten years.

The original suit, filed in October by Guilford College and four other plaintiffs, states that the new federal policy would impose harsh and retroactive immigration penalties, causing thousands of students, researchers, and professors from other countries to face lengthy bans against returning to the United States after staying here too long, in some cases inadvertently.

On December 21 Princeton joined 65 other colleges and universities in submitting a friend-of-the-court brief to support the lawsuit, which targets an August 9 memorandum on F, J, and M visas issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, putting international students in jeopardy of receiving a ban from the U.S. without the opportunity to correct any error in their status.

The brief states that the new rule upsets the stability of the F, J, and M visa programs and “needlessly exposes international students and exchange visitors to devastating reentry bans. This new rule will harm international students and scholars as well as the institutions which host them.”

Princeton President Christopher L. Eisgruber has made several challenges to recent changes and proposed changes to immigration policies and rules.  He has advocated for beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and those affected by Trump administration executive orders banning travel to the U.S. from certain Muslim-majority countries.

In March Eisgruber wrote to top federal officials protesting changes to the J-1 exchange visa and Optional Practical Training programs, and in February he wrote to members of Congress urging them to pass legislation that would provide legal status for immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Sudan living in the U.S. under Temporary Protected Status.

In their December 21 amicus brief, the colleges and universities argue, “Rules changes such as this make the United States a less welcoming place for international study and have a demonstrable
impact on international interest in American higher education. Consequently the new rule will be detrimental to both our institutions and the larger American economy.”

It noted also that “these foreign students, researchers, and professors make critically important contributions to academic communities across the country.”