The International Students Working Group and the Organising Committee met on Monday and Tuesday to discuss next steps in demanding protections for international students in the wake of the recent ICE guidelines, while pressuring Columbia and congressional representatives to fully repeal these guidelines, which we condemn in strongest terms.

Immediate Next Steps:

  1. Call your congressional representatives

Calling your federal representatives is the quickest way to have an impact on guideline changes that have been made without considering comments from the public. You can use this script as an email, but calling has the most direct impact.

  1. You can find your House Representative by entering your zip code here:
  2. You can find your Senate representative in the link here:

NOTE: There are two Senators to a state. Call BOTH of them.

“Hi. My name is [name] and I’m calling for [lawmaker’s name]. I am a constituent of [district X – whatever your district is]. My zip code is [5-digit zip] and my call can be returned at [phone number].

I’m calling on behalf of all the international students in the country impacted by the recent ICE policy issued on July 6th. ICE is threatening to remove all international students whose schools and universities have moved online only due to the coronavirus pandemic. They are forcing international students to risk their health for their immigration status by making them take classes in-person to avoid deportation.

They have also stated that if a school has to move online only for ANY reason, international students will have to leave the country. This means that if schools shut down due to virus surges, international students will have to leave.

This policy is unjust and inhumane. ICE should ensure that international students are safe while accessing their education. They should make a temporary exemption to their rules to allow international students to continue taking online classes. Congress must do everything in their power to pressure ICE to reverse their decision and adopt a more humane policy. They are not only putting immigrants at risk, they are putting hundreds of thousands of American faculty and students at risk of catching the coronavirus.

International students should not have to choose between COVID-19 and deportation.”

2. Pressure Columbia.

  1. Email your department and faculty to speak up for international students. This could include asking them to contact the Office of the President, the Provost, and ISSO with the demands listed in the template below, and asking them to organise departmental Town Halls in which guarantees of institutional non-compliance, such as non-reporting of students and the creation of special classes with closed registration will be discussed and granted.
  2. Email President Bollinger and Provost Katznelson with the template below:

Dear President Bollinger and Provost Katznelson,

One email is not enough. Without concrete action, your words are meaningless. Columbia University must condemn the new ICE-SEVP guidelines in the strongest terms and fiercely lobby to ensure the full and complete revocation of these heinous and discriminatory guidelines. Additionally, the ISSO must host a town hall immediately for all our international peers. Your failure to adequately meet the concerns of international students has further endangered the lives of visa-holding students and it is imperative that you implement these measures immediately:

  • Issue new I-20s for all students within the week, without exceptions.
  • Provide immediate legal support to international and immigrant students, for example, by reimbursing legal expenses, providing access to information sessions with lawyers, and establishing an immigration law clinic.
  • Declare Columbia a sanctuary campus and do not volunteer student information to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or other law enforcement agencies without a warrant or court order. Train relevant staff to handle requests and visits from immigration and law enforcement in a way that protects international students.
  • Improved communications from the ISSO office, including, but not limited to, regular email updates, especially in the immediate aftermath of new Presidential Proclamations or policies (such as the 7/6 ICE guidelines) related to immigration, and bi-semesterly Town Halls with the ISSO office and immigration attorneys regarding visa and OPT guidelines.
  • Regular call-in office hours with ISSO staff, as is already offered to international scholars at Columbia, but not to undergraduate and graduate students.
  • A full and transparent update of the advocacy measures ISSO and Office of Government and Community Affairs (GCA) claim to have undertaken on the behalf of international students and scholars at Columbia.
  • A university-wide contingency plan for international students and scholars developed in conjunction with and the consultation of a university-wide student committee, including our student workers union.
  • A guarantee that academic and teaching plans for 2020-2021 are re-designed with the wellbeing, academic progress, and immigration status of international students in mind, and are released in a timely manner; in particular, the maintenance of visa status of students affected by the 7/6 ICE guidance should be prioritized. Such guarantees may include, but are not limited to, forms of institutional non-compliance such as non-reporting of students and the creation of special classes with closed registration.

3. Attend an information session
GWC is organising a Q&A with an immigration lawyer, more information to come soon.

4. Share your story
Share your story with your Union by responding to this email. By gathering stories from international students about the impacts of this ICE broadcast, we will be better able to act collectively to support international students. We may ask for your permission to share your stories with your name or anonymously with the state attorney general or in an amicus brief to stop this directive.


Further Actions:

1. Collaborate with CPCR.
The Columbia People’s Covid-19 Response is organizing 30 Days of
Action, #CutTheCheck. Learn more about the action here and CPCR here.

2. No Police, no ICE (on campus or elsewhere).
Both ISSO and Public Safety have publicly stated that they will fully cooperate with ICE and will not obstruct ICE agents on campus who attempt to contact and detain students. Sign up here to connect with Defund NYPD and Abolish ICE campaigns on campus and in the city, and plan escalations pressuring Columbia to declare itself a sanctuary campus, cut ties with NYPD and restructure Public Safety.

3. Capacity Building.
Respond here to get more involved in helping to organize and communicate around international student issues in your department. We need someone in every department in every school at Columbia who’s working on these issues.

4. Cross-campus Escalation.
Respond here to get more involved in coordinating with other campus unions to escalate demands and take action nationally. Read more about the International and Immigrant Student Workers Alliance and join the whatsapp chat here.


Staying in touch:

Please feel free to forward this and encourage people facing problems or difficulties to reach out to us to inform us of their concerns. Let’s support each other. We will be sharing questions,  concerns and information over the Whatsapp chat.