VICTORY! Thanks to collective action by thousands of academic workers, as well as university and state government allies, ICE rescinded its directive requiring international students to attend classes in person or face deportation. #NoStudentBan #NoDeportations
Thank you to everyone for your time and effort in taking action to make sure these heinous guidelines were struck down. Although this victory has given international students some temporary respite, the policy itself underscored, once again, the deeply precarious nature of the international and immigrant student experience at universities in this country. As we speak, incoming students and visa-holders, student-workers outside the United States, and students subject to previous travel bans are still fighting for justice. As we speak, the Trump administration plans further assaults on asylum-seekers, Chinese nationals, and undocumented students. At any time in the future when the costs of the presence of international students can be demonstrated to outweigh the benefits, by the Trump administration or any other body, the threat of deportation will return, and return again. To fight this nativist approach to immigration, we must stand in solidarity with undocumented people and asylum seekers, and demand an end to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) as an institution.
We must further emphasize that the struggles of international students at Columbia did not begin with the ICE ruling, nor will they end with its reversal. Columbia, and other universities that were at the forefront of the legal battle to protect their rights to the labor and revenue generated by the international student community, are the same institutions that have ignored the calls for accountability and the demands to declare themselves sanctuary campuses for years. The International Students and Scholars’ Office (ISSO) has repeatedly failed to respond and provide adequate information to international students in times of crisis. Therefore, we must continue to demand from Columbia and from ISSO the following immediate measures:
- 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.
- Columbia must be declared a sanctuary campus and guarantee that student information will not be volunteered to ICE or other law enforcement agencies without a lawful warrant or court order. Relevant staff must be trained to handle requests and visits from immigration and law enforcement in a way that protects international students and scholars.
- A university-wide contingency plan for international students and scholars developed in consultation with a student-faculty-staff task force. The Provost’s International Issues Working Group must be expanded to include the International Students Working Group of the Graduate Workers of Columbia (GWC-UAW) and representatives of other international workers on campus.
- Improved communications from the ISSO office, including, but not limited to, regular and detailed email updates, especially in the immediate aftermath of announcements related to change in immigration laws, as well as bi-semesterly Town Halls with the ISSO staff and immigration attorneys regarding visa and immigration 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 guarantee that academic and teaching plans for 2020-2021 are designed with the wellbeing, academic progress, and immigration status of international students in mind, and are released in a timely manner.
Join us in holding Columbia and the ISSO accountable to the international student community. Ask your department chairs and deans to take a stand for international students by amplifying the call for our representation on a task force and for Columbia to be declared a sanctuary campus. Please find more information about the ISWG here and join our whatsapp chat link, or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for your continued support and for your comradeship in this long fight.