A-State international student, immigration attorney respond to ICE ruling

International students will have to leave country if schools go online

Arkansas State abroad student, immigration attorney respond to ICE ruling

JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - A new guideline from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) could send many international students back home.

An international student from the Bahamas, LaQuinta Tynes, is a mother of four, studying mathematics at Arkansas State University. She says she was blindsided by the announcement.

Guidelines for international students have always stated that students cannot take online courses; however, there was a temporary modification made for students this spring and summer semesters during the COVID-19 crisis, in order to keep their non-immigrant status.

However, for the upcoming fall semester, if an international student’s university switches to all online courses, the student will either have to transfer to a school that offers hybrid courses or face being sent back home.

“International students are very aware that there are certain restrictions and agreements that we are binded to because we are studying here under our visas. But, this is an unprecedented situation and no one saw this coming and no one has an end date for it,” Tynes said.

Tynes received her undergrad degree in finance from A-State in 2019. She immediately started graduate school and has a year and a half left before she completes her degree.

She is joined by another 600 international students on campus who may find themselves in a dilemma.

As of now, Arkansas State University has announced they will move forward with in-person courses this fall and they released this statement about the ruling:

Since Arkansas State University is planning to hold on-campus classes for Fall 2020, we do not see this impacting our international students at this time. When we received the new guidelines, we reached out to all our international students to answer questions and to reassure them. Obviously we will monitor the situation, but if there was a change, we know that with the ability to provide hybrid courses that satisfy the current regulation, we don’t believe this will negatively impact our students from other countries. Our office has been in contact with faculty and other support staff to confirm our ability to have hybrid back-up plans.
Dr. Thilla Sivakumaran, Vice Chancellor for Global Engagement and Outreach

An immigration attorney in Little Rock, Guillermo Hernandez, says from not having the funds to return, returning and not having access to internet are big factors that could make this all difficult for students.

“When coronavirus hit, the authorities were a little more flexible in that sense and they were allowing students to take online courses,” Hernandez said. “But the real problem is for the people who decided to stay here, because they were counting on, going back to school in August, whether in person or online.”

Hernandez was also an international student from Mexico. He says in order for students to stay, not only do schools have to maintain hybrid status; they also have to report that to the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System.

He says students should take this policy seriously because if violated, it could impact their future if they ever want to return to the United States.

Hernandez says since the general or the complete instructions from national officials haven’t officially been released, everyone will know more when the temporary rule is out and the impact it will have.

“I was reading a report earlier this morning that some of the schools are like one fourth, or one third of the student body are international students, so it will be a big hit, not only for the students but also for the schools.,” Hernandez said.

It is a hit Tynes says everyone has been taking since this pandemic has started.

“Everyone has had to pivot in this environment. It’s just not been local US citizens or residents. International students and those that are from abroad living and working here had to find how to pivot,” Tynes said.

Now, she is calling for authorities to make considerations like they did in the spring.

“Everyone just wants an opportunity to improve themselves and I think we just have to have empathy for those who are trying to do that and making sacrifices to do so.”

And, two major universities have already filed a lawsuit against the decision, saying they will do what they can to keep students on campus.

Hernandez suggests students or anyone with immigration questions reach out to their student exchange advisors. Hernandez’s law firm also works closely with El Centro Hispano in Jonesboro and can be reached at 501-374-2444 or here.

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