International students are losing their 'idealized vision' of the US and weighing options to leave the country if Trump wins in November

ichoi@businessinsider.com (Inyoung Choi)
"I know I'm not a citizen, but I've made a life here as a student. And it might all go away," says Gabriella de Lorenzo, who came to New York from Brazil to attend college.
"I know I'm not a citizen, but I've made a life here as a student. And it might all go away," says Gabriella de Lorenzo, who came to New York from Brazil to attend college.

Gabriella de Lorenzo

  • The US Immigration Custom and Enforcement agency said in a July 6 announcement that international students taking courses entirely online would not be allowed to remain in the US.

  • Some international students that are relying on visas to continue their education told Insider that they are unsettled by the new ICE guidelines which may jeopardize their ability to stay in the country.

  • Students say the Trump administration's anti-immigration stance has changed their "idealized vision" of study or work in the US – one even says she's considering "transferring from the US to another country" depending on the presidential election in November.

  • Many of these students say they stand to lose support systems they've built in the US in addition to their academic progress.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Gabriella de Lorenzo left Brazil and headed for college in New York City two years ago. After the coronavirus pandemic reached the US, she took to virtual classes after spring break when schools closed in March to help slow the virus spread. But recent guidelines from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) would prevent her and other international students on certain visas from attending schools that are fully online in the fall. 

Last week, ICE announced a new policy that forbids international students with F-1 and M-1 visas to remain in the United States if their schools are "operating entirely online." F-1 visas allow people to enter the US as a student at a four-year college or graduate degree program and remain legally until they graduate; M-1s do the same, but for technical or vocational schools.

In response, many universities have announced they will use a "hybrid model," combining both in-person and online courses for the upcoming academic year, but the new policy lacks clarity in what may be required for a model that'll help keep international students in the US.

The July 6 directive was met with swift backlash, with 17 states and Washington DC filing a lawsuit to block the motion, while Harvard and MIT led a similar, different lawsuit, which soon got the support of 200 more universities. And during a hearing for the lawsuit Tuesday, the US government agreed to rescind the guidelines.

Still, for de Lorenzo, the agency's rule, she told Insider, sent a message to hundreds of thousands of students like her that, "We're not welcome."

"I don't want my future to be in the hands of some people who don't welcome me"

Eda Erata, a Ph.D. candidate from Turkey at Duke's Cell and Molecular Biology program, like de Lorenzo, feels unwelcomed by the new ICE policy and told Insider that she believes the decision is "an extension of racist ideology."

"I don't want my future to be in the hands of some people who don't welcome me," Erata told Insider. "I don't want to be in a country where I don't know if maybe next week there will be regulations released all of a sudden that will dramatically change my future here."

In the fall, Erata will be a fifth-year Ph.D. student, meaning she would no longer take classes so she can focus squarely on her lab research. Erata's lab has been operating partially in-person through staggered shifts for about a month, but since she's no longer enrolled in courses, a rule that requires her to attend in-person classes could interrupt her research. 

If Erata has to leave, she told Insider, she'll have to delay her graduation.

"We're their students — although we're not citizens"

Suah Cho was one of over 4,000 students to sign a petition that called on Standford University to allow international students to take in-person classes so they'd maintain their visa status. The university had joined more than 200 schools that supported the lawsuit against the policy. 

"We're their students — although we're not citizens, we're Stanford students," said Cho, a rising junior from South Korea, adding that updates from the university regarding the ICE announcement are "more generic than what we want."

For many students, the since-rescinded guidelines coupled with the Trump administration's most recent decision to suspend the issuing of new H-1B foreign worker visas — which will affect many professions like those in the tech industry and at universities — sent a disheartening message. 

"The US has always been a country where people come to follow their dreams basically," de Lorenzo told Insider. "This feels like a slap on the face. "

The Brazilian national said she's built a life for herself in the US. In addition to school, she is enrolled in a 12-step program that has become a support system for her struggles with mental illness. Also, she said, her significant other is an American citizen.

"I know my place," de Lorenzo said. "I know I'm not a citizen."

She continued: "I've made a life here for myself, so it's hard to leave ... but honestly, depending on how the elections are, I might consider transferring from the US to another country."

Annette Joseph-Gabriel, who had an H-1B status until last year, couldn't imagine being in international students' position today. 

Joseph-Gabriel came to the US from Ghana for her undergraduate degree in 2005. Since then, she remained in the US to obtain her Ph.D., became an assistant professor at the University of Michigan, and obtained her green card in the fall of 2019. 

Her child was about six weeks old when she went for her interview to become a lawful permanent resident.

Joseph-Gabriel told Insider that if the Trump administration's recent anti-immigration policies had been carried out while she was a student herself, she would have "a less idealized vision of what it means to come to the US to study and work."

Joseph-Gabriel added that she was initially "horrified" by the new guidelines, telling Insider that she believed the new policy "doesn't really take into account the different kinds of circumstances or people who come to study or work in the US."

Read the original article on Insider

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