What ICE’s controversial rule would have meant for Suffolk’s international students


A wall with “welcome” written on it in different languages at Into Suffolk University.

The Trump administration has rescinded a rule that would have made all international students who had online only classes in the fall leave the United States for the semester. Before the ruling was rescinded, Suffolk University officials and students opposed the announcement made by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

 On July 6, ICE announced that international students at United States universities who have all or the majority of their classes online in the fall would have to leave the country. If not, they would risk violating their visas.

According to WSPA 7 News, the rule was changed by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). This comes after SVEP previously allowed international students to access spring/summer 2020 coursework while remaining in the country due to COVID-19. 

Suffolk Vice President of International Affairs Sebastain Royo responded to the nation-wide news with a statement to the Suffolk community on July 7. 

“Based on our plans for the fall, all new international students will have two face to face classes, so we are pleased that we have already planned our offerings in a way that complies with the newly announced requirements for the fall,” said Royo.

Royo also discussed how the university was doing everything it could to provide the best options for international students while complying with the new guidelines.

Although Suffolk announced its plan to give international students face to face classes, some felt  that it was not enough.

“There hasn’t been much of a fight, they’re just following guidelines. We’re still paying tuition. I would like to see the administration fight for us more because we’re human,” said rising Suffolk senior and Diversity Peer Educator Xin Yi Yap, before ICE’s rule was rescinded

Nearby institutions took immediate action against ICE’s decision. Harvard and MIT filed a federal lawsuit to challenge the announcement.

Yap was concerned about the ICE decision and what it would have meant for her and her fellow classmates. 

“When I first heard the news, I was angry. I had feelings of anger and disappointment. When Suffolk spoke out I felt relief, but then realized something was wrong. Why are we adhering to ICE?” Yap said. 

According to the Suffolk’s website, the school is ranked number five “in proportion of international students among United States institutions.”

While international students faced the first-hand difficulties of this ruling, many American students felt that it was ‘ridiculous’ and ‘cruel.’

Rising Suffolk senior Lindsay Gavin recently took to Facebook to share a petition in order to keep students in the United States during COVID-19. She encouraged the community to rally for these students whom to her are family and friends.

It is ridiculous that students are being forced to risk their safety by attending in person classes, or risk their safety by packing up their entire lives here and having to go back to their home country with less than two months’ notice,” said Gavin.

Suffolk President Marissa Kelly spoke out about the decision on July 9, stating that the university rejected ICE’s action and would work to help international students as they are a vital part of the Suffolk community.

“We believe that our community’s strength stems from its diversity, and we uphold the fundamental values of fairness, justice, liberty, and individual worth,” said Kelly.  

Many scrambled to understand the response by Suffolk and how it would have affected their fall semester, but there are those who felt the university did right by its international students with its response to the rule before it was rescinded.

The solution to automatically give international students the choice of in-person classes takes the stress of the students I think. While this of course is not ideal, I think they did the best they could during this difficult time,” said Gavin.

The university sent out a statement via email on July 15 in response to ICE rescinding its controversial guidelines for international students. These students and families no longer have to worry about the ruling that would have affected their education.

“We should be proud of how the entire Suffolk community rallied together to oppose this arbitrary and cruel policy change. It has been inspiring to receive countless offers of help and support from all quarters of the University,” said Royo.

New guidance could be released by ICE for the fall 2020 semester, according to Royo.