International students, America good for each other

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Editorial

International students, America good for each other

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

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We are watching with great interest the potential fallout from last week's decision by the United States Administration to revoke or refuse visas for foreign students who take classes entirely online in the fall.

We in this space never question the right of any country, including Jamaica, to take decisions deemed to be in their best interest. Yet, we think that the US could benefit from a review of that action.

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) says foreign students earning their degrees entirely online cannot stay in the US, as a response to many universities deciding to go entirely online, to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The rule could force many students to return to their home countries during the pandemic, where their ability to study could be severely compromised. Many students, including Jamaicans, are already scrambling to enrol in face-to-face or in-person classes that are difficult to find.

The impact will be felt far and wide. More than a million international students were issued visas to study in the US during 2019.

Our Jamaican students, including athletes who have earned scholarships to attend US colleges, are likely to be severely affected. Full scholarships cover tuition, housing, and food, among other basic expenses. They risk losing those scholarships if they cannot maintain their immigration status.

In response to the rule, many universities are planning to offer a mix of online and face-to-face classes to protect the health of faculty, students, and their surrounding communities during the pandemic. But some won't be able to do so.

There is some logic to the rule that says students don't need to be in the US if they aren't going into a classroom, as they can log on from anywhere in the world. But there is more to it than just logging on.

Large numbers of students lack access to consistent and free Wi-Fi and so have to turn to their schools to complete their research and coursework. Some will be adversely affected by online class schedules that will be at all odd hours across the globe. Athletes will lose their opportunity to train.

International students include refugees from homelands hit by dangerous conflicts or devastated by disasters, not to mention students fleeing hopeless poverty and with no home to return to.

America has meant much to the world by opening its arms to international students and has, in turn, benefited from their experience, talent, and perspective which encourage innovation, creativity, and excellence, as well as the inventions, research, and contributions they bring to the US.

Many of these students become ambassadors for the best of American values and aspirations, such as democracy, freedom of speech, equality, freedom of religion, and tolerance for racial and social differences.

There is something to be said for helping to educate the world's future leaders, influential thinkers, creators, great artists and innovators who make the human race better and more effective.

At Jamaica Observer press time, 17 states and the District of Columbia were suing the US Administration seeking to block the new rule. Our hope is that the matter will be resolved without court action.


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