According to Forbes, students in graduate programs across the country are urging law makers to immigration policies affecting international students. In a letter to members of congress, the graduate student associations of five of Texas’ top university urged lawmakers to reconsider recent policy changes to student visas. The student group, which represents graduate students both native and foreign, cited a National Science Foundation study that noted federal changes had resulted in a nearly 6% decrease in international graduate enrollment.
Call for Action
The presidents of Graduate associations from Baylor, Rice, Texas A&M, University of Houston, and the University of Texas at Austin, some of the leading research institutions in the United States, were included in the joint letter to members of congress. The letter cited three major USCIS policies that were cited as contributing to the decline in international enrollment for graduate programming. The first policy, involves a May of 2018 change to USCIS procedures for determining “unlawful presence” for foreign students, which according to the letter imposed stricter interpretations of accrual of unlawful presence days following the expiration of a F, J or M visa. The second policy concern revolves around a series of memos posted this summer that shocked many seeking immigration benefits in the United States. Specifically, the student organization opposes guidelines for USCIS officers allowing adjudicators to deny a request for immigration benefits without issuing a Request for Evidence (RFE) or Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID). Without the opportunity to amend errors in applications, students are now left without an opportunity pursue research in areas of need, like Texas.
Thirdly, the graduate student group offered criticism for the Department of Homeland Security proposal to “set a uniform and fixed maximum period of stay for student visas.” Although the Trump administration states that the change would “reduce overstay rates for nonimmigrant students,” the letter warns of the immense cost. Given the unpredictable period of research cycles, students would be unable to determine a fixed period for a full duration of their research. Therefore, many graduate researchers could be forced to leave the country before the end of their program. The group claims that this change would deter many of the world’s top researchers from coming to the United States to study. The students want congress to act against these policies, both proposed and implemented, so that research operations in universities and colleges can continue to produce must needed breakthroughs.