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San Diego Universities 'Surprised' By New Trump Policy On Student Visas

The Geisel Library, one of UCSD's most prominent buildings, in an undated photo.
Courtesy of University of California, San Diego
The Geisel Library, one of UCSD's most prominent buildings, in an undated photo.

Thousands of international students attending local universities are now in limbo thanks to a sudden change in student visa policy from the Trump administration.

A new rule from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) requires international students to take at least one in-person or hybrid class in the Fall. Students who can’t comply with the new rule will be forced to transfer to another college or leave the United States.

San Diego Universities ‘Surprised’ By New Trump Policy On Student Visas
Listen to this story by Joe Hong.

Critics see the move as an attempt by President Donald Trump to force colleges to fully reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic. Local University administrators made it clear they’re unhappy and said they’ll do everything they can to protect their international students.

“The announcement on Monday came as a surprise to us in higher education,” said Dulce Dorado, the director of the International Students and Programs Office at UC San Diego. “Our quarter doesn’t begin until late September so there’s still some time to assess what enrollment looks like and what course offerings need to be adjusted.”

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Both UCSD and San Diego State issued statements Tuesday saying the new rule creates unnecessary confusion.

“We are deeply concerned that the guidance issued yesterday by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) takes a limited approach to a very complex issue, thereby creating uncertainty and insecurity for international students,” said UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep Khosla in a statement.

“This guidance undermines the thoughtful approach taken on behalf of students and researchers by UC San Diego and other academic institutions across the nation to plan for continuing academic and research programs while balancing the health and safety challenges caused by a global pandemic."

SDSU officials advised students not to make any sudden decisions or changes to their academic schedules and to not make plans to leave the country.

“We are committed to your educational journey and success and will work with international students so that their course schedule meets federal requirements for the F-1 student visa,” SDSU administrators wrote in a message to students.

Dorado encouraged students who need help to reach out to their academic advisers.

“International students are welcome here,” she said. “We’re here to support them in every way that we can.”