LSU Bell Tower

The bell tower on Wednesday, June 17, 2020 on LSU's campus.

Of the roughly one million international students who attend school in the U.S. each year, about 1600 from over 100 countries are located here at LSU — and right now they’re in danger. 

On July 6 U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) released a statement announcing that any non-immigrant international student enrolled in a “full online course load” will not be permitted to stay in the country. 

With schools nationwide opting to go either fully or partially online for the coming semester, ICE’s new guidelines put thousands at risk for being deported. Students whose universities won’t be offering on-campus instruction due to ongoing coronavirus concerns must either transfer to a school better suited to these requirements or leave the U.S. entirely to avoid imminent deportation by the federal government. 

Though deportees will have the option to continue their online university studies outside of the U.S. their ability to learn may be impacted by a number of limiting factors, including slow bandwidth, time zone differences and little or no access to crucial educational resources. 

ICE has yet to provide a reasonable explanation for this sudden change in policy; and for good reason, as no such explanation exists. Deportation is a punishment these students have done nothing to deserve. They will lose valuable education, job opportunities, personal relationships and communities — everything they came here for in the first place — because of something that’s entirely out of their control. 

It’s telling that the only international students allowed to stay will be those willing to risk their health and safety by returning to campus in the middle of a deadly pandemic. It’s a cruel dilemma, obscenely transparent and, given the circumstances, particularly unfair. Why make the announcement so close to the beginning of the semester? Some students’ home countries remain closed due to the pandemic. Where will those students go, if they can’t stay here? 

For the rest of us there are no clear benefits when it comes to mass deportation. In reality, it’s more like a losing game all around. Economically we suffer, according to a study published by Slate in 2017. Not only do we lose numbers in the work force — deportation is expensive; estimates suggest that deporting one million immigrants "could potentially cost more than $35 billion to $55 billion."

We suffer in other ways, too: culturally, socially, morally. We’re a nation of diversity, founded on the great works of foreign nationals and immigrants. Without the melting pot mentality we’re nothing; paranoid and inhumane, un-American. 

Harvard and MIT joined in a lawsuit against the Trump administration on July 8 to protect these students from deportation. Since then a number of universities with large international student populations have followed suit. 

A 2018 report from collegefactual.com lists LSU among the top preferred universities for international students in the U.S. Indeed we pride ourselves on inclusivity, and we’re proud of our international students. In the past few years they’ve helped make this one of brightest and most diverse college campuses in the nation. 

Altogether international students make up about 5% of the University’s enrolled population, or one Tiger of every 20. The majority study engineering, physical or computer sciences, and excel in these fields; these students make up the foundation of LSU’s largest research facilities. 

A 2015 survey by the Council of Graduate Schools and the Graduate Record Examinations Board showed that 55% of the country’s graduate students in STEM are international. Of these, a significant portion will become U.S. citizens. Some will stay in Louisiana while others travel and settle elsewhere. 

But their contributions here aren’t just academic or professional. They carry with them fresh insights, cultures and perspectives. They give us new languages to speak, new traditions to adopt and new dreams to pursue. They’re essential not only to the LSU community but to the nation at large. If the federal government won’t fight to keep these students here — and they won’t — then it’s up to us. 

Don’t let the administration forget it. 

Grace Pulliam is a 19-year-old creative writing major from Zachary, LA. 

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