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'Unwise' and 'disappointed': Iowa's public universities react to ICE decision on student visas

Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced Monday that students receiving F-1 visas will need to take in-person classes in the fall to have their visas renewed.

IOWA, USA — Iowa's public universities are responding to new requirements from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that foreign students must take classes in person in order to have their F-1 visas renewed.

Iowa State University President Wendy Wintersteen wrote a letter Monday, saying in part: 

"We believe this action by ICE is unwise. We are deeply concerned that this policy creates uncertainty and anxiety for our international students, who are already navigating many professional and personal challenges as a result of the pandemic."

You can read the her letter below:

ISU told Local 5 that 3,409 students currently have F-1 visas. 

Here is a country-by-country breakdown of where those international students are from:

  • China: 1,097
  • India: 588
  • South Korea: 216
  • Malaysia: 169
  • Iran: 113
  • Brazil: 60
  • Saudi Arabia: 56
  • Taiwan: 56
  • Bagladesh: 52
  • Vietnam: 45

The University of Northern Iowa also released a statement Monday, which reads: "UNI is deeply disappointed by the federal government’s announcement to discontinue an online course waiver for international students." 

The full statement is below: 

Credit: University of Northern Iowa

The temporary exemptions are for the fall 2020 semester, and say that the U.S. State Department will not issue visas to students for the fall 2020 semester if their curriculum has gone fully online. 

If non-immigrant F-1 visa students are in these programs, they must transfer to an in-person program or "they may face immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings."

Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have filed a lawsuit Wednesday morning in District Court in Boston against the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. 

The University of Iowa detailed that their hybrid model for fall classes means students "will be required to take at least one course in person if they wish to keep their [Student and Exchange Visitor Information System] record active." 

"Once the University of Iowa moves exclusively to online classes after Thanksgiving break, it may be necessary for international students to leave the United States," the school said in a release. "We are seeking further guidance on this point."

According to Des Moines Area Community College President Rob Denson, 150 students with F-1 visas are spread out across their campuses.

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