In July 2020, the Society of Senior Ford Fellows authored a letter opposing the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s recent policy decision to revoke existing F-1 visas and deny applications for new F-1 visas to students who engage only in off-campus coursework during the coming year. A copy of the letter is posted below:
July 10, 2020
The Honorable Chad F. Wolf
Acting Secretary of Homeland Security
Office of the Executive Secretary
Department of Homeland Security
2707 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. SE Washington, DC 20528-0525
Dear Acting Secretary Wolf:
The Society of Senior Ford Fellows (SSFF) would like to register its profound opposition to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s recent policy decision to revoke existing F-1 visas and deny applications for new F-1 visas to students who engage only in off-campus coursework during the coming year. The SSFF is a professional association formed by the more than 5000 prominent scholars in colleges, universities, and in the public and private sectors throughout the United States and globally who have received fellowships from the Ford Foundation.
This new policy is not consistent with widespread efforts by universities, colleges and other educational institutions to protect the health of students and staff in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. Many of these efforts involve reducing on-campus activities as much as possible—particularly for vulnerable students, staff and educators—so that required physical distancing and other infection reduction practices can be implemented.
This new policy would be extremely damaging to the US educational systems and catastrophic for many international students and their families. This policy will put thousands of students in the horrible position of having to choose between meeting the requirement to participate in on-campus activities, and protecting their health, as well as that of their families and communities.
Even more problematic is that many educational institutions are planning for 100% distance learning in the coming year to protect public health. This includes the second largest four-year university system in the country, the California State University, with almost a half million students. Thousands of students in this system alone would lose eligibility to continue their education because of this new policy. It would also devastate the very foundation of these institutions, by depriving them of the intellectual, cultural, ideological and economic diversity that has propelled US educational institutions to excellence and made them aspirational worldwide.
This new policy for F-1 visa holders and applicants is unnecessary, disturbing and harmful. It would have extremely damaging effects on the student bodies of US educational institutions at all levels. It would compromise public health. Furthermore, it would severely damage the US economy and its international reputation.
We strongly urge you to reverse this policy immediately, before it further harms our critically important international student population, and the educational institutions that are the core of our nation’s society and economy.
Society of Senior Ford Fellows