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Earlier this month, many concerned international students at the University of Oklahoma felt uncertain when they thought they had to take mostly in-person classes this fall to remain in the United States.

On July 6, U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced that international students only would have 10 days from when their university announces they are moving strictly to online classes to leave the country or face “immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings.” ICE also announced that students who attend universities that do not go completely online could only “take a maximum of one class or three credit hours online.”

Fortunately, OU formed a task force after the new regulations came to light to aggressively advocate for its international students. As the task force correctly said, the proposed changes were incredibly unfair, harmful and unworkable. The situation caused undue frustration and anxiety for many discouraged international students.

Taking another stand, OU joined 180 other schools in an amicus brief supporting Harvard and MIT’s legal complaint against the Department of Homeland Security, seeking an injunction.

On July 13, international students and their allies also rallied in an impressive show of support and solidarity

One day later, the Trump administration rescinded the rule requiring international students to transfer or leave the U.S. if their schools held classes entirely online due to the coronavirus pandemic. ICE reverted to a March directive, suspending typical limits regarding online education for these students.

“ ... Our international students are an essential part of our OU community, and while we have already committed to providing a primarily in-person education to all our students, we are pleased that what was an unnecessary and harmful burden for our international students in these already challenging times has been reversed,” read a statement from OU President Joe Harroz and Jill Irvine, OU's interim senior vice president and provost.

We’re pleased with that development, but international students still face some uncertainties. Many were unable to work when OU shut down. Some are still struggling financially or obviously can’t return home. Due to COVID-19, some U.S. embassies and consulates have suspended visa services due to travel restrictions.

International students are a large part of OU, comprising 6.1 percent of the student body last fall, according to Institutional Research and Reporting data.

Norman gets a lot of its diversity from international students. Restaurants in town were built by students sticking around town. Let’s not forget that future immigrants would have been sent back under this rule if not rescinded.

The Norman Transcript Editorial Board includes Publisher Mark Millsap, Editor Rob Collins and guest members Brandi Coyner, Keith Gaddie, Bianca Gordon, Kathy Haney, Marc Nuttle, Michael Ridgeway and Nick Wu. For comments or questions, please email editor@normantranscript.com.

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