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A Quiet Victory for International Students

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A Case Gets Resolution

If the Harvard-MIT lawsuit over covid-era student-visa rules was a blockbuster, the case brought by Guilford College, its international-student club, and several other colleges was more like an indie.

For almost two years, Guilford and its co-plaintiffs fought a Trump administration regulatory change that could have barred international students from the U.S. for lengthy periods for relatively minor visa infractions. On Friday, the plaintiffs, who had won preliminary and permanent injunctions blocking enforcement of the policy, were notified that the government was dropping its appeal in the case.

Under the policy, known as “unlawful presence,” students could be prevented from entering the country for up to 10 years for failing to update their address with their college, for falling below their required courseload, or for working too many hours. They also could be penalized for inadvertent errors college officials make in maintaining their records. What the government wanted to do was to reset the clock for determining when students were “unlawfully present” in the U.S. back to when a violation occurred, rather than when an immigration judge ruled that they were out of status. Doing so could have significantly increased the number of students facing reentry bans.

If that sounds like a convoluted plot, know this: The crux of the Guilford case was a legal argument that will sound familiar, that the Trump administration failed to follow proper regulatory processes in issuing the new unlawful presence policy. Lack of proper rulemaking is what Harvard and MIT argued. It was the basis for the Supreme Court’s decision barring the president from shutting down DACA, the program that protects young undocumented immigrants from deportation.

The DACA case ended cinematically, with jubilant Dreamers celebrating their victory in front of the Supreme Court. Harvard-MIT ended dramatically, when a federal judge announced at a much-anticipated hearing that the administration was backing off its new international-student policy.

Guilford ended quietly, with a brief court filing that asked for dismissal of the government’s appeal in the case.

It may have been a quiet win, but for international students, it was a meaningful one.

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‘I’ve Got to Keep Fighting’

The Trump administration said last week it will reject all new applicationsfor DACA, an enormous blow to young undocumented immigrants and a move that is sure to prompt new legal challenges. The announcement would seem to defy a federal judge’s order that immigration officials begin accepting new applications following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the administration acted improperly in ending the program.

Instead, the acting homeland security secretary said the government would conduct a “comprehensive review” of DACA, which allows about 650,000 undocumented immigrants to live and work in the country legally.

I spoke with Lupe, a community college student in California, about the latest news. The middle child of three, her older sister registered for DACA under President Obama; her younger sister is American-born. The interview has been edited for space and clarity.

You exist in a sort of immigration gray area. Why?

I came to America when I was just a baby, from Mexico. I was all set to apply for DACA, I just wasn’t old enough. And then a couple of months before my [15th] birthday, President Trump said he was ending it.

That must have been a blow.

For my older sister, I saw the difference that having DACA made. She could get a license, she could get a job, she could help out our family. She could start planning for a career. I don’t want to say I resented her because it’s not her fault she got DACA. But it meant she could have a future.

How did you feel when the Supreme Court decision was announced?

I could not stop shaking and crying. I was so overwhelmed with feelings and so happy. I thought, OK, this is finally it.

And now?

Honestly, you’d think I’d be angry, but mostly I just felt … tired. Like, this again? Back to limbo. But then this teacher from high school, who knows about my status, texted and told me she wanted to do anything she could to fight for me. So that’s what I’ve got to do, keep fighting.

The Costs of Uncoupling

A decade ago, when Sino-American relations were on the upswing, Chinese flocked here, as tourists, as homebuyers, as investors, and, of course, as students. MacroPolo, the think tank affiliated with the Paulson Institute, has built an interactive that illustrates the ramping up Chinese consumption and investment in the U.S. — and, with tensions on the rise, their unwinding.

One thing I couldn’t help but notice was how comparatively durable education spending was compared to other forms of investment. While spending in other areas began to fall after 2016, tuition and related education expenditures didn’t drop off until just last year. Even then, the declines were less sharp than in other areas.

Going forward, of course, is likely to be a different matter.

Around the Globe

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will sharply increase filing feesfor applications for optional practical training.

India has long resisted allowing foreign universities into the country. The coronavirus may finally change that.

Half of all U.S. colleges surveyed by the Institute of International Education said international applications were down for fall.

New Oriental, the test prep and tutoring giant, reported a plunge in second-quarter profits as fewer Chinese students prepare to study overseas.

The University of Hong Kong has fired a law professor who led pro-democracy protests.

Four students were arrested under Hong Kong’s new security law on suspicion of inciting secession in social-media posts.

A federal judge issued a preliminary injunction saying that the U.S. Department of Education could not deny coronavirus relief funds to a student based on citizenship.

IIE has opened a new round of nominations for its emergency grants for international students suffering from financial hardship because of covid.

The Stevens Initiative announced a $10 million grant competition to fund virtual exchanges between the U.S. and the Middle East and North Africa.

Additional charges have been filed against Harvard professor Charles Lieber for failing to report income he received while working for a Chinese university. Plus, a professor at the University of Arkansas has been indictedfor not disclosing financial ties to companies and institutions in China, and a former West Virginia University professor pleaded guilty in a similar case.

Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau testified before Parliament about his government’s decision to award management of a multi-million coronavirus student grant program to a charity with ties to his family.

Chinese students in Australia have been blackmailed and forced to stage their own kidnappings to get their families back home to pay ransoms.

And finally…

After months of barely leaving my San Francisco neighborhood, I recently took a cross-country road trip, my first, to Maine, where my family lives. Now we’re sheltering in place in a little cottage in the woods where my husband is living his best grilling life and I’m trying to adjust to the fact that my nephews have made the leap from playing superheroes to Harry Potter. Except for the mosquitoes, it feels pretty idyllic.

But this Washington Post article makes it clear that Maine isn’t really an oasis, at least not for the immigrants who have settled here. Coronavirus counts are low, but Black Mainers, who account for just 2 percent of the population, make up a quarter of the cases. Why? Because these immigrants and refugees — about half of Maine’s Black population isn’t American-born — do the essential tasks that power the state’s economy, from picking blueberries to caring for the elderly.

’Til next week — Karin

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