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Duke University responds to ICE directive that international students must leave country if classes go virtual

Posted July 8, 2020 6:44 p.m. EDT
Updated July 8, 2020 7:02 p.m. EDT

— On Monday, ICE released a statement saying international students studying at universities in the US would have to leave the country if their classes decide to go online-only this semester.

Opposition is already growing in response. Harvard and MIT quickly filed a lawsuit to stop ICE from enforcing the directive.

The change would impact thousands of students at universities in the Triangle. Duke University has more than 3,300 international students – about 20 percent of the student body. NC State has more than 4,000 international students, most of them at the graduate level.

Students at Duke University share fears, plans

Many of these international students said they are always at the mercy of the government’s hand, but this policy has left them feeling hopeless.

Angikar Ghosal and Anastasia Karklina are two international Duke students, who traveled overseas to achieve the perceived American dream with higher education.

Ghosal, a sophomore at Duke, said, “If ICE does not change its policy, we have no power.”

“I started hyperventilating, and I think that really describes the experience of international students," said Karklina, who is in a five to seven year graduate program at Duke.

Now, because of the COVID-19 impact and new federal guidelines, their future is in jeopardy.

Karklina, who serves as a Duke Grad Union Member, said, “The message with this particular ruling by ICE is that none of us are truly safe and protected in the United States – whether we are documented or not."

The ruling bars international students from staying in the country if their university offers only online courses.

Students could be displaced in the midst of a global pandemic

“We simply did not get enough time. Neither did universities or students get enough time to plan out everything," said Ghosal.

An open letter signed by thousands, including Duke professors, is now circulating. Duke University released a statement saying it is deeply committed to supporting the students.

“In the middle of a pandemic of historic proportions, I don’t have a home to go to," said Karklina.

Just a few weeks away from the start of the semester, transferring schools is financially unpractical for students and could displace more than a million people nationwide.

“Many international students feel unsafe to travel in these conditions. Their home environments may be unreliable and unsafe," said Karklina.

“I’m hoping for the best," said Ghosal. "Maybe I’m an optimist."

Duke University plans to offer a combination of in-person, hybrid, and online courses in fall, believing this approach will allow these students to continue their studies here.

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