Statement Against ICE Directive Targeting International Students

“They ask you, [O Muhammad], what they should spend. Say, ‘Whatever you spend of good is [to be] for parents and relatives and orphans and the needy and the traveler. And whatever you do of good - indeed, God is Knowing of it.’” - Surah Al-Baqarah 2:215

The American Muslim Bar Association (AMBA) stands in solidarity with international students across the country and joins the call against the latest U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) directive forcing international students whose universities go fully online for the Fall 2020 semester to leave the country. Our government should strive to empower students during this crisis, not use the ongoing pandemic to push xenophobic policies.

The coronavirus crisis has deeply affected many parts of American life and in the wake of the infectious and fatal nature of the disease, institutions across the country have taken steps to prevent further spread. Many universities have joined in this effort by adopting various plans to protect their students, including moving all of Fall 2020 instruction online. Amid this, the current Administration has decided to cancel the F-1 and M-1 visas for students whose universities transition to a fully online program this fall.

In order to protect their international students, some universities have taken steps to provide in-person options to prevent deportation. Moreover, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have filed suit against the Department of Homeland Security and ICE, seeking a temporary injunction against the directive. The lawsuit argues that the order violates the Administrative Procedures Act because the lack of an exemption in the directive for online courses has put the universities in an “untenable situation” of preceding fully online as planned, or attempting to provide in-person learning in response to the directive. The universities further press in the lawsuit that “for many students, returning to their home countries to participate in online instruction is impossible, impracticable, prohibitively expensive, and/or dangerous.”

At its heart, the directive hinders access to education. Not only does the massive time difference across the world make it difficult to attend online classes, but several of the students’ home countries have travel restrictions making it difficult for displaced students to return home. Others face lack of internet access in their home countries which bars them from meaningfully and fully participating in classes from abroad. Some students face low access to internet in their home countries while in others, where internet is available, high cost is significant barrier. This new directive also raises other questions. Who bears the cost of canceled leases as students are forced to leave? What happens if classes are shifted online mid-way through the semester? When will these students finally be able to come back to the place they now consider “their future”?

The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights enshrines education as an inalienable right that should be available to all without regard to arbitrary distinctions such as race or national origin. The latest directive from ICE is a violation of this fundamental human right.

AMBA calls upon all educational institutions to affirm their commitment to their international students and joins the calls of activists across the country speaking out against this directive. We urge the government to reconsider this directive and adopt a sensible policy to allow international students to exercise their fundamental right to education. As COVID-19 continues to indiscriminately impact populations across the world, our nation should be focused on empowering the next generation of global leaders instead of using political power to jeopardize the health, safety and prosperity of Americans and international students alike.

In solidarity,

AMBA Leadership

Lone Star Council

Texas Black Muslims Alliance

Texas Law Muslim Legal Society

Duke Muslim Students Association

Berkley Law Muslim Student Association

Harvard Muslim Law Students Association

Georgetown Muslim Law Students Association

New York University Muslim Students Association

University of Houston Muslim Students Association

New York University Muslim Law Students Association

Southern Methodist University Muslim Student Association

The University of Chicago Muslim Law Students Association

Rutgers University-Newark Muslim Law Student Association

The University of Michigan Muslim Law Students Association

The University of Texas at Austin Ahlul Bayt Student Organization

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Muslim Students Association

Texas Muslim Students Association at the University of Texas at Austin

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Muslim Law Students Association

About AMBA

The American Muslim Bar Association (AMBA) is a newly-formed professional organization of American Muslim lawyers committed to the practice of law and advocacy in the pursuit of justice in the public sphere for all Americans, motivated by the principles of the Ahlul Bayt, the family of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon them).

To join the AMBA network and/or if you need help connecting to resources, please write to us at info@ambalegal.org