CHICAGO — Hundreds of demonstrators marched Friday at the Daley Center downtown, protesting federal immigration enforcement and a recent move by the Trump administration placing stricter requirements upon international students attending college in the U.S.
The new policy, announced earlier this week, prohibits international students on F-1 or M-1 visas from studying in the U.S. if their schools plan only to provide online instruction this fall.
If their schools are online only, they risk deportation unless they transfer to a school offering in-person instruction or leave the country voluntarily.
Several university leaders said the move is designed to pressure colleges and universities to open their campuses this fall.
Oscar Hew, a Roosevelt University student from Singapore, called the rule change “very xenophobic.”
“Some international students don’t have stable internet or a conducive environment back home where they can truly excel at their studies,” Hew said. “They’ve worked so hard to be here. I just don’t think it’s fair to them.”
Fernando Hernandez, who attends Loyola University law school, said college administrators are doing everything in their power to keep their international students here.
Loyola officials said this week they are planning to offer some on-campus instruction, hoping to exempt their international students from the regulation.
“A majority of the students in the school of law are international students,” Hernandez said. “I’m sure in the back of their head, they’re trying to figure out what’s going on.”
Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology are suing to try to block the rule, which could affect hundreds of thousands of students across the country.
Nearly 1.1 million international students studied in the U.S. as of 2019, according to the Institute of International Education. Nearly 54,000 are in Illinois alone, with large communities on campuses in Chicago and Evanston.
The recent rule change, protesters said, is emblematic of a broader problem: that Immigration and Customs Enforcement is unjustly targeting communities of color rather than affecting meaningful immigration policy.
As an example, some speakers pointed to the ongoing policies of separating thousands of immigrant children from their families at the U.S.-Mexico border and detaining them.
Similar to recent protests demanding the defunding and overhaul of the Chicago Police Department, demonstrators argue the only fix is to dismantle how federal immigration enforcement currently functions.
“When we say ‘abolish ICE,’ I believe it’s a systematic racism that is targeted at Brown and Black people,” said Jaleel Anthony, speaker and member of Shift Chicago.
Anthony said he felt the administration is using the COVID-19 pandemic as a justification to protect Americans, but leaders are not giving the same consideration to communities of color.
“When you say ‘what are we protecting,’ who are we really protecting?” Anthony said. “Is it the people who say they founded this country. Well guess what, they didn’t. Brown and Black people founded this country.”
Amid broader activism for racial and social justice, Hernandez said these issues demand that people from marginalized groups advocate for each other.
“We need to stand in solidarity with everybody else just like Black Lives Matter stands in solidarity with us,” Hernandez said. “There just needs to be change in the United States in general, not just the United States but the world… and for us to be here voicing our opinions… our opinions matter and if we don’t deal with it, then who else will?”
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