Pressley, Moulton Amendment to Protect International Students from Deportation Adopted in FY2021 National Defense Authorization Act

July 21, 2020
Press Release
Amendment Would Block Trump Administration from Deporting International Students Enrolled in Online Classes Amid COVID-19

Amendment Text (PDF)

WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) and Congressman Seth Moulton (MA-06) announced the successful inclusion of their amendment that would codify protections in the FY2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for international students who recently found themselves the target of xenophobic guidance released by the Trump Administration earlier this month. 

The amendment affirms that international students can continue to enroll in online coursework without fear of deportation through the entirety of the public health emergency. The effort comes after Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) released guidance earlier this month that threatened to deport students if they were enrolled in an educational program that offered courses online or via distance learning in order to keep students and faculty safe. The guidance was later withdrawn following a lawsuit led by Harvard and MIT, and Congressional backlash and organizing from students, advocates and other institutions of higher education throughout the country. The amendment serves as an important legislative protection to prevent the Trump Administration from attempting to target these students again while the COVID-19 crisis continues.

“ICE’s proposal to threaten international students at our colleges and universities with deportation was a blatantly xenophobic effort to hold these students hostage in an attempt to pressure colleges to reopen for in-person classes despite the ongoing risks to the public health and safety of students, faculty, and staff,” said Congresswoman Pressley. “While I am relieved that this administration heeded our calls and bowed to public pressure by rolling back this bigoted policy, we know all too well that we cannot trust them to keep their word. This amendment will protect international students while allowing our higher education institutions to take the appropriate steps to keep their communities healthy and mitigate the spread of COVID-19.”

“Taking visas away from students studying at American colleges and universities just because they're learning remotely during the pandemic is not only xenophobic, it's going to make us less safe. When international students can learn in America, many stay and bring their valuable perspectives, languages, and talents to institutions that protect our national security,” Congressman Moulton said. "I'm going to keep fighting so international students studying here can stay and worry about their classes, not about a president who wants to demonize them.”

Earlier this month, Congresswoman Pressley and Congressman Moulton led a bicameral group of nearly 100 lawmakers in calling on Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf to withdraw the xenophobic guidance.

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