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UAAO Statement on Fall 2020 Legislation Targeting International Students in the U.S.

July 12, 2020


The United Asian American Organizations (UAAO) executive board denounces the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) legislation threatening F-1 and M-1 international students. ICE’s deliberate scapegoating of foreign entities as causes for rising COVID-19-cases is just one recent development in a larger pattern of attacking migrant protections. The intent of this particular political maneuver is to deflect from the domestic administrations’ inaction, and it follows only weeks after an extension of freezing green cards and Visas for highly skilled international workers through the end of the year.


The threat of student deportation weaponizes the heightened anti-migrant sentiment that accompanied the COVID-19 pandemic. This weaponization is founded not on public health guidelines or trends shown by the COVID-19 virus, but rather on the current administration’s racialization of COVID-19. ICE cites their legislation as “due to COVID-19,” falsely associating increased campus security with a decrease or exodus of international students. In reality, the United States currently holds the all-time international record for COVID-19 cases, with some states reporting more cases than entire countries. The only clear objective of this legislation is to capitalize on the fear of international community members and absolve blame for our own failures as a nation in containing the spread of COVID-19.


The University of Michigan - Ann Arbor campus is in an extremely powerful and well-endowed position to publicly denounce and actively work against these illogical laws to protect our international students from structural and social forms of hate and fear. With the existence of such vibrant international communities on campus, the University has a responsibility to take action towards combating such harmful legislation. We urge the University of Michigan - Ann Arbor to move beyond its initial statements and lawsuit in conjunction with the Association of American Universities through the following demands:


  1. Actively continue to urge federal officials to revoke this modification and refuse to enforce any legislation that still stands in the fall.

  2. The University and businesses at each campus must refuse and actively combat ICE from occupying our campus and threatening our international and undocumented students. (Historically, businesses in Ann Arbor have refused to protect undocumented workers, particularly Latinx employees, and served breakfast to ICE agents before allowing them to raid a kitchen.)

  3. Prepare a safety protocol for international students in the event that the University switches from hybrid to online instruction.

  4. Ensure that every instructor/class allows students to not attend in-person classes if they are uncomfortable with in-person contact. Hold instructors accountable for respecting student requests and protecting international students from both ICE and anti-migrant sentiments.

  5. Reduce tuition for international students and ensure refunds for terminated University housing contracts if international students withdraw at any point of the school year. International students should not have to pay extra costs associated with additional credits if in-person placeholder classes are created for international students needing an in-person class.



Through these proposed actions, the University will not force any students to risk their personal health with any in-person class if the legislation still stands in the fall. Students, faculty, and staff have a unique role to raise awareness of these harms within our respective departments and communities, using the following email template, adapted from NYU student organizers’ letters to administration. To combat increasing marginalization of identities through national legislation, one example being the targeting of international status, the University must take intentional steps to protect vulnerable populations.


UAAO releases this statement, its demands, and the email template (found at bit.ly/uaaodemands) as starting points for action, which we constructed using international student narratives and discourse. However, it is vital to acknowledge that our own board has no international student representation on it. Thus, any demands made by actual international students should take precedence over the ones listed.


We hope to create space for international students with our upcoming Community Conversation: Supporting International Students event, on Friday, July 17th from 10:30AM-12PM. We intend for this event to be an opportunity where international students, of any ethnicity, can connect to other international students as well as voice their concerns regarding recent immigration policy changes.


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