THE AMERICAN DREAM HAS ALWAYS BEEN A NIGHTMARE.
**This article was published anonymously to eliminate the risk of deportation.
Similar to many of my domestic peers, the day I was accepted to Penn was one of the
happiest of my life. When I opened that email at 4:35 am (due to a 9.5 hour time difference), it felt like a key to the rest of my life. I had been told by friends and family that America was the land of opportunity, where absolutely anyone could make something of themselves, regardless of background. Getting to America was touted as the path to success, even if they didn’t want you there, because if you worked hard enough, maybe one day they would.
The weaponization of the COVID-19 pandemic into a tool to systematically hurt immigrants
turns that notion upside down.
A few weeks ago, H1B visas were suspended and green cards were frozen. And on the 6th of July, ICE announced that students whose universities are fully remote must leave the US within 10 days or risk deportation, while students whose universities have a hybrid or in-person model must be taking in-person classes in the US. We’re faced with the impossible choice of health vs completing our education.
Proponents of this decision have cited that domestic students are taking online classes from
home. However, the situations are not analogous. 9 out of 10 international students remained in the US after universities shut down, due to travel restrictions, affordability, internships that cannot be done from outside the US and poor home conditions. Rising case numbers have led many countries to impose travel restrictions on the US, which means that these international students cannot go home, even if they wanted to. Moreover, flights may be too expensive, they may not have stable internet at home or have access to course tools from outside the US. Despite entering the US completely legally and paying a SEVIS fee that funds ICE, these students will be deported. For students who are outside of the US and must return, compromised immune systems, costs, a lack of flights and travel restrictions are prohibitive. Students with travel restrictions imposed on their countries by the US must fly to another country, and quarantine there for two weeks in order to enter, while domestic students get the choice of doing classes from the safety of their own homes.
International students are extremely important to the US. We contribute around $45 billion to the economy, as we are forced to pay full tuition and cannot apply for financial aid or student loans. However, this issue is beyond that. More than economic facts and figures, we are people who have fought to overcome odds that were completely stacked against us, to fulfill our dreams. We are people whose parents have saved up to send us here, hoping for a better future. I had to self-study for several Advanced Placement exams, in addition to my high school curriculum, so I would have grades on my transcript that admissions committees
recognized. I know multiple international students who have flown out of their hometown or
even country to take the SAT or ACT as their country had no test center. Once we are here, we have a whole host of problems that our peers never have or can even understand: many jobs are off limits due to visa sponsorships, we can only work low-paying on-campus jobs, we can only see our families once or twice a year, we often undertake journeys of over 24 hours that cost thousands of dollars to get home, and much more. We do all this, simply to get the best education in the world. Although we pay the same taxes, we aren’t conferred with any of the benefits that citizens are.
This new regulation has served to remind us that we are worthless and unwanted in this country. That our talent and hard work amount to nothing because of the passport we have. In the middle of a global crisis, we have to grapple with the additional uncertainty of not knowing when we will be back, if we will be allowed into the country, whether we will contract the virus on the long-haul flight over or in our in-person class, and whether we can even continue our education. So, if you are a citizen, please be an ally. Check on your international friends, peers and students because we are hurting. Sign petitions. Contact your representatives. If you are a student, swap an in-person class with an international friend. If you are a professor who safely can, create an in-person independent study. This government has failed us. Please help us win a fight we never started and have no legal means to fight.
CLICK HERE to access a number of different resources for both international students and domestic students to help advocate for them.