By Lance Jordan, Sports Editor
The Office of International Studies and Programs, the Counseling Services Department, and the University of Missouri–St. Louis Police Department held an open meeting regarding the new presidential executive orders, visas, and entry into the United States on January 31 at 2 p.m. in the SGA Chambers of the Millennium Student Center.
Dr. Joel Glassman, associate provost for academic affairs and director of International Studies and Programs, started by stating he would like those at the meeting to “avoid a political discussion about whether this executive order was a good or bad thing because we have students facing some serious challenges.”
He explained that the focus of the meeting would be on immigration, safety, and counseling relative to the new order.
Rebecca Kehe, international student advisor, presented what the university did and did not know regarding the executive order passed down last week and what it meant for the international student body.
Kehe first addressed the January 23 presidential memo that put a hiring freeze on all federal departments and agencies, including the U.S. Citizenship Immigration Services and the U.S. Department of State.
Kehe explained, “This could cause application delays for any students who are applying for visa renewals, Optional Practical Training (OPT), reinstatement, off-campus work permission, for domestic student’s passport renewals, and applying for passports may also see long delays.”
As defined by the International Student Insurance Institute, OPT is “a period during which undergraduate and graduate students with F-1 status who have completed or have been pursuing their degrees for more than nine months are permitted by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to work toward getting practical training to complement their field of studies.”
She went on to talk about the January 25 executive order clause on immigration, which allows police to participate in the Delegation of Immigration Authority Section 287(g) Immigration and Nationality Act. According to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement website, the 287(g) program “allows a state or local law enforcement entity to enter into a partnership with ICE, under a joint Memorandum of Agreement (MOA), in order to receive delegated authority for immigration enforcement within their jurisdictions.”
Kehe continued, “Within that executive order, it also had a clause that said that immigration officers can detain individuals on suspicion of violating federal law or state law, including federal immigration law. So that means that an immigration officer can detain an individual on suspicion of any crime, whether it is a federal or state violation.”
Kehe went over the last executive order passed down on January 27, which suspends any visa, admission, or other benefit from foreign nationals with nonimmigrant visas from seven countries—Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Sudan, Yemen, and Somalia—for 90 days. Other countries can be added to this list after 60 days if they do not comply with the security measures put in place by the executive government.
“This impacts students from those countries who are on F-1, F-2 visas, H-1 or H-4, J-1, J-2 dependents; this also affects any family that would come visit, applications for any adjustment status with the advance parole, and legal permanent residents. They would assess the number of people who could enter on a case-by-case basis…. The only nonimmigrant visas who have exception to this are any diplomat, NATO, or United Nations visas,” Kehe said.
Also on the executive order was the suspension of the U.S. refugee program for 120 days. The order suspends the intake of Syrian refugees indefinitely and decreases the yearly cap of refugees allowed into the U.S. from 120,000 to 50,000 individuals per year.
Kehe added, “It also suspends the visa interview waiver program for individuals who have been students in the United States where countries have permitted them to just apply online then go pick up your visa. You will have to go in for a visa interview every time.”
Referring to the January 25 executive order that stated that people could be detained for federal or state violations, Kehe stated, “We are still seeking clarification from the executive government. We don’t know what federal or state laws they’re talking about.”
Kehe also spoke about the January 27 executive order and stated that neither she nor her department knows if other countries will be listed on this immigrant/nonimmigrant ban.
“Additionally we do not know what is included in the ‘other’ benefits clause of that ban. The issuing of visas and entry is very clear, but the ‘other’ benefits clause is where we are still seeking clarification from the USCIS and the executive government,” Kehe said.
For passport holders of the countries that are listed, the university recommends avoiding international travel until the ban is lifted, which is expected to take place April 27.
“Only emergency travel should be done at this point,” Kehe said.
If students from any of those countries choose to leave the United States for emergency or other personal matters, the university warns that passport holders on the countries listed can expect to be denied re-entry into the U.S. even with a valid visa in their passport.
“If you must travel for emergency or other circumstances, we recommend that you consult with our office or an immigration attorney before you travel,” Kehe said.
Kehe also mentioned that traveling while the semester is in session leads to more questions from Custom and Border Protection. Those planning to travel over the summer or to renew their visas should expect that it will take much longer than it has in the past.
The Office of International Studies also recommends that international students carry contact information for the International Student Services Office and complete and carry a G-28, a form with USCIS that officially appoints an attorney to represent an individual, in case they are detained at the airport during this time.
“For lawful residents of the United States, if you are asked to sign an I-407, do not sign that form. Ask to see an attorney before you sign any form. The I-407 is UCIS abandonment of permanency form, if you sign this form it cancels your green card,” Kehe said.
Dr. Christopher Sullivan, Clinical Director for Counseling Services, who has previous experience working in the International Studies Office, spoke next about the role counseling services plays in providing support.
“These are frightening times for a lot of people, even if you’re not directly affected by these things that are coming up. So we’re open to meeting with students and groups of students to talk about some of these concerns,” he said.
UMSL PD presented last in the meeting. Captain Daniel Freet, Commanding Officer of Bureau of Police Operations, reassured students that campus police does not report to immigration authorities and are more focused on keeping a positive environment on campus for U.S. and international students.
“We have a pattern of working with international students and a diverse student population that goes back years and years,” Freet said. “We’re not strangers to people finding themselves in uncomfortable positions. First of all, we are very approachable, we have nothing to do with immigration, and we’re not empowered under state statute to enforce immigration. We’re campus police dedicated to your safety and well-being.”
To reassure attendees at the meeting and students feeling uneasy about the executive order, Kehe said, “This order is not a deportation order for the seven countries listed. It is only an entry ban executive order.”