Hundreds of students at the University of California — Berkeley are privately discussing a plan to create a “dummy” course solely to help international students on F-1 student visas avoid deportation under new U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) regulations — and they say at least one faculty member is on board, Fox News has learned.
The plan, which would likely afoul of laws against immigration fraud if enacted, was hatched hours after ICE announced Monday that foreign students in the country are required to take some in-person instruction or they will not be allowed to legally remain in the country.
“berkeley students are creating a 1-unit, in-person, student-run class to help international students avoid deportation due to the new ICE regulations,” a Berkeley Urban Studies student wrote in a now-deleted tweet, which has been archived by Google. “love my school sometimes.”
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The tweet, which was shared more than 25,000 times before it was taken down, linked to a longer post stating that a member of the Berkeley community had “found a faculty member who will sponser [sic] this.” The post noted that a syllabus is being drafted, and that the course “is ONLY for students who are international and need a physical component to remain in the United States.”
The longer post has been shared hundreds of times on various Berkeley-related social media groups, including several that are publicly available. Academics with ties to Berkeley, including Deborah Miranda, have spread news of the course on their own Facebook accounts. (Miranda falsely said in a post that the ICE regulations would affect “Dreamers”; it would in fact affect students with F-1 visas.)
However, some students noted that the plan might not work.
“F-1 students are only allowed to take one course in an online modality each semester, unfortunately,” observed a poster who identifed herself as Tiffany Earley Spadoni. “I don’t think offering a one-credit hour course will meet the administrative requirements. But it is great to see creative solutions being discussed.”
“Looks like one other possible solution will be to see if the univ can make them all sign up for an outdoor PE class,” wrote Florinda Ruiz, another user on the Facebook page.
Berkeley is well-known as among the most left-leaning institutions of higher learning in the United States. Last month, Berkeley officials mourned the murder of a white student by noting that most of the campus was upset about the death of George Floyd — a statement that drew widespread criticism, even as top Berkeley officials doubled down. And last year, a Berkeley instructor called rural Americans “bad people” who deserve “uncomfortable” lives.
Berkeley did not immediately respond to Fox News’ requests for comment about the apparent plan to circumvent immigration law.
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The ICE’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program released a statement that said students in the U.S. who are enrolled in schools that plan to operate solely online this fall “must depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain lawful status. If not, they may face immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings.”
Fiona McEntee, an immigration lawyer, told NPR that the move “makes no sense.”
“If students can study online successfully from an academic point of view, why are we forcing them to come into a situation where they could put their health at risk and also the health of their classmates at risk?”
ICE did not immediately respond to an after-hours email from Fox News. The Wall Street Journal reported that these students cannot take all of their courses online if their college offers a mix of on-campus options.
The U.S. is working to contain recent coronavirus outbreaks in states like California and Texas and schools are working to determine how best to approach the upcoming school year. Schools like the University of Southern California announced earlier this month that it would not resume in-person instruction for the fall semester.
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“Given the continuing safety restrictions and limited densities permissible on campus, our undergraduate students primarily or exclusively will be taking their courses online in the fall term,” the school said in a statement. “On-campus housing and activities will be limited.”
Foreign students taking online courses who are seeking visas will not be issued them, reports said.
Lawrence S. Bacow, the president of Harvard, said in a statement that he is “concerned” about the new guidelines, according to the Harvard Crimson. He said the guidelines seem to be a “blunt, one-size-fits-all approach to a complex problem.”
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The Crimson reported that the school announced Monday that it would hold all courses online. The Washington Post reported that schools are working to determine the impact of the new guidelines. Schools have reportedly been told to respond by July 15 about how they are going to approach the fall semester.
“What is just, to me, absolutely staggering is we have been asking for this guidance since April,” Lizbet Boroughs, associate vice president of federal affairs at the Association of American Universities, told the paper.