STANFORD WEIGHS IN
Stanford University President Marc Tessier-Lavigne penned a four-page letter to Sharon Hageman, DHS acting regulatory unit chief, that the university shared with P&Q. At Stanford, he wrote, “international students and scholars make immeasurable contributions that advance our mission of research, education, and patient care for the benefit of humanity. Their contribution to this nation and to Stanford compel me to provide comments in strong opposition to the Department of Homeland Security’s recent notice of proposed rulemaking.”
Calling the proposed rule to establish a fixed time period of admission and an extension of stay procedure for non-immigrant academic students and others “a harmful attempt to change a successful system based on the duration of status to a period of fixed admission,” Tessier-Lavigne said the DHS move would only increase “stress, anxiety, and uncertainty” as students “confront the reality of what a period of fixed admission signifies — a policy that does not commit to their ability to complete their education or research.”
“These policy changes are unnecessary, overly burdensome, and costly to international students and scholars at Stanford and across the nation,” Tessier-Lavigne writes.
BIG IMPACT ON DOCTORAL, OPT STUDENTS
Under the proposed rule, international doctoral students, of whom there are currently close to 1,800 at Stanford, would be given only four- or two-year limits of stay in the U.S., Tessier-Lavigne notes, depending on their country of nationality. However, the median time needed to complete a Ph.D. at Stanford for 62% of doctoral students is six years. Because the remainder, about 38%, take longer, Stanford currently provides seven years of visa sponsorship. “For some international doctoral students, visa extensions beyond seven years are necessary,” the university president writes.
“The proposed changes would also notably impact the international students at Stanford who are in our five-year coterminal degree programs. These programs allow students to study for a master’s degree while completing their bachelor’s degree, with students obtaining both degrees in five years. Over the years, hundreds of our international students have enrolled in our ‘co-term’ programs and it remains a popular educational opportunity for all Stanford students. Under the proposed rule, our international students would be required to file an extension of stay to complete their co-term program, inserting unnecessary uncertainty into the process that may lead to fewer students pursuing these unique educational opportunities.
“Perhaps the most troubling aspect of the proposed rule is the increased uncertainty and costs to students and scholars — and even to the institutions themselves — when students and scholars must apply for extensions of stay. To complete their program, many students and scholars will face a significant increase in expenses due to the new costs associated with seeking one or more EOS as well as the biometric fee. These increased costs are particularly concerning for our 1,800 doctoral students, the 1,100 students who utilize OPT, as well as the 200 students and scholars from countries considered to have high national overstay rates that would likely need to apply for an EOS at least every two years.”
PUNISHING STUDENTS ‘FOR THE TRANSGRESSIONS OF OTHERS’
“By severely limiting the length of admission for several broad groups of students and scholars to only two years, the proposed rule would penalize students and scholars based on their country of origin and would only serve to create inequities among international students and scholars on campus,” Tessier-Lavigne writes. “It would also lead to a sense of near constant uncertainty for these students and researchers, while also drastically increasing the cost to remain in the United States for the duration of their program.
“In particular, limiting the length of stay for those that come from countries with high national overstay rates not only punishes students for the transgressions of others, but disadvantages students and scholars who come from countries that send fewer students and exchange visitors to the United States. This is especially the case for those from countries in Africa, which comprise many of the approximately 60 countries currently identified by DHS as having a 10% or higher national overstay rate. At Stanford, we welcome approximately 200 students and scholars from these countries each year.
“Even more concerning is that the data used to calculate each country’s overstay rate is deeply flawed. According to a recent analysis done by the National Foundation for American Policy, the DHS overstay reports provide inaccurate calculations by counting both individuals whose departure from the U.S. have not been tracked and those who have changed status legally within the U.S. These errors dramatically inflate the number of individuals counted as overstays.
“In closing, our mission as a university is enhanced by the presence and participation of people from all over the world, from all walks of life. I recognize the importance of balancing federal immigration policy and national security. We must, however, ensure that the United States welcomes international students and scholars if we are to continue to drive the discovery and innovation that fuels our economic progress. I strongly urge you to withdraw this damaging proposed rule. It will only lead to more uncertainty and stress for our international students, scholars, physicians, and their families, and all who dream of pursuing their education and research in the United States.”