Harvard decries 'destructive' new Trump admin policy

Harvard University signed a statement in late December denouncing U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen M. Nielsen for a policy limiting the stay of international students in the country.

The Ivy League school is the 65th school to sign an amicus brief supporting Guilford College in a lawsuit filed against Nielsen, according to The Harvard Crimson. Most of the schools belong to the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration.

”The Department of Homeland Security’s (“DHS”) Policy Memorandum regarding the calculation of unlawful presence will have destructive and harmful consequences for international students and scholars, and the U.S. institutions with which they are associated, the brief states. 

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U.S. immigration policies trigger an “unlawful presence” period for people who stay in the nation past their period of authorization. These individuals can be forced to go back to the country from which they came after six months of unlawful presence and receive a three-year ban from the country. 

Before August, the unlawful presence period only began after the government released a memo deeming the visa holder “out of status.” But the August policy change allows the Department of Homeland Security to set start dates for unlawful presence retroactively before releasing the determination and beginning the day following the individual’s completion of a degree or visa expiration.

“Under the prior policy, when international students did become aware of a potential issue, they were able to make corrections and request reviews and adjustments, without fearing the accrual of unlawful presence,” the brief states. “The DHS’s new backdating rule will likely result in fewer international students, scholars, and instructors contributing to our communities.”

Harvard spokesman Jonathan L. Swain called Nielsen’s policy “a step in the wrong direction” in an emailed statement obtained by the Crimson.

”This policy will undermine the ability of American colleges and universities to attract and retain the top foreign talent that is critical to our global understanding and leadership in discovery, innovation and economic competitiveness,” Swain said.

The brief contains a 2017 survey showing that about one-sixth of international students trying to attend U.S. institutions of higher education cite visa restrictions as a factor discouraging them from studying at these schools.

“Our robust commitment to internationalism is not an incidental or dispensable accessory,” the brief quotes former Harvard President Drew G. Faust as having said in a 2017 email. “‘It is integral to all that we do, in the laboratory, in the classroom, in the conference hall, in the world.”

Signing onto the brief opposing Nielsen’s policy is not the first time Harvard has made headlines during the past couple of years. The Ivy League school has implemented sanctions punishing members of single-gender groups such as frats and sororities, barring these members from obtaining leadership positions on campus and university endorsements for prestigious scholarships.

[RELATED: Harvard’s last sorority crumbles in face of new sanctions]

Harvard revoked admission offers for at least ten students of its incoming freshman class in 2017 after the individuals shared “offensive” memes in a private Facebook chat. The following year, the Ivy League institution fended off claims of discrimination against Asian American applicants.

The school’s Republican and Democrat student groups did not respond to requests for comment in time for publication.

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