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International students at risk of being deported this fall

ICE has reinstated a guideline that says all international students must be enrolled in in-person classes to stay in the United States.

ROCK ISLAND, Ill. — ICE has reinstated a guideline that foreign students in the U.S. cannot take only online classes during the pandemic this fall, leaving international college students at risk of being deported.

With college campuses still mostly empty, there`s one population of students that hasn`t gone anywhere.

Augustana student Saisha Bhandari is from Nepal. 

She says campus is empty with most students home for the rest of the summer. “It`s really empty and we`re just bored.”

She`s one of 80 international students who have been living on campus since mid-March. This was when most students went home because of COVID-19.

Bhandari says, “My family thinks it’s better not to travel even within America so I just stayed on campus.”

Under federal immigration guidelines international students had to be doing some form of in-person learning to stay in America.

That rule went away during the pandemic, but now that guidance is going back into effect for the coming fall semester.

Augustana Director of International Admissions Liz Nino says they are hopeful they don`t have to make the decision to switch to online learning.

That would mean students like Saisha would have to leave.

“We are paying attention to the current laws and right now the current law states that for international students cannot take full online classes so many of those students are thankful to Augustana for providing an in-person classes."

Vice President of External Relations Kent Barnds says they do however, have a plan if they have to move students to all online learning.

Barnds says, “Like we reacted this Spring and quickly adapted our education program from in-person classes to a hybrid of online and distance education we`ll be prepared for that in the Fall should that be necessary.”

In the mean time they have put measures in place like reducing class sizes and enforcing mask policies. 

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As for Saisha, she hopes choosing to move schools or go back home is a decision she doesn`t have to make.

“Everything is about visa and it`s really hard to get visa here. It`s difficult to even hear about it because all of our hard work and time got wasted.”

While the college has decided to resume in person classes this fall that can change if the pandemic gets worse.