(AP) — Leaders of 12 Christian organizations on Friday (July 10) urged the Trump administration to rescind a policy requiring international students to leave the U.S. or transfer if their colleges hold classes entirely online this fall, saying it “falls short of American ideals.” Among the signatories are National Association of Evangelicals President Walter Kim; Council for Christian Colleges & Universities President Shirley Hoogstra; and Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.
In a letter to Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf, shared with the Associated Press, the leaders wrote that the policy “robs our country of the significant contribution” international students make to their colleges on both a personal and economic level. It “lacks compassion” and “violates tenets of our faith,” the letter continued, citing specific Biblical passages.
“International students who have already arrived in the United States and who are enrolled in degree programs should be allowed to complete their courses of study in this country without further disruption,” the leaders said. “This is reasonable, compassionate, and consistent with our national interests.”
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced Monday that the more than 1 million international students in the country would not be allowed to take all their classes online this fall. The agency notified colleges that no new visas would be issued to foreign students at schools operating entirely online that term, and those already in the United States would be required to transfer or leave the country. Foreign students will be barred from taking all their classes online even if an outbreak prompts their schools to shift classes online, according to the policy.
The decision has drawn backlash from universities and education groups who say the rules needlessly put students’ safety at risk. Many colleges have come to rely on revenue from foreign students, who are typically charged higher tuition rates.
Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have sued to block the policy, and California became the first state to seek an injunction against it.
Kim and Moore previously signed onto a letter in April that asked the Trump administration to consider releasing low-safety-risk immigration detainees, particularly those with a higher risk for the coronavirus, to facilitate social distancing during the pandemic. They, along with several others joining Friday’s letter, are part of the Evangelical Immigration Table, a group of Christian leaders advocating for immigration reform.
Other signatories of Friday’s letter include the president of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, a campus ministry; the executive director of the international student ministry at Cru; and the president of World Relief, a Christian humanitarian group.
Associated Press reporter Collin Binkley contributed.