The Honorable Chad F. Wolf
Acting Secretary of Homeland Security
Washington, DC 20528
July 8, 2020
Dear Secretary Wolf:
While the University of Notre Dame is not immediately affected by your proposed policy of deporting foreign students unable to find in-person alternatives when universities implement online instruction only, I am concerned about our government’s inhospitable, even hostile, approach toward visiting students and scholars who enrich our own learning and cultural environments. Having already overcome the hurdles of being accepted to an American university, and authorized to travel and live here, foreign students now have to grapple with the uncertainty of being expelled from the country simply because of the way instruction is delivered.
Notre Dame enrolls about 1,400 international students each year. In March, when Notre Dame ceased in-classroom instruction because of the pandemic, over 100 foreign students were stranded on campus because of restrictions on air travel to certain countries and other impediments. I’m proud of the fact that Notre Dame accommodated every one of them. These students are an essential part of our campus community. They make lifelong friends here. They become future colleagues of faculty and alumni. We embrace our visitors. We don’t chase them away. No harm and much good would result if Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) took a similar approach. After all, they were already vetted before their entry into the United States.
In addition, the presence of international students on American campuses is a major ingredient in the success of local economies and the nation’s overall fiscal health. It is estimated that a 25% decline in international student enrollment this fall would result in a loss of approximately $10 billion and 114,000 jobs.
The Department of Homeland Security, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, in particular, has its hands full already in securing our borders and intercepting contraband without engaging in the dubious practice of revoking the visas of foreign students who pose no threat. Respectfully, I ask that this course be abandoned and allow universities to be good neighbors and gracious hosts to our visitors from abroad.
Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.