Pitt grad student organizers condemn changes to ICE Student Exchange and Visitor Program rules

By staff |
July 10, 2020
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Pittsburgh, PA - Members of the Graduate Student Organizing Committee at the University of Pittsburgh (GSOC-USW) issued a statement, July 8, expressing solidarity with international students and denouncing the Trump administration’s recent modifications of existing ICE Student Exchange and Visitor Program (SEVP) rules.

Under the rule change, students in the United States on F-1 visas must take at least one in-person class or face deportation. This comes at a time when many universities, including the University of Pittsburgh, are still weighing their options for online instruction in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.

“This is yet another targeted attack on immigrants disguised as a premature return to ‘business as usual,’” the statement reads. “The modified policy not only forces international students to choose between our safety and academic careers, but also makes it especially dangerous for us to join the call to cancel in-person teaching.”

The group commended the Pitt administration’s call to reverse the decision but stated university leaders needed to do more.

“We ask that Pitt immediately halt its expensive legal campaigns designed to deny us our right to form a union, and instead divert those millions of dollars to take legal action, which must include retaining immigration attorneys to serve students and faculty,” the statement reads.

“As a union, we are committed to fighting for the rights of all people to study, teach and conduct research without having to compromise their health, safety or visa status. We will not sit idly by while more workers become collateral damage due to the U.S. government’s abdication of its duties. Similarly, we will continue to hold the Pitt administration accountable to make sure it protects the safety and wellbeing of our community when making decisions about the upcoming academic year,” according to the statement.

Graduate students at the University of Pittsburgh filed for an election to join the USW in 2017. Last fall, a Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board hearing examiner found that the university administration committed “coercive acts” that undermined the integrity of that election, held in April 2019, and ordered a new one. The Pitt administration appealed the decision, and this process is still underway.

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