Every year, thousands of students around the world—including some of our own Astrobites authors—make the difficult choice to leave their home countries in order to pursue their education. As soon as they make this choice, they are often forced to navigate labyrinthine and expensive immigration bureaucracies. Once they arrive in their new homes, they must learn about customs, traditions, and languages that may be very different from what they’ve previously known. And even then, regardless of the degree to which they assimilate into the dominant culture, they may face personal and cultural discrimination simply because they happened to be born on the other side of an arbitrary line drawn on the globe.
In the United States, recent executive orders have made international students’ positions even more precarious. In particular, the most recent announcement from US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) forbids international students from remaining in or entering the US while taking online-only courses in Fall 2020. This effectively forces international students to choose between disrupting their education and careers by leaving the US or transferring universities, and jeopardizing their health in the midst of a global pandemic. Additionally, the ICE order does not provide guidance for graduate students who are doing research rather than coursework, nor does it define acceptable “hybrid” combinations of in-person and online courses. This vagueness leaves it open for a wide range of interpretations, the uncertainty of which further contributes to international students’ anxieties over potential deportations.
Astrobites stands in solidarity with all international students in the United States. We recognize and honor the incredible sacrifices that international students make for the sake of learning and research. We value international students not just as colleagues, but also as friends and as people regardless of their contributions, and we believe they belong in the US just as much as domestic students.
We encourage our authors and readers—particularly those who are US citizens—to check on your international friends, call your representatives and senators (here are some guidelines and call scripts), and push your institutions to take action both now and in the long term to better support international students.
Featured image: The famous “Pale Blue Dot” image, a photograph of Earth by NASA’s Voyager 1. As Carl Sagan wrote, “There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.” Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech