July 13, 2020

Washington, D.C. — the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA) issued the following statement on guidelines set by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) regarding the status of international students taking online courses during the fall 2020 semester.

We condemn ICE’s directive prohibiting F-1 and M-1 students who are taking a full online course load from remaining in the United States. This announcement is especially cruel in the midst of a global pandemic as international students must choose between risking their health by attending in-person classes or being deported. This is a racist and xenophobic policy that endangers international students’ health and safety.

This decision should leave little room for debate that an anti-immigrant agenda is the one core principle that rises above the rest in the Trump administration. Of the 1 million international students currently in the United States, who also account for billions of dollars of economic activity, 70 percent are estimated to be from Asian countries. Tens of thousands of Americans have died because the president insisted the economy should come first. Even as the country rushes to reopen businesses and schools, it seems as though immigrants are still expendable rather than essential members of our communities.

Kiran Kaur Gill, Executive Director of Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF), said: 

“The new regulation requiring international students to leave the US if they are unable to return to in-person classes is appalling. SALDEF will work with our partners, universities, and congress to ensure the well-being of these students and that they can remain in this country.”

Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA) National Executive Board Vice President and California Faculty Association and (Service Employees International Union) SEIU member Kim Geron said:

“ICE’s latest guideline for the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) is regressive and harmful for both international students and faculty like me. If holding in-person classes is the only measure to avoid deportation for international students, then ICE is effectively coercing university workers to risk our health to protect our students. This guideline has created so much fear among our international students. It’s not right. In the face of COVID-19 where many AAPIs have been without jobs as early as March, our communities have made it clear that what we need is to divest from ICE and CBP and reinvest in funding for secure housing, nourishing food, child care, and cash assistance no matter immigration status. Deportations will not save us from COVID-19. We must defund hate now!”

Quyen Dinh, Executive Director of Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC), added: 

“Southeast Asian Americans fully understand the lengths this government will take to tear families apart and actively harm non-citizens. Rather than focusing on helping Americans with coronavirus relief, this administration continues to assault the health and wellbeing of our country. Make no mistake—this regulation is an attempt by President Trump to force universities to reopen in the middle of a pandemic, using international students stranded in the United States as a bargaining chip. The administration must reverse this regulation and work with Congress to provide actual coronavirus support for Americans.”

Adam P. Carbullido, Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations (AAPCHO) Director of Policy and Advocacy, stated:

“Visiting students are valuable members of their campus communities, with many aspiring to work in health care and the public health workforce. Forcing them to return to their home countries does nothing to protect their health and safety or the health and safety of the communities in which they live. This policy is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt for the current administration to continue its disdain for immigrant families, disrupting their studies and making it more difficult for our health care sector to tap into the investments we have made in them. The COVID-19 pandemic should not perpetuate fears of deportation and discrimination, but should unite us as we embrace the strengths of every student and culture.” 

David Inoue, Executive Director of Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), said:

“The administration’s latest decision to deport foreign students because their schools are only conducting online courses extends the pattern of cruel and malicious actions towards immigrants and foreigners. This began almost on day one with the Muslim Ban, followed by immigrant child incarceration, family separations, revocation of citizenship status, limits on asylum seekers, and the list could go on. The human impact of all these policies is severe and harmful. They are not the actions of the moral and just country we aspire to be as Americans.”

John C. Yang, President and Executive Director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC, stated: 

“This senseless policy disregards the education, health, and welfare of students across the country. The health and safety of students and faculty should take precedence. If these modifications are finalized, it will deal a devastating blow to international students, colleges and universities, and immigrant communities across our nation.”

Below are statements from our members organizations: 


Based in Washington, D.C., the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans is a coalition of 37 national Asian Pacific American organizations that serves to represent the interests of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities and to provide a national voice for our communities’ concerns. Our communities are the fastest growing racial/ethnic group in the United States, currently making up approximately six percent of the population.