Potential DHS change concerns

Bella Lee, Staff writer

On Sept. 25, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) proposed a rule that would make changes to the Duration of Status (D/S) for international students and exchange visitors looking to study in or travel to the United States.

For decades, international students have been allowed to remain in the U.S. for as long as the full length of their program. However, if this proposed rule were to go through, D/S would be eliminated and would be replaced with fixed terms of admissions ranging from two to four years.

In a major move on Oct. 23, Mercyhurst announced their opposition to this change.

“The proposed rule argues that the elimination of Duration of Status is necessary to safeguard national security by reducing overstays,” said Mercyhurst’s official statement. “However, it fails to establish with compelling evidence that overstays happen with any statistically significant frequency. Moreover, the published rule links to a DHS report published in March 2020 that shows an overwhelming majority of students and exchange visitors, 98.79 percent, follow our nation’s immigration laws and depart or change status within the time frame required. To fundamentally change a system that has been in place for decades to reduce an already minimal (less than two percent) number of students who fail to comply is overly punitive and counterproductive.”

When it comes to international students, their visas and status are crucial and their ability to complete their academic program may be in jeopardy with this proposed change.

“When we speak about international students, it’s important to note the difference between an F-1 student visa and F-1 student status,” said Brooke Fischman, assistant director of International Student Services. “It’s best to think of a visa as a key, as the only act which a visa entitles a student to is to seek entry into the country. Once a student has been admitted to the country, they are conferred F-1 status. A student can remain in the U.S. with an expired visa as long as their F-1 status is current.”

Mercyhurst is home to students from 46 different countries, from as close as Canada and as far away as Australia, and all here for reasons ranging from sports to academic programs.

This proposed rule would severely limit how long they are allowed in the U.S., no matter their academic goals.

“This proposal sends another message to immigrants, and in particular international students and exchange visitors, that their exceptional talent, work ethic, diverse perspectives and economic contributions are not welcome in the United States,” said Esther Zimmer, Director and CEO of NAFSA: Association of International Educators.

Two of Mercyhurst’s core values are that students are globally responsible and compassionately hospitable. Students follow these two by welcoming students of all religious, ethnic and cultural backgrounds.

This proposed change is jeopardizing that and Mercyhurst will continue to do what is right to protect their students, both within and outside the United States.