UI opts out of visa policy petition


Guilford College filed a lawsuit against Kirstjen Nielsen after her decision to change the visa policy. While the University did not sign, 65 other institutions joined in on an amicus brief.

By Luis Velazquez, Staff Writer

A recent lawsuit by Guilford College was filed against the Department of Homeland Security’s secretary Kirstjen Nielsen after her recent decision to change the visa policy for international students in the United States.

A total of 65 institutions of higher education joined in an amicus brief supporting Guilford College in its lawsuit against Nielsen’s move to change the visa policy, including Northwestern University, the Illinois Institute of Technology and Northeastern University. However, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign did not sign the amicus brief.

The Unlawful Presence policy became effective on Aug. 8. This policy from Homeland Security will make it easier to bar international students from the country for overstaying their visa. The policy states, “changes to its policy on how an immigration status violation might lead to a finding that an F, M, or J nonimmigrant should be subject to the three- or 10-year reentry bar provisions.”

F, M and J are nonimmigrant classifications for students. Students who wish to attend public school are categorized as F, students who wish to obtain vocational training are categorized as M and students who are participating in an exchange program are categorized as J.

With the new policy, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services will count days of unlawful presence after an F, M or J status violation occurs unless the student is covered by an exception. 

“This policy, while definitely not necessarily positive, does remove some ambiguity in what happens to those students F, M or J status who violate their status. Please bear in mind that if a student is following the conditions of their status (nearly 100% of our students) which they agreed to do when the status was granted, they will not have a problem and will not accrue unlawful presence,” Stephanie Dvorachek, associate director for International Student and Scholar Services, said in an email.

Dvorachek emphasized the resources the University offers and how they help students.

“If one of our international students were to fall out of status, we would advise and give them ways to regain their status,” Dvorachek said.This is one of many ways that we serve our international population.”

Caitlin Lopez-Battung, publicity co-chair for the Philippine Student Association at the University, believes otherwise. Lopez believes public state schools will try their best to be on good terms with the government since that’s where they receive most funds for education.

“Realistically I don’t know what U of I would do to help international students because of this policy. I am sure the internal staff, like professors and TAs, would not support this, but like in terms of top of the chain I don’t really see any form of support for international students that can be affected by this,” Lopez said.

Daniela Rios, senior in LAS, believes the University lacks in supporting specific groups of students in need.

“It is hard to say exactly, especially considering the fact that UIUC has not, to my knowledge, formally signed the document that goes against the introduced visa policy that would affect international students,” Rios said. “The University wasn’t very vocal when it came to issues having to do with DACA students.”

Lopez believes it is important for students to know what is going on with our government and how it can affect us as students.

“It is totally critical to stay informed with our government. Currently, the government has been shut down for 23 or 24 days,” Lopez said. “Especially with our political climate now that is provoking and targeting minority students that attend here.”

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