International students concerned about deportation following new ICE policy announcement

A new policy announced by Immigration and Customs Enforcement Monday says international students have to take at least one in-person class or risk getting deported from the US. 

The policy sparked widespread controversy and left many international students wondering what will happen next.

For Rice University senior Harish Krishnamoorthy, Monday’s ruling from ICE made him feel unwelcomed.

"You can rent your place. You can buy your car and you can live here and feel as American as you can. But there's still that legal barrier of like, you are a student and you have a visa," Krishnamoorthy said.  

The new policy says international students like Krishnamoorthy must take at least one in-person class or risk losing their visas, essentially forcing students to choose between their health or their immigration status.

"The amount of pressure that something like this puts on a school to basically be forced to make that choice between either condemn your students, like your international students or open your classes and condemn all students. Basically, put your students at risk, potentially. I think that's really insidious," Krishnamoorthy said. 

In the last two days, Krishnamoorthy has sprung to action, weighing his options with the Houston Indian Consulate and with his parents back home in Bangalore, India. But he says options are limited. Trying to get an international flight right now is extremely difficult, not to mention expensive.

RELATED: Harvard, MIT sue US government over new ICE rule for international students

With just a month to go before the next school year starts, time is running out.

Some students at universities who are only offering online classes next semester considering transferring to a school that offers in-person options. 

Krishnamoorthy said as an architecture student, he fears he may have to resort to more drastic actions.


"I would almost rather take that kind of gap year. There's a very kind of specific education that architecture can have and each architecture school can be extremely different from one to the other. And I don't want to commit myself to a place for the sole reason of desperation solely because it's a reaction to stay in the country," Krishnamoorthy said. 

In a tweet, Rice University President David Leebron said the rules issued by ICE were "reckless, insensitive, cruel and misguided."

Leebron continued on to say that, “Rice will participate in legal action and advocate with our representatives to reverse these unjustified new rules. In the meantime, we’ll take the actions we can to enable our international students to continue their studies.”

“ our country & the world in every sphere of endeavor. Rice will participate in legal action & advocate with our representatives to reverse these unjustified new rules. In the meantime we'll take the actions we can to enable our int'l students to continue their studies.”

Some universities like Harvard and MIT filed a court injunction Wednesday against DHS and ICE, hoping to bar the agencies from implementing its new rule against international students.

Krishnamoorthy said some of his professors have offered to host elective in-person classes so international students can fulfill the requirements of the new ruling without losing their visas.