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New ICE Rule Raises Concerns For International Students, UK Foresees No Interruption

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AP Photo/Ted S. Warren
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Kentucky higher education officials are taking a wait-and-see approach toward a new Trump administration rule that would revoke the visas of international students if their classes are held fully online.

The new rule issued by Immigration and Customs Enforcement could put thousands of students from outside the U.S. in a bind: either opt for online classes and be forced to leave the country or attend in-person classes and potentially increase their risk of contracting coronavirus.

Asked Wednesday where Kentucky stands on the order, Council On Postsecondary Education head Aaron Thompson said it's a legal battle the commonwealth is watching closely.

"Harvard, MIT, and others are suing ICE now on this issue, so my guess is that we will have in the next little bit a way to think about Kentucky may have to approach this," he said.

The ICE rule is prompting some universities to consider changes to their fall semester schedules as a way of shielding international students from the effects. But University of Kentucky leaders believe they will be able to continue educating those students "without interruption."

"...the regulation as announced this week, understandably, has prompted deep concerns and no small amount of confusion and anxiety in our community," UK President Eli Capilouto wrote in an email. "The regulation, from our initial review, would not appear to interrupt what we do or how we do it. Technology gives us flexibility to meet students and faculty where they are and to shift depending upon their needs at a given moment."

In March, the enforcement agency had signaled that international students would be granted an exemption during the COVID-19 outbreak. ICE suddenly backtracked on that decision Monday.

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