FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, July 13, 2020
Media contact on behalf of HGSU-UAW:
Libby Smelker, Libby@617MediaGroup.com, 617-485-4801
BOSTON, MA – Today, student workers from Harvard University, Northeastern University, Boston College, UMass and other local colleges and universities gathered at the State House to protest recent guidelines from federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which could potentially deport hundreds of thousands of international student workers who are teaching and attending online courses, in pursuit of their degrees while in the US. Many colleges and universities are moving to online-only courses to protect students and workers from COVID-19. The policy would bar international students who left the United States when the pandemic hit from reentering the country.
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, Harvard Graduate Students Union – UAW members, international students, and stakeholders shared their stories and spoke about what these guidelines mean for the community.
“It is a reminder to us all that even amid a pandemic, and unprecedented global chaos, the Trump administration is somehow capable of continuously finding new ways to terrorize our most vulnerable communities,” said Farah Afify, a student at Harvard College. “And even amongst the chaos of yet another cruel immigration policy, I am heartened to see that many universities across the nation, as well as my own university, are willing to prove to the Trump administration that we will not stand for their agenda to irreparably threaten and destroy the lives of anyone they deem less worthy.”
Earlier on Monday, July 13th, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey’s office announced that it is leading a coalition of 18 attorneys general in filing a lawsuit to stop a new federal rule that threatens to bar hundreds of thousands of international students from teaching, researching and studying in the United States.
“The Trump Administration didn’t even attempt to explain the basis for this senseless rule, which forces schools to choose between keeping their international students enrolled and protecting the health and safety of their campuses,” Attorney General Healey said. “Massachusetts is home to thousands of international students who make invaluable contributions to our educational institutions, communities, and economy. Today, I have taken action to fight this rule in court, and stand in solidarity with UAW to make sure these students can continue to live and learn in this country.”
“Trump is using ICE as a stick to bully anyone who doesn’t fit his warped vision of our country. Deporting young people who have put their trust and their family’s trust in our institutions of higher learning is unconscionable,” said Steven A. Tolman, President of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO. “Instead of vilifying the international students that have come here to learn and make the world a better place, we should be working with them.”
International students across Massachusetts expressed outrage at the July 6 ICE announcement and the Trump administration’s total disregard for the real effects this ICE policy has on people and their families. International students who went home to ride out the pandemic will be prevented from returning to the US under this policy hindering their ability to continue their education. International students who are here may be deported, but they may have nowhere to go. Their countries may be closed because of the pandemic, they may be separated from their family members here, or they may remain at risk being placed in an ICE detention center.
“The ICE policy reduces us international students to political pawns and has already caused immense distress in our community,” said Sara S., a student at Boston College. “Regardless of whether our school is online or not, the policy asks us to justify our economic worth and strips away our humanity.”
The rally comes on the heels of MIT and Harvard’s recently filed lawsuit seeking an injunction against the new guidelines, which will be heard on Tuesday in Federal Court. The lawsuit has gained significant traction, with 59 colleges and universities already having decided to back Harvard and MIT’s challenge.
UAW academic workers took simultaneous, coordinated actions across the US, in New York City, Hartford, Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego. The aggressive ICE guidelines have the potential to negatively impact tens of thousands of UAW student workers at campuses ranging from NYU, Columbia, The New School and the University of Connecticut on the East Coast, to the University of Washington, University of California and California State University along the West Coast. Workers from those campuses rallied and picketed at federal buildings at the same time as the rally in Boston.
Harvard Graduate Students Union, HGSU-UAW Local 5118 represents over 4,000 student workers in all departments of Harvard University and Harvard College.
The International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW) is one of the largest and most diverse unions in North America, with members in virtually every sector of the economy. UAW-represented workplaces range from multinational corporations, small manufacturers and state and local governments to colleges and universities, hospitals and private non-profit organizations. The UAW has more than 430,000 active members and more than 580,000 retired members in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. The UAW represents roughly 80,000 higher education workers nationally, including 18,000 postdoctoral researchers, adjunct professors, and graduate workers in the Northeast who have chosen UAW representation in the last five years.