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Webinar highlights advocacy for international students

More than 700 people attended “Ballots and Borders: Election 2020; What’s at Stake for International Students and Scholars,” a webinar on Oct. 19 featuring Cornell Law School immigration expert Stephen Yale-Loehr.

The event was part of Cornell’s ongoing advocacy during a time of serious immigration concerns for its international students, who make up about 20% of the student body. The lecture and subsequent Q&A – sponsored by the Office of Global Learning and Migrations: A Global Grand Challenge, both part of Global Cornell – compared the presidential candidates’ immigration platforms and potential outcomes for Cornell’s international community.

Yale-Loehr led attendees through a number of new and proposed immigration rules that threaten Cornell’s international community, including a new rule already in effect that increases H-1B prevailing wages and a proposed regulation to eliminate duration of status (D/S) for F and J visas. The Office of Global Learning International Services maintains an FAQ for the international community, including new answers about key immigration developments.

The event provided resources and paths of action for students, faculty and staff, whether they are international or not. Yale-Loehr urged students to take action – educating themselves and their peers, submitting comments to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), or volunteering time and resources to immigration rights organizations.

“Cornell is advocating for its international students, scholars and faculty in a number of ways,” Yale-Loehr said. “Most importantly, Cornell is a plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging new arbitrary wage increases on certain professional foreign workers and will soon contribute a comment criticizing a proposed regulation to limit the length of visas for international students and scholars.”

“The entire Cornell community came out in support of international students this summer, when new guidance would have required international students to take all but one of their classes in person,” said Wendy Wolford, vice provost for international affairs, noting Cornell provided an amicus brief in support of the ultimately successful lawsuit opposing the U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement guidance.

The International Services team in the Office of Global Learning is at the center of Global Cornell’s work to support its international community – from helping students, faculty and staff and alumni registered under Cornell’s immigration certification to maintain their legal visa status, to contributing to national lobbying with peer institutions and partnering with Cornell staff in federal relations.

On Oct. 15, Dianne Miller, senior director of the Office of Federal Relations, spoke to 75 staff members engaged in international education at a meeting of the Cornell International Education Network.

Like Yale-Loehr, Miller urged all attendees to submit comments to DHS so that implementation of proposed rulings that threaten international students’ right to pursue an education can be delayed, allowing more time for advocacy efforts to take hold.

“Cornell’s advocacy work has received support from all levels of the university,” Miller said, “and is based on actively putting all our voices together, from Global Cornell to faculty and student leaders.”

In addition to speaking out against anti-immigration policies, Cornell housed international students who faced travel difficulties through the spring and summer and plans to do so again this winter. Global Cornell provided virtual summer internships and continues to engage with and support international students by holding town halls focused on immigration, mental health and navigating the challenging fall semester.

This year, Global Cornell quickly created Study Away for international students unable to return to Ithaca this fall. Nearly 500 international students are currently living and learning at 11 Study Away campuses around the world. On Instagram, #CornelliansAway features stories from Study Away and students studying remotely from international locations.

More events are in the works this fall: “Cornellians Away: A Fall Gathering,” an interactive event bringing together Cornellians studying outside the U.S. and international alumni, is set for Oct. 27; a town hall in early November will focus on spring semester plans.

Said Brandon Lanners, executive director of the Office of Global Learning: “We are committed to supporting Cornell’s international students through this time of immigration policy changes and the stress and uncertainty they bring.”

Priya Pradhan ’22 is a writing intern for Global Cornell. Sheri Englund is Global Cornell’s associate director of communication.

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Abby Butler