In a Monday letter proposing a series of immigration policy changes to the incoming administration, University President Lawrence S. Bacow called on President-elect Joe Biden to “prioritize consideration of international students and scholars.”
Bacow asked Biden to “act without delay” to issue guidance allowing full-time enrolled international students to maintain or receive student visa status for the remainder of the pandemic, even if classes are online, and to reinstate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
“The US and its colleges and universities must be open to ensure that we do not become isolated from the discourse that takes place outside our borders to remain a world leader,” Bacow wrote. “Our current immigration system is not doing nearly enough to encourage the legitimate flow of people and ideas or to acknowledge the contributions that immigrants make to the US.”
Today, under guidance from the U.S. Only previously enrolled international students can stay in the country while taking online courses through Immigration and Customs Enforcement. In recent months, Bacow has lobbied at least four members of Congress to ask for more leniency for international students who are compelled due to the pandemic to take online classes.
“Such a policy will enable schools to give the safety of their communities top priority while at the same time minimizing disruptions to the academic progress of students, particularly those outside the United States who have persevered with unreliable or restricted internet and dramatically different time zones throughout the fall term,” Bacow wrote.
The letter, which marks the first official communication between Harvard and the incoming government, is on the heels of years of public conflict over immigration policy between the University and the Trump administration. In July, Harvard and MIT sued federal immigration authorities to reverse a policy that barred international students from staying in the nation from taking online-only courses. Days later, the Homeland Security Department and the US The policy was rescinded by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Bacow called on Biden to “ensure that visa processing, with a reasonable timeframe for adjudication, is streamlined and predictable.”
“Over the past four years, many have been barred from executive orders and presidential proclamations, with others facing processing delays, backlogs, and administrative obstacles designed to thwart access to opportunities in this country,” Bacow wrote. “As a consequence, a shadow of uncertainty was cast over both immigrants and non-immigrants, and it took a toll.”
Biden has pledged to restore DACA, an Obama-era program that protects people from deportation who were brought into the United States as children without citizenship or legal residency. On Dec. 3, Bacow told The Crimson he would “welcome” the DACA expansion, which Trump has worked throughout his presidency to terminate.
In Monday’s letter, Bacow also asked that the incoming administration reissue temporary Protected Status to individuals from countries in conflict or crisis. For hundreds of thousands of immigrants, Trump phased out the protections that allow people from countries in crisis to live and work in the U.S.
“Protection will be necessary to ensure that these people do not lose the right to live and work in the United States, including many at Harvard, until we can achieve a more permanent solution,” he wrote.
Bacow also wrote that he is “pleased” with Biden’s plan to end the travel ban of the Trump administration, which restricts travel from several nations with predominantly Muslim populations to the United States.
“I encourage you to examine and reconsider these other entry bans carefully ensuring that they are constructive, time-limited, and carefully concentrated, with clear, expedited procedures for exemption consideration,” he wrote.
The Biden transition team did not immediately answer a request for comment Monday afternoon.