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A Statement from the Colorado Department of Higher Education and Colleges and Universities on Recent ICE Guidance

July 13, 2020 

Dear Senators Bennet and Gardner and Representatives DeGette, Neguse, Tipton, Buck, Lamborn, Crow and Perlmutter: 

We write to express deep concern about the recent Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) guidance to limit the ability of international students to choose the most appropriate course modality for their needs during the pandemic. This policy deprives our institutions of the flexibility necessary to make responsible decisions about reopening safely in ways consistent with our academic missions, student bodies, and campus and local public health environments. We urge Congress to ensure that the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State allow any international student with a valid visa to continue their education regardless of whether a student is receiving his or her education online, in person, or through a combination of both, whether inside or outside the United States, during this unprecedented global health emergency. 

Higher education is America’s 4th largest export ahead of telecommunications and agricultural exports and behind only autos, planes, and pharmaceuticals. In Colorado, more than 11,800 international students attended Colorado colleges and universities in the 2018-2019 academic year contributing $470 million to the state’s economy and supporting 6,029 jobs. But, their contribution to our state far outstrips these simple financial impacts. International students are vital, active participants in the life of our campus communities. They enrich our campuses and our local communities by bringing with them creativity, diverse viewpoints, and bold ideas. The contribution of international students to the growth, development, and competitiveness of our country is immeasurable. When they return home, they carry American ideals and values to every corner of the globe. Welcoming international students to the U.S. forges relationships that pay dividends in business, diplomacy, science, and culture for generations. Likewise, if Coloradans are going to be prepared to face the increasingly global world, they must have an opportunity to interact and learn from their peers from other countries. 

This ICE directive puts the U.S. position as a world leader in international education at risk by imposing needless hardship on thousands of new and returning international students, causing them great uncertainty and confusion at an already difficult time. The vast majority of our international students (90 percent according to a recent national survey) remained in the United States when campuses closed in the spring rather than travel to their home countries due to health concerns, cost of travel, border restrictions, and other factors. With the fall semester fast approaching, they have relied on the claims of the government that previous student visa flexibility would continue for the duration of the pandemic. We also express concern that this DHS policy was written with no input from the higher education community or the students who might be impacted. 2 


Each institution signed onto this letter has been working diligently to determine the best path for safe return of our students. This careful work has led to different approaches. Many of our institutions have been moving towards a hybrid model of education for the fall semester that would receive some measure of flexibility under this policy. However, even those institutions may be faced with impossible decisions under this rule should local health conditions require them to return their campuses to remote teaching and learning as they did during the spring semester. International students should not be asked to live under the threat that they may be forced out of the country at any time. The federal government must respect the right of college and university leaders to respond to the unique health conditions they are experiencing and make decisions in the best interests of their students, faculty, and staff. 

As always, thank you for your continued work on behalf of Colorado, our educational institutions, and our students during this difficult time. We look forward to working closely with all of your offices to resolve this issue as expediently as possible. Please let us know if there is anything we can do to help. 


Angie Paccione, Executive Director, Colorado Department of Higher Education 

Tony Frank, Chancellor, Colorado State University System 

Leah L. Bornstein, President, Aims Community College 

Greg Salsbury, President, Western Colorado University 

Charles G. Lief, President, Naropa University 

Janine Davidson, President, Metropolitan State University of Denver

Stephanie Donner, Executive Director, Emily Griffith Technical College 

Rev. John P. Fitzgibbons, S.J., President, Regis University 

Paul Johnson, President, Colorado School of Mines 

Mike Edmonds and Robert G. Moore, Acting Co-Presidents, Colorado College 

Cheryl D. Lovell, President, Adams State University 

Jeremy Haefner, Chancellor, University of Denver 

Carrie Besnette Hauser, President, Colorado Mountain College 

Tim Foster, President, Colorado Mesa University 

Joe Garcia, Chancellor, Colorado Community College System 

Andy Feinstein, President, University of Northern Colorado 

Colleen Walker, Chief Executive Officer, Auraria Higher Education Center

Tom Stritikus, President, Fort Lewis College 

Diana Doyle, President, Arapahoe Community College 

Betsy Oudenhoven, President, Community College of Aurora 

Ron Granger, President, Colorado Northwestern Community College 

Everette Freeman, President, Community College of Denver

Andy Dorsey, President, Front Range Community College 

Linda Lujan, President, Lamar Community College 

Curt Freed, President, Morgan Community College 

Jay Lee, President, Northeastern Junior College 

Tim Alvarez, President, Otero Junior College 

Lance Bolton, President, Pikes Peak Community College 

Patty Erjavec, President, Pueblo Community College 

Michele Haney, President, Red Rocks Community College 

Rhonda Epper, President, Trinidad State Junior College 3 

Mark R. Kennedy, President, University of Colorado System 

Michelle Marks, Chancellor, University of Colorado Denver 

Phil Distefano, Chancellor, University of Colorado Boulder 

Venkat Reddy, Chancellor, University of Colorado Colorado Springs 

Don Elliman, Chancellor, University of Colorado Anschutz

This content was originally published here.