International students face uncertainty after ICE directive

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NORMAN, Okla. (KFOR) – International students are facing uncertainty after Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced international students can’t take a full online course load and remain in the U.S. 

The University of Oklahoma has filed an amicus brief with 180 colleges and universities in support of the lawsuit Harvard and MIT filed against the Department of Homeland Security over the directive.

Amer Begovic, an international student studying entrepreneurship at OU, has been in the U.S. for three years. He’s from Bosnia and Herzegovina.

He’s says growing up, he always wanted to go to an American university. He had an emotional realization at an OU football game.

“My dream was to come to an American university. In that moment I realized my childhood dream had come true and I started crying,” he said.

However, he and other international students are facing lots of unknowns with the new ICE directive.

“I was scared of uncertainty. I had so much anxiety because this is something I didn’t expect,” Begovic said.

He says there’d be difficulties if he had to leave, especially with a major that requires a lot of group work.

“Classes would’ve been hard enough online and then just having to take them from my country from Bosnia from a different time zone, it would’ve made things so much more difficult,” he said.

Dr. Scott Fritzen, Dean of the David L. Boren College of International Studies, is involved with coordinating OU’s response. He says the university is doing everything they can to protect international students.

“I think this is the hour of the greatest need in our international student community in recent history,” Fritzen said.

The university has created a task force to not only make sure that students will be able to stay, but that they’ll be able to have the resources they need like housing and mental health services.

“We have to be fully prepared to protect our international students, keep them in compliance with that directive, and make sure that their world is not upended in the middle of this pandemic,” Fritzen said.

Begovic says instead of people seeing international students as simply “bringing” diversity, they should be regarded wholly as students.

“Why are we not looked at as just students? In my case, why am I not looked at as just a regular Sooner at the University of Oklahoma? My right to stay in the country, to stay protected from a global pandemic, should not be justified by the fact that I bring something to American students. It should be justified by the fact that I’m a student as well,” he said. “My humanity and our humanity as international students should be enough for universities to care about us and actually advocate for abolishing this policy.”

He says he’s hopeful he’ll be able to stay. 

“I’m just staying very optimistic,” he said.

There is rally to support international students at OU on Monday, July 13 starting 9 a.m.

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