New Mexico Congresswoman Deb Haaland recently hosted a roundtable with a group of University of New Mexico students and faculty to highlight international students’ contributions to the University.

The discussion follows decisions made by the Department of Homeland Security, the agency that oversees international student visas, to issue a temporary rule that would not allow international students to stay in the U.S. if their university classes moved online. The department later withdrew the new rule after members of Congress voiced outrage. Several states and universities, including the State of New Mexico, also sued over the restrictive rule. 

“International students provide perspectives that enrich the educational experience for all college students, but the Trump Administration continues to change policies that threaten those opportunities at universities in New Mexico and would put the health of students and faculty at risk,” Haaland said. “The stories students and faculty shared on the roundtable call are important to ensuring we continue to support them and pressure the Trump Administration to increase opportunities for students, not limit them.”

During the discussion, students shared how the uncertainty created by these new rule changes impact their education and their outlook on the U.S. Faculty expressed concern for their students and how these decisions negatively impact UNM. According to UNM’s Global Education Office, as of fall 2019, UNM was home to 1,100 international students from 100 countries studying in bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D. programs or as international exchange students on study abroad from one an international partner institution. More than 600 of these students are graduate students, many of whom teach undergraduate courses, act as graders or are actively involved in research activities at UNM.

“International students in the U.S. contribute to the diversity of our institutions and our communities. They share new cultural perspectives and insight that enhance the education and world view of our domestic population at UNM, and across the U.S. more generally. International Students also make significant contributions to the economy through their expenditures on rent, living expenses, and tuition,” said Nicole Tami, UNM Executive Director of Global Education Initiatives.

According to the Global Education Office, international students also live in Albuquerque and contribute to the economy and the community. They have families, children in school, leases, cars and other commitments that are not easy to quickly extricate themselves from. 

“The main reason why we’re here is to get an education and gain more knowledge. You can’t find a university like UNM anywhere else, and it’s why many students choose to come here,” said Ana Paula Milan, an undergraduate student from Ecuador.

“Every day I’m worried about what updates are going to impact me in the news and if I’m going to be able to finish my course work,” said Ghada Zribi, a graduate student from Tunisia.

Last week, Haaland sent a bicameral letter to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), urging the agencies to withdraw new guidance issued by ICE that imperils the status of international students who would be studying online at U.S. institutions this coming academic year. 

After the rule was rescinded, UNM President Garnett Stokes said, “Our international students make our university, our state, and our nation richer and more diverse. As Lobos, and as New Mexicans, we have always embraced the differences that make us individually unique and woven them together to create a stronger, more diverse, and cohesive community—a community that continues to warmly welcome students from cultures around the globe. I am encouraged by today’s action, and we shall always remain vigilant when it comes to protecting the fundamental rights of our students to a safe and exceptional higher education.”