A wildfire stopped before the forest burnt down


Lojuanda Weary/The Lion's Roar

For the past few weeks, being an international student in the United States was not a good experience. The experience of enjoying foreign culture while working towards an educational degree was stained after the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement dropped the news that international students having 100% online classes coming fall had to compulsorily leave the country, or else they will be deported. Students had to take some in-person classes or transfer to a university that offered hybrid classes.

Students from all over the world choose U.S. institutions because colleges here provide a better education than institutions in their homeland. These students come with a wholesome dream of getting a degree and living a better life. That sudden news on the evening of July 6 almost shattered thousands of students’ dreams. ICE eventually dropped the rule after several universities filed cases against the inhumane and inconsiderate decision. However, as outsiders, students like myself didn’t know what we could expect. After all, we have seen ICE traumatize families and innocent children over migration issues.

Southeastern had already decided on having hybrid classes, so I was not too worried about myself. However, had this rule come into effect, it would have affected thousands of international students across the country, including my sister and about a dozen of my friends. As soon as the news was released online, I started getting text messages on my phone, and this news spread like wildfire. There was just pure confusion and uncertainty. Who would have expected that during a pandemic-ridden time when students’ were worried about their degree, internships that got canceled, job prospects, risk of getting infected and trying to keep a job that pays for rent, they would also have to worry about this? Not to mention worrying about families back home, the international travel ban and safety during the quarantine. 

Even though I was not affected personally and this rule was eventually rescinded, I could not help but question the situation. I have been in the States for three years now, and my experience so far has been a good one. I felt welcomed at my university and was experiencing the culture here I would not have elsewhere experienced. I am toward the end of my undergraduate degree, and everything looked good so far. This experience, however, left a bitter taste in me. I am starting to question whether I am really welcome. Just as unexpectedly as the news last time, who knows when there will be another news aimed at students like us?

International students pay higher fees than domestic students while supporting the U.S. economy. According to the New York Times article “US Rescinds Plans to Strip Visas From International Students in Online Classes,” about 1 million international students enroll in American universities. These students contribute $41 billion to the economy annually and support more than 458,000 jobs. I thought it was a safety pin for foreign students, but now I am starting to question if it really is. 

I am happy to see all the support we got from people over the country. There were petitions all over the internet asking to revoke the law. People quickly spoke about how unjust the rule was. Universities in states like Massachusetts and California sued the government. People used social media to speak out. The pressure was built against the government, and after over a week, the rule was revoked. 

This was a wildfire in a jungle of international students, and locals quickly came to the rescue. Thankfully, the wildfire was stopped before it spread. The only damage was emotional. What the wildfire taught me, though, is that it was intentional. It also taught me that the fallen leaves are crunchy and do not take much to burn. Now that I know that my habitat is prone to fire, I cannot help but constantly fear the next wildfire. Hopefully, there won’t be one, but I cannot be sure.