Immigration Policy Updates

The Immigration Response Team tracks immigration policy changes and how they would impact the University of Minnesota.

May 11, 2021: U.S. Department of Education States Undocumented and International College Students Eligible for Emergency Grants

The U.S. Department of Education opened the eligibility so that undocumented and international college students can apply for the emergency grants created under the American Rescue Plan Act for post-secondary education. While the previous administration had chosen to declare these students as ineligible for funding, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona told reporters, "The pandemic didn't discriminate … and we want to make sure that all students have an opportunity to have access to funds to help them get back on track."

Here at the University of Minnesota, the Immigration Response Team has been in contact with the departments responsible for financial aid, and more information will be shared later this summer about how eligible students can apply.

May 20, 2021: IRT Submits Comment Letter Recommending Improvements to USCIS Operations

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently asked for comments from the public about barriers individuals and institutions experience when attempting to access immigration benefits and services. Marissa Hill-Dongre submitted a comment on behalf of the Immigration Response Team and International Student and Scholar Services (UMN-TC) about opportunities to improve customer service, eliminate technology and process inefficiencies/redundancies, adjust or change policies, and address complications that had unintended consequences. The comment is available on the IRT Comment Letters webpage.

April 19, 2021: Immigration Agencies to No Longer Use the Term "Illegal Aliens"

The heads of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) both stated that the agencies will no longer use the terms "Illegal Alien" or "Assimilation." The terms are being replaced by "undocumented noncitizen" and "integration" particularly in internal communications and external correspondence. According to CBP's Troy Miller, the effort is part of the Biden's administration efforts to "enforce our nation's laws while also maintaining the dignity of every individual with whom we interact." There have been various campaigns for this change, such as Define America's #WordsMatter campaign.

April 7, 2021: Supporting International Students for Fall 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting United States policies related to travel and immigration restrictions continue to severely restrict the flow of international students to the U.S. While universities have rapidly adapted to ensure safe instruction for domestic students, many international students are unable to enter the country to begin or resume their studies. The consequences of these barriers – for both U.S. universities and the international students they serve – are significant and far-reaching (Higher Ed Immigration Portal).

International students are experiencing a number of barriers as they plan for the Fall 2021 semester. To respond, offices across college and university campuses are going to need to work together. This will not be an effort that can be done by an international student office alone, and international students will be best served by institutions that incorporate international student issues into their comprehensive planning for Fall 2021. 

Immigration response teams or task forces based within specific higher education institutions are well-positioned to help institutions with this work, as they are often already working to help institutions understand federal regulations and policy, advocate for necessary changes, and adapt institutional policies when necessary. They will also help position institutions to consider international student issues on an ongoing basis.

To help, the Immigration Response Team created a handout to assist institutions: "Supporting International Students for Fall 2021: Coordinating Across Campus." This handout was shared as part of  “Will International Students Return in Fall 2021? A Vital Resource at Risk”, an action alert briefing co-sponsored by the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration and NAFSA.

March 18, 2021: We're All Responsible for Stopping Anti-Asian and Pacific Islander Violence and Hate

Eight people were killed in a mass shooting in Georgia this week, six of whom were Asian. The increase in violence against Asians, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders is tragic and unacceptable, and it is something that must be recognized, called out, and denounced. 

This increase in violence and hate-filled statements is not just a problem happening nationally. It is found here in Minnesota where, according to the Minnesota Asian Pacific Legislative Caucus, “[Asian Minnesotans] experience hate in many forms every day, leaving us with the fear of, ‘will our community be next?’” Immigrant rights activists have also been working to bring awareness to these discriminatory and dangerous acts. 

March 12, 2021: Temporary Protected Status Issued for Venezuela and Burma

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas has designated Temporary Protected Status for Venezuela and Burma (Myanmar). This announcement will allow an estimated 300,000 Venezuelan and 1,600 Burmese nationals to apply and remain lawfully in the United States. The designations will last until September 2022.

Have questions? Venezuelan and Burmese nationals in the University of Minnesota community who have questions about Temporary Protected Status can contact the Immigration Response Team at [email protected]

March 9, 2021: Biden Administration Ends Changes to Public Charge Rule

The Department of Homeland Security announced last week that it would no longer enforce or defend the Public Charge rule instituted by the Trump administration. As explained by DHS in its announcement:

DHS will not consider a person’s receipt of Medicaid (except for Medicaid for long-term institutionalization), public housing, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits as part of the public charge inadmissibility determination. In addition, medical treatment or preventive services for COVID-19, including vaccines, will not be considered for public charge purposes.

The Immigration Response Team encouraged the University community to submit comments in opposition to the Public Charge measure due to concerns that it would scare immigrants away from using these important services and, in turn, impact the research and outreach work done at the University of Minnesota. The concerns about this “chilling effect” were later confirmed by findings in various reports such as the Urban Institute’s study that found “one in five adults in immigrant families with children reported that they or a family member avoided a public benefit… for fear of risking future green card status.”

January 21, 2021: President Biden Signs Several Immigration-related Executive Orders

Four years ago, the Immigration Response Team was created to support the campus community after the signing of the first Travel Ban preventing entry to the U.S. for individuals from several Muslim-majority countries. And yesterday, in one of his first actions after being sworn into office, President Biden signed an executive order repealing that ban.