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8 July 2020

Statement by The Optical Society (OSA) on U.S. Government Modifications to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program

Update (14 July 2020) - OSA signed onto an amicus brief, led by the American Physical Society and signed by 16 scientific societies, supporting Harvard/MIT's lawsuit to block the ICE decision. On 14 July, at the start of the court hearing on the Harvard/MIT lawsuit, the judge announced that ICE had agreed to rescind the 6 July decision. View more, here

The Optical Society (OSA) strongly opposes the decision by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to modify temporary exemptions for current and future nonimmigrant F-1 and M-1 visa students attending schools in the U.S.

Under these new rules, nonimmigrant F-1 and M-1 students in the Student and Exchange Visitor Program are prohibited from taking a full online course load while remaining in the U.S. In addition, they will not be allowed to enter the country from abroad.

Students who cannot transfer to a school with in-person instruction on such short notice will likely face deportation.

The decision has serious implications for students as academic institutions across the U.S. and globally transition to online offerings to mitigate the risk of covid-19.

Students in STEM and other fields attending U.S. schools will be unable to start or complete their academic work. Their lives will be uprooted, and degrees will be abandoned. The new rules are the latest in a series of increasingly exclusionary and shortsighted immigration proclamations by the Administration.

OSA supports the civil liberties and human rights of all scientists and engineers and declares its support for the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Scientific progress needs governments to respect basic human rights in order to achieve its full potential. Governments must avoid interference with the human rights of scientists and engineers as they carry out their professional work. The ICE decision restricts the training, education, and work of students and runs counter to OSA’s core value of inclusivity.

As we search for scientific solutions to global challenges such as the pandemic, there could hardly be a worse time to shut the country off from talented students. We urge U.S. government officials to reverse this destructive decision. Students must be allowed to continue their studies should their institutions maintain online-only courses during the pandemic.

About The Optical Society

The Optical Society (OSA) is dedicated to promoting the generation, application, archiving, and dissemination of knowledge in optics and photonics worldwide. Founded in 1916, it is the leading organization for scientists, engineers, business professionals, students, and others interested in the science of light. OSA’s renowned publications, meetings, online resources, and in-person activities fuel discoveries, shape real-life applications and accelerate scientific, technical, and educational achievement.

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