ICE order to exit country leaves USC international students in limbo

One USC professor says he's decided to offer an in-person class in the fall to keep international students enrolled.
LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Nineteen-year-old Isabella Friedman is scheduled to start her sophomore year at USC in the fall.

But if all of Friedman's classes are online, which USC plans to do because of the coronavirus pandemic, a new directive from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement could revoke her student visa.

"Am I supposed to be embarrassed for being international?" Friedman said. "Why am I being treated this way if I didn't do anything wrong, and I just want to study and have a normal education."

Eyewitness News interviewed Friedman remotely from her hometown of Sao Paulo, Brazil, where she's been quarantining since in-person classes stopped back in March.

RELATED: ICE announces students on visas must leave US or transfer to another college if their schools go online-only
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International students will be forced to leave the U.S. or transfer to another college if their schools offer classes entirely online this fall, under new federal guidelines.

USC Associate Professor Morteza Dehghani has been flooded with e-mails from some of USC's 12,000 international students since ICE's announcement and says he's decided to offer an in-person class in the fall to keep international students enrolled.

"Students are going to lose a lot of money if they're deported because they've already paid for rent," said Dehghani. "I've received students who have problems with their families outside the country and if they go back, no one knows where they can stay. So, USC is essentially their family."

ICE has suggested international students could transfer to U.S. schools offering in-person instruction this fall, but critics says transferring is another burden for students already disrupted by the pandemic.

Although ICE says this change is because of the pandemic, the Trump administration has been pushing for schools across the country to hold in-person learning. On Monday, President Donald Trump tweeted, "SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!"

"The contradictions reveal that the intentions behind all of these immigration policy changes are not pandemic response. They are fulfilling a promise that (Trump senior adviser) Stephen Miller has long made to end legal immigration to the United States," said Andrea Flores, the Deputy Director of Immigration Policy at the ACLU.

For Isabella Friedman, who achieved her dream of attending a U.S. university, all she wants to do is to be back on campus in the fall, even if most of her classes are online.

"The worst thing for me is I know what I would be missing because people who stay here, they don't know what it's like in the U.S.," she said. "They don't know what they're missing. But, I would know that this would be taken away from me, and I don't even want to think about it."
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