Every year, thousands of students around the world—including many of our volunteer leaders and student participants at ComSciCon—make the difficult choice to leave their home countries in order to pursue their education. As soon as they make this choice, they are often forced to navigate labyrinthine and expensive immigration bureaucracies. Once they arrive in their new homes, they must learn about customs, traditions, and languages that may be very different from what they’ve previously known. And even then, regardless of the degree to which they assimilate into the dominant culture, they may face personal and cultural discrimination simply because they happened to be born on the other side of an arbitrary line drawn on the globe.
In the United States, recent executive orders have made international students’ positions even more precarious. In particular, the most recent announcement from US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) forbids international students from remaining in or entering the US while taking online-only courses in Fall 2020. This effectively forces international students to choose between disrupting their education and careers by leaving the US or transferring universities, and jeopardizing their work and their health in the midst of a global pandemic. Additionally, the ICE order does not provide guidance for graduate students who are doing research rather than coursework, nor does it define acceptable “hybrid” combinations of in-person and online courses. This vagueness leaves it open for a wide range of interpretations, the uncertainty of which further contributes to international students’ anxieties over potential deportations.
Every field of research we discuss at ComSciCon events is integrally dependent on and enriched by the work of students, and in the United States a very substantial fraction of those students come from abroad. ComSciCon stands in solidarity with all international students in the United States. We recognize and honor the incredible sacrifices that international students make for the sake of learning and research. We value international students not just as colleagues, but also as friends and as people regardless of their contributions, and we believe they belong in the US just as much as domestic students.
We encourage our authors and readers—particularly those who are US citizens—to check on your international friends, call your representatives and senators (here are some guidelines and call scripts), and push your institutions to take action both now and in the long term to better support international students.
We note that many organizations and professional societies that are part of our communities have released similar statements, including
Astrobites, from whose statement this message derives