Eastern’s Immigration Seminar: Everything students need to know about the changing immigration laws.

New administration always brings policy changes and legislative re-prioritization. The Biden Administration, however, has taken this responsibility head on by signing more than fifty executive orders in the two and a half months he has been in office. Though these orders have addressed a slew of social, political, and economic issues, immigration seems to be one of the administration’s key concerns.

To address these changes, Eastern University held a seminar on new immigration policy led by Mr. Jesse Ruhl, Esq. on February 25 for students to attend and learn more about the changing laws, as well as ask questions about their immigration status. Ruhl is an attorney who specializes in representing colleges and universities in connection with their international student programs.

The seminar began by enumerating the changes to immigration policy relevant to students, and explaining their impact. From January 20 to today, Biden has made a slew of orders relating to U.S. immigration policy. These orders include:

1. Revocation of the Trump Administration’s decision to exclude undocumented imigrants from the U.S. census.

2. Preservation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) imigration policy which affects “Dreamers”

3.Reversed the ‘travel ban’ targeting majority Muslim countries

4. Halted construction of the border wall

5. Ordered the end of “harsh and extreme immigration enforcement”

6. Began the restoration of the U.S. asylum system by ending the “remain in Mexico” program

7. Rebuilt the the U.S. refugee resettlement program

8. Revoked the Trump Administration’s attempt to suspend the entry of immigrants during the Coronavirus pandemic.

While all of these orders may not directly relate to student visa and immigration policies, they can have a great impact on family members, friends, and changing immigration procedures.

Ruhl also addressed the potential impact should Biden’s proposed US Citizen Act pass through Congress. This act aims to modernize and humanize the U.S. immigration system with this bill. Included within the act is the creation of a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, a mandate to keep families together, a prohibition on religion discrimination in immigration policy, promotion of immigration and refugee integration, streamlined work and education visas, and worker protection for those bound by work visas. The bill also authorizes increased budgeting to border security, revitalization of immigration courts, and aims to “start from the source” by addressing the root causes of migration.

After arming students with this information and a broader understanding of changing immigration policy, Ruhl spoke about how these changes directly impact students. The proposal for the US Citizenship Act aims to make it easier for STEM graduates to remain in the U.S. after the expiration of the student visa. This alteration would be limited and employer specific, but would potentially expand opportunities for international students at Eastern University.

Additionally, Ruhl discussed that there is no federal law prohibiting institutions of higher education from admitting students without documentation. Though in 2019 three states voted to disallow undocumented students, Pennsylvania has maintained that undocumented immigrants may study at university and obtain a valid degree.

The greatest impact of these policies on Eastern students is the immigration policies which affect students’ parents, siblings, extended family, and friends. By allowing more humanitarian and gracious policy procedures, the Biden Administration hopes to keep families together, address immigration at the root, and provide opportunity for citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

This seminar served to demystify the complex and rapid immigration policy changes which have been made in the last couple of months, as well as create space for international students to ask questions and share concerns. By bringing an experienced higher education and immigration attorney to speak at Eastern University, students were doubtless better equipped to understand their own place in this school, state, and nation.

Sources: CNN, Eastern University, The White House