DHS Guidance on International Students

July 8, 2020

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff,

This week’s decision by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to issue new guidance that would prohibit international students from returning to or remaining in the United States if the university they are attending has to move to remote-only instruction this fall is deeply troubling, misguided and discriminatory.

As the pandemic took hold with the spread of COVID-19 this past spring, DHS waived the requirement that international students take in-person classes. It makes no sense to end the waiver as the pandemic continues to create unprecedented challenges and increased uncertainty for the fall.

While Seattle University’s current plans are to reopen this fall with a mix of in-person, hybrid and virtual classes and our goal is to have as much in-person instruction as safely possible, we have also been preparing for scenarios if circumstances are such that we must move to remote-only instruction. What is most important for international students and institutions at this time is the need for greater support and flexibility as well as a recognition that the health and safety of all students, faculty and staff must remain the foremost priority.

The DHS decision moves in the wrong direction and runs counter to the commitments and values we strive to uphold as a Jesuit university that prioritizes caring for each individual student and supporting you to the fullest extent possible in your educational journey. International students are greatly valued as members of our community and make significant contributions to the life of the university, and they should have the same opportunities as all other students to continue their education. The discriminatory order from DHS could harm the academic aspirations of hundreds of Seattle U students who enhance our educational mission and campus community.

I want to assure our international students that we are fully committed to doing everything we can to support you during this extraordinary time. In addition to publicly joining others in urging the DHS to reconsider its position, we have already begun to reach out to our members of Congress and consult with our higher education associations to determine collective action we can take to reverse this ill-advised decision.

Seattle U is a welcoming and inclusive community that is steadfast in our commitment to provide a supportive learning environment for every student in our campus community—regardless of background, religion, beliefs, identity, country of origin or immigration status. We find enrichment and strength in our diversity.

Our International Student Center team will remain in close contact with students impacted by this decision. Please do not hesitate to reach out to Dale Watanabe, director of the center, at watanad@seattleu.edu should you have any questions or concerns needing to be addressed.


Stephen V. Sundborg, S.J.