Press Release: GTFF Welcomes UO’s Involvement as Lead Plaintiff in Lawsuit against ICE Restrictions on International Students

The Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation (AFT Local 3544) welcomes the University of Oregon’s involvement as a lead plaintiff in a lawsuit seeking a Temporary Restraining Order against the changes by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) which impose severe restrictions on international students in the midst of a pandemic.

GTFF condemns the recent changes initiated by ICE, which follow the Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation (GTFF), the graduate employee union at the University of Oregon (UO), condemns Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) latest change to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), following the proclamation of suspension of entry for those holding an H1B or J visa. This change not only threatens the education of valued international students (many of whom are also student workers or graduate employees), it also undermines the public health and safety of these students’ communities here and in their home countries.

This change to SEVP is fueled by xenophobia and anti-immigrant sentiment with complete disregard for the sacrifices many international students make to study in the U.S. International students make irreplaceable contributions to UO’s academic community through their participation in classroom discussions, their original and groundbreaking research and publications, and their work in the classroom as instructors. Our community is enriched by their presence every day.

The change to SEVP blackmails U.S. academic institutions into requiring in-person classes during a global pandemic. It is nothing short of cruel and inhumane. It also forces individual international students to choose between putting their own health and the health of their communities at risk or relinquishing their years-long studies and research under the threat of deportation. This diabolical move on behalf of ICE must be stopped. To say it is unacceptable is a gross understatement. We as a union will not tolerate it.

We are pleased that UO has been responsive to the letter GTFF sent to UO President Michael Schill on Thursday. The letter, drafted by our Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) caucus and supported by members of Associated Students of the University of Oregon (ASUO), petitioned the University to use its resources to support our international students. In being named lead plaintiff, UO is taking on an important role in stopping ICE’s violent rule change. The letter’s 739 signatories included members of the community, alumni, representatives of various student organizations, faculty, and staff, and they will surely be elated to hear about UO’s legal challenge to ICE’s changes. GTFF supports the lawsuit led by UO and joined by other colleges and universities, which seeks to block this change in Federal court.