Protest Rights and Risks – Info for International GEs

May 9, 2024 – This page compiles publicly available information concerning the potential risks associated with international students’ involvement in protests. This is not legal advice; you should consult an immigration attorney/expert for more information. Retaliation from the University is not a guarantee. The purpose of this resource is not to evoke fear or worry, but to detail possible risks international students should be informed about and weigh when taking direct action.

You have the right to remain silent and do not have to discuss your immigration or citizenship status with police, immigration agents, or other officials. If you’re detained or taken into custody, you have the right to speak to a lawyer. In some states, you must provide your name to law enforcement if you are stopped and told to identify yourself. But even if you give your name, you don’t have to answer other questions. In Oregon, ORS 131.615 does not explicitly allow officers to ask for identification if stopping someone.

If a student on an F-1 visa is suspended from their educational institution, they can risk losing their visa status. Visa regulations require students to maintain full-time enrollment and make satisfactory progress in their course of study. Suspension disrupts this requirement and can lead to the student falling out of status. In this case, the visa status of the student’s dependents (on an F-2 visa) will also be impacted. 

Within 21 days of suspension or expulsion, U.S. universities are expected to update an international student’s status in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), which means that the government is notified immediately of the change in status. The university processes for suspension and/or expulsion often take multiple weeks with opportunities to challenge their decision. You would receive multiple official warnings before a suspension is issued. If you’re in this situation, please immediately contact your steward or GTFF leadership. In the event of suspension, GTFF is going to fight for you. You’re not alone.

There are also exclusion offenses, which deny an international student entry or re-entry into the United States. Being arrested, detained or under police investigation does not lead to a student being excluded. The list of deportable, non-deportable and exclusion offenses can be accessed here

If you are arrested, charged, or convicted while participating in a protest, this could impact your current and future immigration status, any future immigration or visa applications, and your interactions with immigration and consular authorities. The Yale Office of International Students and Scholars suggests, “Consider how your actions could be interpreted in your home country and what, if any, consequences may result when you return home. Each country has its laws regarding what is acceptable speech both at protests and when posting on social media/online.”

As union members, you have a legal right to free speech, and a legal right (Weingarten right) to having a union steward present in any supervisory meeting that might result in disciplinary action. You have the legal right to union support if you face disciplinary action that infringes on your academic freedom. You have the right to inform supervisors of your own rights, and to pursue formal complaints if those assertions of rights are not appropriately attended to. If these rights are infringed upon or violated, you should contact your department steward and/or the VP of Grievances (