A United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) policy that could have prevented international student-athletes from competing in college sports this season was rescinded Tuesday by the Trump administration.
The rule originally moved to strip visas from international students whose universities were transitioning to online-only classes in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.
The policy could have been a huge blow to the Arizona Wildcats men’s and women’s basketball programs, which are loaded with foreign talent.
The reversal comes after the University of Arizona was one of 20 schools to jointly file a lawsuit against the federal government. (Other prominent universities like Harvard and MIT filed their own lawsuits.)
“The contributions of our international students are crucial to the learning and research conducted every day here, and we are fighting to ensure their continuation,” UA president Robert C. Robbins said in a statement. “Many of our 3,700 international graduate and undergraduate students stayed in this country during the pandemic to make sure their education was not interrupted by visa issues. We see this as a sign of their determination and commitment to earning an education in the United States from a top research university, and this guidance unnecessarily puts our international students at risk.”
Previously, the UA had also vowed to provide in-person classes that would have allowed its international students to remain on campus, even though it’s still unclear if campus will reopen to the rest of the student body for the fall semester.
As of now, the UA is still planning to reopen in the fall with four learning modalities: in-person classes, flex in-person classes, live online classes, and iCourses.
However, those plans could change if Pima County cannot curtail the spread of the coronavirus. The county set daily case records several times in late June, topping out at 456 on June 30, causing the UA to pause its student-athlete re-entry plan.
The county has seen a gradual decline since then, reporting roughly 220 cases or less each day since July 3.
International students are still not completely in the clear to return, as they still have to work around the current US travel bans from China, Iran, Brazil, and most of Europe.
However, Tuesday’s reversal at least ensures international students will be able to stay in the States once they return safely.