NIU community navigates ICE policy


Patrick Murphy

The NIU Huskie Pride Statue and Holmes Student Center are recognizable landmarks to help new students find their way around campus.

Ahyen Labanan and Kierra Frazier

DeKALB — NIU international students must notify International Student and Scholar Services of their fall plans by July 15 by filling out a form

International students are now required to enroll in at least one in-person course for the fall semester to remain in the U.S., according to a Monday statement by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program.

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program is run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. 

Vilaya Sirivong, an international student from Laos studying leadership and management, said international students were hopeful for a good future in the United States before this policy. 

“We all came here to study and get a degree,” Sirivong said. 

Sirivong said she feels “nervous” about finishing her degree. 

If she returns to Laos, Sirivong said she can’t return to NIU for the spring semester. 

The U.S. Embassy in Vientiane, Laos stopped issuing immigrant visas for Lao citizens on April 1, according to the U.S. Embassy in Laos website

Sirivong said she is currently staying in California with her family, where she feels the safest. 

President Freeman addressed SEVP’s announcement in a statement Tuesday. 

“International students are essential, valued members of the NIU community,” Freeman wrote. “We are prepared to help international students as they navigate the harmful and unfair new policies announced by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) regarding international students and remote learning.” 

NIU offers online, face-to-face, staggered and hybrid courses for the fall. Online courses are either synchronous or asynchronous. Staggered classes meet face-to-face and part of the class meets on different days, while hybrid courses incorporate in-person and online instruction, according to MyNIU. 

International students can speak with their academic advisors and departments for course options. 

In Spring 2020, there were a total of 798 international students enrolled at NIU, according to the International Student and Scholar Services office. 635 are graduate students and 163 are undergraduate students.

Stephanie Brown, director of international student and scholar services, said as of July 8, there were approximately 500 international students already enrolled for the fall semester. 

Brown said the vast majority of international students at NIU stayed in the United States, however, new students and those without current valid visas will face difficulties coming to the United States for the fall semester because of travel bans and the inability to obtain visas.

Departments across the campus are working quickly to evaluate and potentially expand course options for international students looking for options that will allow them to remain here in the U.S. Ultimately, each student will have to make a decision on which option they will pursue,” Brown said in a July 9 statement. 

All of Sirivong’s classes were supposed to be online in the fall. She is now enrolled in one in-person class. 

“I feel like I’m forced to take it,” Sirivong said. 

Sirivong said the class isn’t beneficial to her and she has to return to DeKalb. 

The Operations Management and Information Systems department changed many of their courses from online to hybrid with assistance from the Graduate school, College of Business and university, in response to SEVP’s announcement.  

Hybrid courses will count as an in-person course, according to ISSS

“Once the university and the OM&IS department received the guidelines, we want to make sure our international students were able to continue their education,” Russ Devereaux, associate director and advisor at the OM&IS department, said in an email.

Sirivong also said to think about if international students have good internet, or if the country they return to is in the middle of a war. 

“If they want us to go back to our country, maybe they can figure out how to help us finish our degree,” Sirivong said referring to the ICE policy.