CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement are meeting with international scholars at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and school administrators are asking for their cooperation.
News of the inquiries has prompted concerns on the Cambridge campus.
The meetings aren’t with every international student. They are with scholars who are part of specialized temporary training in their fields of study. But with the ICE checks comes frustration and fear among some.
Several MIT students told WFXT that they feel that international grad students and researchers who are subject to ICE checks are getting a raw deal. But not all of them feel that way.
“If they come in and check for five minutes and I just have to show them some documents, then I’m fine with that. It’s no big deal,” postdoctoral student Varun Vaidye said.
In a memo shared with faculty from the MIT International Scholar’s Office, director Penny Rosser said, "The purpose of the DHE/ICE site visit is to confirm that the employer has sufficient resources and supervisory personnel to effectively provide the training, and that the foreign national is appropriately engaged in that activity.”
In a statement to Boston 25 News, the college said: “MIT has been clear about the value of our global community and of the free flow of scientific ideas. We are grateful for the dedication, imagination and perseverance of every scholar here at MIT.”
A school spokesperson said ICE is permitted to do this because of a new rule that affects those trained in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields who are part of what’s known as STEM Opt, a training program for international scholars. Those scholars received the memo after faculty members.
MIT student Miguel Tulla is from Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, but has lots of international student friends. He says it’s better that the memo went out, but wishes those affected would have been first to get it.
“I guess it’s better than nothing,” Tulla said. “In my opinion it’s better that they had sent this memo than for it to just be nobody knowing and ICE getting here without previous warning.”
MIT declined our request for an on-camera interview about this, but said they’re sending a similar note to scholars affected by the ICE visits.
We did reach out to ICE first thing Friday morning, but did not hear back by the time of this posting.
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