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July 8, 2020
Dear APS Member,
The APS leadership expresses its outrage at the recent rule change by United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to cancel F-1 and M-1 visas for students studying off-campus because of the pandemic emergency. This is a shameful action by the White House that exploits the hardships of the pandemic and inflicts harm on our international STEM students. These comprise nearly half of our graduate student population, and are thus vital to our national success and prosperity. At the same time, this rule inflicts harm on our universities, by forcing them to choose between losing some of our most promising students or exposing all to unsafe conditions by holding in-person classes during an uncontrolled pandemic.
The APS leadership categorically condemns this rule. We will work with physics departments to do everything legally possible to support and protect international students, while encouraging universities to do what they must to preserve the wellbeing of their students and faculty. Legal challenges have already been filed against the rule, but if those fail, colleges and universities may have to develop ways to satisfy it while keeping their students and faculty safe. Based on consultation with physics department chairs and higher education experts, the APS has determined that for-credit supervised research courses for international students are a possible solution.
The APS has made available a path for members of the physics community who want to help this campaign to contact their elected officials in Congress. At the same time, we must recognize that J-1 visas for scientists and the OPT program are still under threat. The APS will shortly launch an advocacy campaign so that we can work together to protect our international colleagues in those programs.
This is only the latest in a series of executive orders, proclamations, and rules, that isolates the United States research community from the rest of the world based on the false belief that our nation can only be secure if we keep the rest of the world away from us. We know, however, that fundamental science can only succeed if we maintain the highest standards of integrity, and if research opportunities are open to participation by all. APS will continue to work with our members and the larger science community to fight for US science.
Philip H. Bucksbaum, Sylvester James Gates, Jr., Frances Hellman, David Gross, Andrea Liu, and Kate P. Kirby
2020 APS Presidential Line, Speaker of the Council, and CEO