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University Joins Amicus Brief Challenging New Immigration ‘Unlawful Presence’ Policy

January 9, 2019 – Georgetown recently demonstrated its ongoing commitment to its international community by signing onto an amicus brief with 64 other universities and one university system board supporting a legal challenge to a recent immigration policy change on the calculation of “unlawful presence.”

The policy change by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, (USCIS), states that individuals with F-1,  J-1 or M-1 visas who fail to maintain their status begin accruing unlawful presence immediately.

The “friend of the court” brief urges the federal court to grant the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction, and contains evidence of how “international students and scholars add immeasurable value to the educational environment of all host institutions,” and “are a key reason why American colleges and universities are the world’s leading destination for higher learning.”

Uncertain Status

The brief, which also notes that international students “bring significant benefits to the U.S. economy,” explains that “the USCIS’s new ‘backdating’ rule introduces uncertainty into the calculation of unlawful presence and needlessly exposes international students to devastating reentry bans.”

The “new rule will harm international students and scholars, as well as the institutions which host them,” the brief states. Those who accrue more than 180 days of unlawful presence are generally not eligible to apply for a visa, admission or adjustment of status unless eligible for a waiver or other form of relief.

The previous policy began counting unlawful presence the day after USCIS issued a formal finding of a status violation or the day after a judge issues an order of deportation.

Vital Community Members

The amicus brief was submitted in the case of Guilford College, et al., v. Kirstjen Nielsen in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina.

Most of the universities signing onto the brief are members of the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, for which Georgetown President John J. DeGioia serves as a steering committee member.

“International students and scholars are vital members of our campus communities and important contributors to our nation,” DeGioia said. “The talents, perspectives, insights, and passion to serve our world that they bring our campus communities benefits our nation and contributes to the common good that we all share.”

International Leaders

Such students at Georgetown have included Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (SFS’68), former President of the Philippines and current speaker of the Philippines House of Representatives; Felipe VI, the King of Spain (G’95); Laura Chinchilla, former President of Costa Rica (G’89); and Saad Hariri, Prime Minister of Lebanon (B’92); among others.

And it was two exchange students – Julie Fragonas of France and Naoya Johnson of Japan – and an international student, Isobella Goonetillake (C’18) of London, who successfully challenged the wrongful murder conviction of Valentino Dixon, exonerated this past September.