Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C. to Secretary Chad Wolf
October 17, 2020
The Honorable Chad F. Wolf
Acting Secretary of Homeland Security
Washington, DC 20528
Dear Secretary Wolf:
I write to express my concern about the proposed rule to change the cun-ent Duration of Status policy for international students and exchange visitors to a fixed period of two to four years. This would be unworkable for most foreign students, including those pursuing postbaccalaureate degrees. Further, I am concerned about the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) identification of countries who have purportedly high percentages of visa overstays. Typically, these are impoverished countries from which few international students manage to enroll in the United States. Among them are Haiti and the Philippines, where the University of Notre Dame has special relationships among the poor. While DHS reports that students from each country are more likely to overstay their visas, Notre Dame has not found that to be the case.
For example, in the 2019-2020 academic year, the University enrolled 1,546 international students. Of that total, only one student did not return to campus as expected in the spring semester. He did not have a departure record in the government's reporting system, and did not return any of Notre Dame's frequent attempts to contact him. Again, just one of 1,546. Incidentally, he was neither Haitian nor Filipino. Rather than burden all current and prospective foreign students with more restrictive approval procedures or deny visas wholesale from certain countries, may I suggest that you judge adherence to the existing policy by examining the records of compliance by students at the American universities they attend or at which they hope to enroll? Examining our track records is a fairer and surer way for your department to protect the national security interests of the United States. Notre Dame fully recognizes your obligations in this regard and stands ready to assist you in having international students adhere to their obligations under existing visa requirements.
In proposing a new rule pertaining to international student visas, I was encouraged by DHS recognition that American higher education is the envy of the world. I am also very encouraged by the increasing number of foreign students who are seeking degrees from and enrolling in American universities. I recognize that your department is responsible for screening these increasing numbers of foreign students. However, DHS funding should be increased to meet the demand rather than restrict wholesale admission of desirable foreign students to our institutions of higher learning.
Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.