A sticker on the glass door of the Student Oasis of the Memorial Church of Harvard Universuty welcomes immigrant students to the church. Photo by Jeffrey Blackwell/Memorial Church Communications.
It’s been a difficult week, as coronavirus cases have continued to rise in many places across the country. And it’s been a week of disappointment for many of our students, as the university announced its plans to bring only 40-percent of college students back to campus in the fall. Students who need to be on campus in order to do their work will return, and first-year students will be invited to join them. We all hope that it will be safe by the spring semester to bring more students back to campus.
Last week also brought a shocking order from US Immigration and Customs Enforcement that international students who attend schools that are holding their courses online must leave the country or face deportation.
At the Memorial Church, we agree with President Larry Bacow who noted that the cruelty of this order was “surpassed only by its recklessness.” In a letter to the university community, President Bacow wrote that ICE’s order seems to have been “designed purposefully to place pressure on colleges and universities to open their on-campus classrooms for in-person instruction this fall, without regard to concerns for the health and safety of students, instructors, and others.” Harvard believes the ICE order to be not only bad public policy but also illegal. And so along with MIT, Harvard has filed pleadings in the US District Court in Boston seeking a temporary restraining order prohibiting enforcement of the order.
As a church community within the university, we regard ICE’s order to run counter to our most deeply held religious beliefs and our commitment to education itself. No student should have to study under threat of deportation. All students should be welcomed and supported and given room to experiment, compose, write, calculate--room to become the leaders our world needs. That the government is using the coronavirus pandemic to threaten international students is unconscionable. We stand with the university in its unequivocal condemnation of the order from ICE and its commitment to stand up and fight for our students.
Interim Pusey Minister in the Memorial Church and the Susan Shallcross Swartz Professor of the Practice of Christian Studies in the Harvard Divinity School