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College Presidents: Immigration Policies Are Weighing On Mass. Higher Education

A man holds a sign at an immigration rally in Boston on June 30, 2018. (Elizabeth Gillis/WBUR)
A man holds a sign at an immigration rally in Boston on June 30, 2018. (Elizabeth Gillis/WBUR)

University presidents in Massachusetts are growing more agitated with federal immigration policies, telling members of the state's Congressional delegation in a new letter that efforts to attract and retain international students, faculty and researchers are suffering.

In a letter Monday to the delegation, the presidents of 43 colleges and universities cited an increase in visa processing delays involving the State Department, delays in a training program that connects foreign students with U.S. employers, and a "dramatic increase" in requests for evidence from employers who are seeking to hire foreign-born employees to teach and work on campuses in Massachusetts.

Even students with valid visas have had those visas revoked when they are beginning to travel back to campus from overseas, or when they arrive at Logan Airport in East Boston, the presidents added.

"An environment that thwarts the opportunities for and contributions of these individuals is detrimental to the state's economy, undermines the educational experiences of all Massachusetts college students, and stifles future innovation and business growth," the presidents wrote in a letter circulated by the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Massachusetts.

The presidents said more than 68,000 international students enrolled in Massachusetts colleges and universities in 2018, contributing more than $3 billion to the state's economy. They asked delegation members to "continue to monitor and address these issues" throughout the Congressional session.

The signatories on the letter included leadership from colleges and universities from across the state, including Tufts, Simmons, Suffolk, Boston, Clark, Brandeis, Harvard, and Northeastern universities and Amherst, Assumption, Babson, Holy Cross, Boston, Curry, Emerson, Mount Holyoke, Regis, Smith, Stonehill, Wellesley and Williams colleges.

Harvard University President Lawrence Bacow wrote a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan expressing similar concerns in July.

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