Visa Restrictions Reversed for International Athletes Returning to Campus
Last week on SportsTalk, UTEP women's basketball coach Kevin Baker was uncertain about several things going on in the world due to the pandemic. Aside from summer workouts looming and the start of the season still up in the air, the fourth-year head coach expressed concerns with his international players not being able to return to campus.
Seven players on the roster, including returners Arina Khlopkova (Russia) and Sabine Lipe (Latvia), along with newcomers like Gabriela Sales (Brazil) and Brenda Fontana (Argentina), have been stuck in their home countries during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Other UTEP fall sports, such as volleyball, cross country and soccer, feature international student-athletes on their rosters.
Besides simply trying to get back to campus, there was also uncertainty involving international students returning to the United States. A policy sent by the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) moved to strip the visas from international students where the universities were transitioning to virtual learning in the fall.
In response to this, UTEP released a statement saying, “We will continue to work with our 1,400 international students so that they have a course schedule that works best for them—online, hybrid or face-to-face. ”
However, the Trump administration rescinded the policy on Tuesday in an attempt to force international students to leave the United States if the classes were online-only. U.S. District Judge Allison Burroughs in Massachusetts said the U.S. government and Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who sued over the measure, had come to a settlement that would abolish the rule.
The rescinded policy means that once the international student-athletes return to campus across the country, they will be permitted to stay in wake of the pandemic.