Seattle Pacific University President Dan Martin announced support for international students studying at his institution after a recent decision by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that would bar them from remaining in the country if they take all their classes online.

In an email to the SPU community on July 9, Martin said the ICE announcement has caused fear and concern among the university’s more than 170 international students who come from 39 countries.

“I am surprised and disappointed by this new regulation, especially in the face of a global pandemic as it adds an extra layer of unneeded worry for international students regarding finances, travel, health and safety, remaining at their institution of choice, and making progress toward their academic goals,” Martin stated. “We had no sense that this ruling and direction were in discussion…and we will make sure they know we will do everything possible for them to remain at SPU and continue their studies.”

The university is expecting the same number of international students for the 2020-21 academic year. Seattle Pacific is planning to begin autumn quarter in a hybrid format of in-person classes and remote learning, which means international students will be able to continue their studies at Seattle Pacific. But if the university changes its plan due to the coronavirus, international students studying at SPU would be severely impacted and may have to immediately leave the country, according to the SPU release.

Martin added that SPU’s Office of International Student Services has been in contact with international students to offer them support and guidance, and faculty have reached out to help and adjust their classes if needed.

“I can safely say the entire SPU community stands behind these students, whose presence on our campus makes us a better and stronger institution,” Martin stated in the email.

According to the announcement, Martin is in conversation with higher education colleagues and state and national political leaders discussing the best way to register opposition to this ruling and to elevate the negative impact it will have on international students.

“During a global pandemic, it is more apparent than ever that we are all interconnected. SPU’s commitment to global engagement and our international students — students who add great richness and depth to our communities — remains unwavering,” Martin stated in the email.

According to a release, Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit in federal court in Seattle challenging the Trump Administration’s proposed visa rule for international students.

On Monday, he asked a federal judge to put an immediate stop to the plan while Washington litigates its case seeking to have the rule permanently vacated. Three state universities and three community colleges (along with the head of the community college board) filed declarations with the office.

Approximately 27,000 international students attend higher education institutions in Washington state and spend approximately $1 billion in state each year.

The rule, which otherwise goes into effect Wednesday, requires every college and university to decide how classes will be offered but revokes the student visas for all international students attending colleges and universities holding classes remotely.

Visa holders attending colleges and universities implementing a hybrid model are prohibited from attending remotely from their home countries — despite the public health risks of unnecessary travel.