Foreign students could face harsher penalties than suspension for anti-Israel rioting: DHS

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Wednesday confirmed that foreign students could potentially face deportation if they are suspended from their courses while on a student visa — just as anti-Israel protests have engulfed Columbia University and other American colleges.

With anti-Israel protests taking place at Columbia and college campuses across the country, which have included antisemitic rhetoric and threats to Jewish students, classes have gone hybrid at Columbia due to safety concerns.

It has raised questions about whether some students, who may be on student visas, could have them revoked or be deported. Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., posted on X calling for the removal of foreign nationals backing Hamas.

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Pro-Palestinian supporters rally outside Columbia University in New York City on Wednesday. (Jeenah Moon/Getty Images)

“Immediately deport all foreign students studying in the USA that support Hamas. We should also revoke federal student loans for any American student arrested for supporting Hamas,” she said.

DHS’ Homeland Security Investigations told Fox News that an international student is deemed to be “in status” if they are making progress on their course, and that a temporary suspension does not necessarily impact that status. But there is a path by which that suspension leads to removal proceedings.

“A temporary suspension, even if that were a final determination for a student, does not necessarily mean that the student would fall below ‘normal progress’ in his/her course of study,” the spokesperson said.

“If a student were to be suspended, DHS would need reason to believe that the student would not be able to make normal progress in his/her course of study,” they added. “And if it believed a suspension merited that type of decision, it would have to initiate removal proceedings, which would be done on a case-by-case basis in conjunction with U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Office of the Principal Legal Advisor (OPLA).”

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Ultimately, the decision to deport a foreign national would be made by an immigration judge. DHS itself does not revoke a visa. Instead, that decision is made by the State Department and most visa revocations do not themselves create a basis for deportation proceedings, but simply prevent any future entry into the U.S.

Students who come to the U.S. to study maintain their visa by fulfilling the purpose of their visa (studying) and following the regulations associated with it.

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Meanwhile, the protests have spread across the country. Students from Massachusetts to California, and from Tennessee to Texas are now gathering by the hundreds and are pledging to stay put on campus until their demand is met.

The nationwide movement has gained momentum, and administrators continue to allow anti-Israel demonstrations at schools like Columbia, Yale, MIT, UC Berkeley, University of Southern California, Princeton, Harvard, Stanford, Northwestern University, Vanderbilt University, University of Michigan, University of North Carolina, University of Virginia and others.

The protests mark the six-month milestone in the Israel-Hamas war, which was reached earlier this month. That war began with the Hamas terrorist attacks in Israel on Oct. 7.

Fox News’ Lawrence Richard and Brooke Singman contributed to this report.

Adam Shaw is a politics reporter for Fox News Digital, primarily covering immigration and border security.

He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter.

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