Wary of Deportation, Elite Colleges Won't Expel Anti-Semitic Foreign Students

Anti-Israel protesters at Yale University (@NYSSofficial, X/Twitter)
November 27, 2023

As anti-Israel protesters swarmed college campuses, MIT president Sally Kornbluth drew a line in the sand: Any student engaged in an unsanctioned protest would face expulsion.

On Nov. 9, students decided to try their luck and hold a "die-in" at a campus location that explicitly bars protests. Kornbluth said the demonstration got so heated that she feared it "could lead to violence," but she did not enforce her prohibition. Students involved in the protest simply received a "non-academic suspension," a slap on the wrist that allows them to continue attending class.

Kornbluth's about-face was an attempt to protect foreign students, for whom expulsion would mean deportation.

"Because we later heard serious concerns about collateral consequences for the students, such as visa issues," Kornbluth said in a statement, "we have decided, as an interim action, that the students who remained after the deadline will be suspended from non-academic campus activities."

There are roughly one million foreign-born students enrolled at American colleges and universities. At elite institutions like MIT, nearly a quarter of all students hail from another country. Keeping these students on campus is that one reason college administrators have opted not to punish students making anti-Semitic comments, even as Jewish students say they feel unsafe. The Washington Free Beacon could not find a single incident of a student suspended over a protest, even in cases where police made arrests.

Now, Republicans are calling on the Biden administration to revoke the visas of foreign students participating in protests deemed anti-Semitic by leaders of both parties.

"These students, many of whom could be guests in our country, are soliciting donations to benefit groups that want the complete destruction of Israel and the Jewish people," Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) told the Free Beacon. "In a normal world, colleges would punish students for supporting genocide, and our country would remove foreign nationals who support Hamas."

Rubio has pressed the State Department to suspend visas of foreign-born students who support Hamas or other Islamic terrorist organizations. The senator posted a letter from the agency on X, formerly known as Twitter, confirming that the Department of State "has broad authority … to revoke visas."

"We exercise the authority where there is information or evidence indicating a visa holder may be ineligible for a U.S. visa," the State Department said.

Florida governor Ron DeSantis (R.) earlier this month warned foreign students that they "don't have a right to be studying in the United States." State University System of Florida chancellor Ray Rodrigues last month ordered all Students for Justice in Palestine chapters in the state to be shut down. Students for Justice in Palestine has explicitly endorsed Islamic terrorists.

The inaction from college administrators comes as deep-pocketed alumni pledge to halt donations over the anti-Semitic climate on many campuses. Several billionaires and white-shoe law firms have said they will not hire any student who participates in pro-Hamas protests.

At Yale University, a traditional Mexican dance club held a fundraiser for "Palestinian anarchist fighters" who associate with Hamas, the school's paper reported. The club's presidents—two of whom were born in Mexico, the Free Beacon found—apologized for the fundraiser following on-campus pushback, telling club members that the event was a "substantial oversight" and instructing participants to make their social media accounts private.

Although the students violated the university's policy of fundraising for a non-charity, the school did nothing. Yale, which did not respond to a request for comment, did not issue a statement on the incident or appear to punish the students.

Concerns about the student visa system stretch back to the Cold War, when lawmakers worried Soviet spies could use the program to enter the country. Federal officials beefed up security standards after it was revealed that a perpetrator of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing was in the country on an expired student visa. Two individuals arrested in 2013 for their connection to the Boston Marathon bombing first entered the United States on student visas.

Today, concerns about the student visa program largely revolve around the threat of Chinese espionage. But the surge of anti-Israel protests has caused experts to raise yet another flag.

Jon Feere, a former senior official with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, suggested that inaction could spell trouble for college administrators. The Department of Homeland Security, Feere said, "is tasked with certifying schools to enroll foreign students, and can deny certification for any valid and substantive reason."

"One would think that schools allowing foreign students to violate campus policies might be on the radar of DHS officials," he said. "It might be advisable for school administrators to hold foreign students accountable rather than risk losing their foreign student program altogether."