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Follow our coverage of immigration and related issues affecting Latinos in the Charlotte area.

Charlotte Area Students, Colleges React To New ICE Rule On International Students

Paolo Bompieri
Yoan Roussinov
Paolo Bompieri is an international student and rising senior at Queens University. He's also a scholarship athlete on the men's tennis team.

Just as 23-year-old Paolo Bompieri began training for his last tennis season as a Queens University Royal, ICE announcedinternational students have to leave the country if all their classes are online because of the pandemic.

“Not the best way to end a tennis career, you know?” Bompieri said. “Maybe I’ll [wait] for things to settle down and, you know, get back to normal -- if it's, like, even possible.”

The rising senior studying business administration and math has already had a rough year. His team’s promising spring season was cut short and plans of reuniting with his family back in Verona, Italy, this summer were canceled. The region in Italy where he's from was one of the hardest hit in all of Europe.

“I was home last summer for a little bit,” he said. “Of course, my mom wanted me to go home, you know, because I hadn’t been for a while.”

2019-2020 Queens University men's tennis team
Credit Yoan Roussinov
Nine out of 14 members of the 2019-2020 Queens University men's tennis team are international students, including Paolo Bompieri (back row; third from right)

Now he may be heading home sooner than expected, and for good, unless his university comes up with a plan to keep international students here.

Bompieri and his classmates are hopeful.

“I know that Queens is gonna try everything to find a way around this rule," he said, "so I'm pretty confident, things are going to be fine.” 

Ten percent of undergraduate students at Queens are international. University leaders say they plan to offer “hybrid” courses -- where instruction is both on-campus and online. This would keep these students, with F-1 visas, eligible to stay in the U.S.

M-1 visas, on the other hand, are given to students interested in going to vocational schools, like the Academy of Aviation in Gastonia. Forty percent of students in the Academy are international. Director Bianca Baldwin says there’s less risk for international students on M-1 visas to have to leave since vocational training is very hands-on.

“Obviously you can’t fly online and obtain a license,” she said. “There is some simulation allowed in advanced simulators, but those are within the school and there are only certain percentages.”

Davidson College tweeted that it will do all it can to protect students, no matter their country of origin. Farther east, Duke University also shared a statement in support of students, but haven’t released a plan on how.

Meanwhile, MIT and Harvard are jointly suing ICE over the new guidelines. In a statement, MIT called the regulations unlawful and disruptive and says it makes students question whether they are truly welcome in the U.S.

Laura Brache is a Report for America corps member and covers immigration and the Latino community in Charlotte for WFAE and La Noticia.

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Laura Brache works with WFAE and La Noticia, an independent Spanish-language news organization based in Charlotte, through Report for America to cover immigration and deportation issues facing the Latino community. She also reports on the Charlotte immigration court, one of the toughest in the nation with the second-highest deportation rate in the country in 2019.