Westchester Community College has an opening date next month for its Gateway Center — an environmentally friendly building geared toward the growing immigrant population, with an emphasis on business entrepreneurship.
The college has 4,000 ESL students and a volunteer program that matches native speakers with learners. The new center will house those activities along with business programs and an Institution for Entrepreneurial Studies. More info here.
The holidays tend to be a wrenching time for international students at Westchester Community College, many of whom cannot travel home because of the risk of being denied admission back into the United States.
Foreign-born students attended an open-ended discussion last week with an immigration attorney, and such travel questions kept coming up. Many students came to the United States as nannies or tourists, then obtained a new status as visiting students. That technicality causes a big problem when it comes to travel, even though the students are perfectly legal.
A spokesman at U.S. Customs and Border Protection explained it to me this way: Because U.S. visas are not issued to people who are already in this country, these students (who came as nannies or tourists) are not given a traditional visa that allows them to come and go from the United States. Instead, their student status lasts only until they leave the country. So if they leave, they are taking a big chance. They would have to visit a U.S. consulate and hope to be granted a student visa from the State Department. Since 9/11, that has become more difficult, according to Ruben Barato, the college’s coordinator of international and immigrant student affairs.
Students have to be prepared, then, to stay put in the United States for years. Inevitably, family emergencies happen back home and cause some excruciating decisions.
Below is the story I wrote last week.
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