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Kent State pledges to protect international students amid new regulations limiting their access to certain classes

The Department of Homeland Security recently said the students would be forced to leave the country if they only take online classes this fall.

KENT, Ohio — Kent State University's president on Friday vowed to protect his school's 1,409 international students even as new federal regulations threaten to send them back to their home countries.

In a letter sent to staff and students, Dr. Todd Diacon confirmed he wrote to each member of Ohio's Congressional delegation and asked them to urge the Department of Homeland Security to reverse a new mandate that forces international students to take at least some in-person college courses this fall or risk being forced to leave the United States. Without a change, however, KSU will work "swiftly" to make sure all students are enrolled in the number of courses necessary to remain.

"I believe these new guidelines ignore the health and safety requirements for physical distancing, which are the reason we have converted so many in-person classes to remote instruction," Diacon said. "Furthermore, these regulations are punitive toward international students, who are and will always be an important part of our Kent State community."

RELATED: New ICE mandates on education may lead to the deportation of many foreign students this fall

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced the regulations on Monday, even as the ongoing coronavirus pandemic puts any in-person courses in doubt for the upcoming semester. Critics and colleges across the country have decried the measures as unfair and even racist, and Harvard and MIT even filed a lawsuit in Boston's federal court.

Diacon lauded the work of Kent State's international students who come from 99 countries, and pledged he would keep fighting to overturn the DHS's rules while also getting those students the support they need.

"Be assured that until we receive some hoped-for relief from these onerous regulations, the university is doing everything in its power to ensure our international students can remain with us and continue their degree pursuit," he wrote. "This is a great example of our students-first focus and demonstrates just how far we go to ensure that Flashes Take Care of Flashes."

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