Are International Students Safe from Deportation?

(WSVN) - A week ago, international students in South Florida thought they’d be sent home to study. Then, the Trump administration reversed course, but are the students in the clear yet? Answers in tonight’s Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

As a teenager in El Salvador, Cristina had a goal.

Cristina Penate, international student: “I’ve always dreamed about studying here because I used to visit with my family, like, every summer.”

Three years ago, Cristina started at FIU.

Mixing fun with charity work, she’s now ready for her senior year and preparing for her next big step.

Cristina Penate: “I want to go to law school. I’m actually studying to take the LSAT in a few weeks.”

But the dream of her senior year at FIU of taking the LSAT to get into law school suddenly seemed to be ending.

Cristina Penate: “Upsetting, it’s sad.”

On July 6, the Trump administration announced that if a college student did not take courses in a classroom and only took them online, they would have to leave America.

Cristina Penate: “We are just studying here, and we are legally studying here, so I just don’t understand why we are being targeted like this.”

But then, this week, after a lawsuit was filed by colleges and states, the Trump administration did a 180 and said international students could stay and study online.

Cristina Penate: “I just felt super happy that it was reconsidered and that we get to stay here.”

But should international students be excited? Howard, can the Trump administration change their minds again to force students to leave, and legally, would it stand up?

Howard Finkelstein, 7 News Legal Expert: “Yes, a president can almost do whatever they want, but while the courts did not get to rule, it’s unlikely you could force students to leave the country because they are not in a classroom and instead learning online, so I think international students are safe.”

Other questions — this one is heartbreaking. Your mother, father, brother or sister is in the hospital, and whether they have coronavirus or recovering from a heart attack, you want to visit them. Viewers want to know if, legally, they can be kept away.

Howard Finkelstein: “Yes, and here is why: the hospitals have to protect not just your loved ones but other patients and their staff, and it’s just too risky to allow someone who may have the coronavirus to come in. It’s painful for family members and patients, but it makes sense.”

This one surprised me. Healthcare workers at a South Florida hospital told us after they test positive for the coronavirus, they have to stay home for 14 days and get paid, but they don’t have to test negative for the virus before returning to work. Is that required?

Howard Finkelstein: “The CDC guidelines say you should have two negative tests before returning to work. However, if there is there is a shortage of healthcare staff, the hospital is not required to get their employees tested before they return to work.”

Here is another one we are getting a lot of emails about. A family member is in prison, and according to the viewers, there is no masks, inmates are sick and not getting medical attention. Do they have legal rights to it?

Howard Finkelstein: “They have rights to reasonable safety, but it’s not clear how much. Many lawsuits are making their way through the courts, but no final rulings have come yet, meaning inmates in prisons and jails are going to continue to be in bad shape.”

Cristina Penate: “A lot of voices were heard, and I just feel proud.”

A lot of international students are happy, and after breathing a sigh of relief, Cristina will now get back to work.

Cristina Penate: “What I plan to do is study for the LSAT, and hopefully, get into law school.”

Happy for Cristina as the back-and-forth decisions created even more stress in this chaotic time, and we are only halfway through the year of COVID.

Now, if you have a problem you need help with or a question you want us to answer, please get in touch with us. We would love to remove some of that stress from your life.

Reporter: Patrick Fraser at
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN

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