ICE to potentially conduct site visits to MIT

Research scientists, postdoctoral associates and fellows may be affected

Members of the MIT community received an email Jan. 9 informing them of potential site visits by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

ICE “has started conducting site visits to employers of F-1 post-graduate students” who are working on Optional Practical Training (OPT), Penny Rosser, director of the International Scholars Office, wrote. The memo was sent to faculty; principal investigators; deans; assistant deans; HR administrators of departments, labs, and centers; and MIT supervisors.

In response to questions from the MIT community, Rosser sent a follow-up memo Jan. 14 stating that the previous memos “were not a response to a specific event, complaint, or notice of an imminent visit to MIT.”

“To the best of my knowledge, none of our Greater Boston peer institutions have received F-1 STEM OPT employment-related site visits,” Rosser wrote in the Jan. 14 memo.

In an interview with The Tech, Vice President for Research Maria Zuber said that the original memo was not precipitated by any event or recent notification from the DHS. “This was basically a general update to a very small community of people at MIT,” Zuber said.

Zuber said that the subset of students impacted by these potential homeland security visits are researchers with F-1 status who have an OPT extension.

“On our campus we currently have 221 people of our entire community who fall under that designation. They are mostly postdoctoral associates and postdoctoral fellows; some are research scientists,” Zuber said.

"By comparison, we have over 4,000 international students, and we have on the order of 2,500 international scholars," Zuber said. 

In order to facilitate the OPT extension program for international students with this type of visa, MIT is required to agree to the possibility of potential DHS visits “to make sure that they have the resources they need to accomplish their training and that they are actually executing their training,” Zuber said.

Zuber said the decision to send the Jan. 9 memo was simply “meant to provide a general update to people” that anybody contacted by ICE should contact the International Scholars Office so it can “provide the support and resources necessary.”