International Student Fears Federal Mandate

Video by Seth Biley

Written by Jordan Miller

Due to the Trump Administration’s new policy requiring international students to leave the United States if their college classes are online only for the upcoming semester, many of those international students are facing deportation and scrambling for answers from their universities on what to do. UNT’s Victor Tralci is one of these students. Now enrolled in Graduate school at The University of North Texas, the news of the new rules came as a “slap in the face” to Tralci.

“My first emotion was absolute fear. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. I was at a loss for words, I didn’t know what to think about it.”

But after a brief panic, Tralci said he immediately started doing research to find a way to stay in the United States.

“After the fear was gone. . . my ‘I can’ attitude kicked in and I started thinking ‘what can I do to fix this? How can I help myself? How can I not cry over spilled milk?’”

Victor Tralci was born in Venezuela and came to the U.S. when he was 17 years old in order to get his education.

“I wanted to come to the United States to study because in my home country, the same opportunities wouldn’t be there for me. . . developing as an adult wouldn’t be the same.”

Tralci says that coming to America from Venezuela was the best decision he ever made. “Coming from Venezuela I know that I am one in a million students that get this opportunity, so I am always so thankful and so grateful for being one of those students that is able to come here.”

However, because of the new rules that ICE announced this week, Tralci’s entire life could be turned upside down.

“We have lives here that we are in the middle of. If I am given 10 days, 30 days, 45 days, it doesn’t matter how much time you give me to leave the country, you are interrupting my entire life.”

Quitting his jobs, finding someone to cover his lease, and figuring out how to study online in a country that has poor internet connection are just a few of the things Victor would have to figure out if the rules are enforced and he is required to return to Venezuela.

“There’s so many things that could be happening to these students that are just like any other student. They are your classmates, your neighbors, your roommates, they are people that live within the student community. It’s a lot of consequences for the international students and the American community as well.”

Victor just graduated from UNT’s Integrative Studies program, studying English, Psychology, and Emergency Administration and Planning. He was accepted into UNT’s graduate program in order to pursue a master’s degree in Higher Education, specializing in Student Affairs.

“The reason I chose [those majors] is that they complement each other and . . . how to help people. Higher education is like the lid on top of the jar that makes the whole jar of jam. I wanted to work in educational institutions, I’ve wanted to help students, and I’ve wanted to basically give back all of the help and assistance that was given to me whenever I was just interested in pursuing education in the United States.”

Victor’s dream of helping future generations of students the same way he was helped is in danger with these new policies and he says the way that international students are being treated isn’t fair.

“It’s a feeling of worthlessness. It’s like I’m not important enough that you want to keep me in this country or keep me safe. You want to risk me getting exposed to the Corona virus by shipping me overseas, by sending a humongous amount of people out of the country.”

The University of North Texas put out a statement on the issue, saying,

“The UNT community cares deeply about our international students and we are committed to providing them with continuity of education. The recent federal mandate has made it more challenging for us and the students, but we will do everything in our power to keep our international students here and provide them with options moving forward with their degree plans.”

Victor said he was relieved to hear his university is looking for a solution, however he is still concerned that there may only be so much that they can do.

International students make up 9% of UNT’s student population and about 5.5% of the entire higher education student population in the United States. Victor stresses that international students are a major part of UNT campus and bring so many positive things to the college.

“At UNT the international community is humongous. I can’t count on my fingers how many different countries, nationalities, and cultures we have. And everybody is here for the same reasons as an American student. We are here to study, get a degree, and have the tools for a better future.”

Despite the many unknowns that Victor faces, he is hopeful that UNT will provide a solution and he will be able to continue his education and his life here in the United States.

“As always, UNT has come to quickly respond and make us know that they are trying to find a way to help us. Whether it is with this issue or other issues, UNT has always given what they’ve promised, so that gives me a lot of reassurance and I can only hope that they are able to offer us a solution on how to continue work studies and let us stay here as we should.”