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Washington Update

White House Issues Proclamation on Nonimmigrant Visas
The White House issued a proclamation suspending the issuance of new visas for certain categories of nonimmigrant programs, including H-1B visas, from June 24 through December 31, 2020. The proclamation also extends the suspension on immigrant visas published on April 22, which focused primarily on green card applicants. The new policy is applicable to certain nonimmigrant visa applicants outside of the U.S. at the time the order was issued and does not apply to those already in the country seeking to change their immigration status.

The proclamation also directs the Departments of Homeland Security and Labor to consider additional action to ensure visas do not “disadvantage United States workers.” Per a White House fact sheet, the administration will reform the H-1B program by prioritizing workers who are offered the highest wage to ensure high-skilled applicants are admitted.

APLU released a statement expressing concerns with the administration’s decision to suspend nonimmigrant visas essential to our national economy. The Compete America Coalition, of which APLU is a member, developed a summary of the proclamation.

APLU Urges Temporary and Limited Liability Protections Related to COVID-19|
APLU sent a letter to congressional leaders urging the inclusion of temporary and limited liability protections for public universities in the next COVID-19 supplemental bill. The letter details the positive contributions of colleges and universities in combatting COVID-19 and prioritization of the health of campus communities while outlining the negative impacts excessive lawsuits will have on public universities. APLU also joined a higher education association letter to Congress last month.

Senate Confirms New NSF Director
The Senate confirmed Dr. Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan to serve as the next director of the National Science Foundation (NSF). Dr. Panchanathan, who was sworn in as Director yesterday, was previously the Executive Vice President and Chief Research and Innovation Officer at Arizona State University and is a former Chair of APLU’s Council on Research. APLU released a statement applauding his confirmation.

APLU and Partner Orgs Ask Department of Education to Delay Title IX Implementation
APLU, partner associations, and organizations wrote to Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos calling for a delay on the Title IX implementation date from August 14 to at least December 21, 2020. The letter cites the administration’s Executive Order 13924, which directs all “agency heads to identify regulations that may inhibit economic recovery and to take appropriate steps to temporarily or permanently rescind, modify, waive or exempt these requirements for the purposes of promoting job creation and economic growth.”

The letter contends that colleges and universities are essential to a strong economy and the implementation of new regulations will divert time and resources from reopening efforts. APLU and partner organizations also cite a number of lawsuits already filed against the department and argue a delay of implementation could help focus the cases on the merits as opposed to timelines.

Higher Ed Community Submits Comments on MSLP Expansion
APLU joined others in the higher education community to submit comments to the Federal Reserve on its proposed expansion of the Main Street Lending Program (MSLP). The letter requests the Federal Reserve ensure both nonprofit private and public colleges and universities are eligible for the nonprofit MSLP facility; adjust the proposed list of qualifications for eligible borrowers; expand eligibility thresholds to ensure all colleges and universities can access the nonprofit MSLP facility; and expand and change the proposed loan terms to ensure they are a useful tool as colleges and universities respond to COVID-19.

National Security Innovation Pathway Act Introduced
On June 17, Chairman Jim Langevin (D-RI) and Ranking Member Elise Stefanik (R-NY) of the House Armed Services Intelligence, Emerging Threats and Capabilities subcommittee introduced the National Security Innovation Pathway Act. The bill would provide a limited new pathway for immigrant scientists and technical experts, working on Department of Defense basic or applied research, to become permanent residents. Fees collected from the program will offset the cost of implementation and a portion will be used to fund STEM scholarships for American students. APLU has endorsed the bill.

ED Unveils Section 117 Portal
The Department of Education (ED) unveiled a new online portal for institutions to use to report foreign gifts and contracts valued at more than $250,000 for the July 31 reporting period. The portal requires institutions to answer 31 specific questions regarding “each reportable transaction involving a foreign source, such as whether the foreign source is a foreign government, a foreign legal entity, an individual who is not a citizen or national of the United States, or a person acting as an agent of a foreign source.” The previous reporting portal required campuses to answer six questions.

The new portal is the latest in an ongoing effort by the department to clarify reporting rules under Section 117 of the Higher Education Act. The department also has numerous ongoing investigations of institutions regarding compliance with reporting requirements. Secretary Betsy DeVos said the portal will provide transparency about foreign ties and “protect academic freedom and our country’s national security and economic future.”

The department also plans to move forward with federal rulemaking later this summer that could require campuses to also provide a “true copy” of any foreign contract or agreement valued at $250,000. We will continue to monitor for this planned Notice.

Senate Passes CONFUCIUS Act
The Senate passed S.939, the Concerns Over Nations Funding University Campus Institutes in the United States Act or CONFUCIUS Act, by unanimous consent. Introduced by Senator John Kennedy (R-LA) and cosponsored by Senators Doug Jones (D-AL), Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), the bill would establish requirements for colleges and universities that receive federal funding and that have contracts or agreements with Confucius Institutes. Specifically, the bill outlines that contracts must include clear provisions that protect the academic freedom of the institutions; prohibit the application of foreign law on the institutions’ campuses; and grant full managerial authority of the institutes to the institutions, including full control over teaching plans, activities, research grants, and employment decisions. The contracts would be regulated by the Department of Education.

Companion legislation has not yet been introduced in the House.

  • Council on Governmental Affairs

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