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Bahamian student-athletes not at risk as U.S. rescinds rule

Hundreds of Bahamian student-athletes won’t have to worry about being sent home to The Bahamas following a reversal of policy consideration that was surfacing in the United States (U.S.).

Facing immense pressure from the universities themselves and school boards across the nation, the U.S. Government rescinded a rule on Tuesday that would have required international students, including Bahamians, to either transfer or leave the country altogether if their respective schools held classes entirely online because of the presence of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The U.S. is the most impacted nation in the world for the coronavirus with over 3.5 million total cases and about 140,000 total deaths. The closest state to The Bahamas, Florida, is a hotbed for the virus right now, recording tens of thousands of new cases daily.

A number of Bahamian student-athletes, in Florida and throughout the U.S., chose to remain on their respective school campuses this summer. According to reports, hundreds of universities opposed the stance to send international students home, with some threatening federal lawsuits.

U.S. District Judge Allison Burroughs said federal immigration authorities agreed to pull the July 6 directive and “return to the status quo”, according to NBC News.

“I believe it’s a good idea because, ultimately, it affects the commercial environment allowing our student-athletes to realize their full potential and fulfill their collegiate dreams,” said Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations’ (BAAA) President Drumeco Archer. “This is an opportunity to reshape the mindset of a new educational regime where viruses such as COVID-19 will become the new norm. I commend the U.S. Government for showing the resolve that allows them to adapt to change.”

The announcement is said to bring relief to thousands of foreign students who had been at risk of being deported from the U.S., along with hundreds of universities that were scrambling to reassess their plans for the fall. Understandably, a number of schools were concerned with the risks of losing out financially as well. Many schools rely on tuition from international students, and some stood to lose millions of dollars in revenue. Not to mention, returning to the United States for a number of student-athletes would have been increasingly difficult because of the related costs of doing so and the red tape in place.

Under the policy, it is understood that international students in the U.S. would have been forbidden from taking all their courses online this fall, and new visas would not have been issued to students at schools planning to provide all classes online, although federal officials stated otherwise.

A number of university leaders believed the rule was part of U.S. President Donald Trump’s effort to pressure schools to reopen this fall, of which a number of them have still not stated their intentions.

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