The Collegian
Monday, February 26, 2024

UPDATED: Virginia Attorney General responds, calls to remove international students supporting terror groups with letter citing SJP

<p>Graphic by Annie Scalet/The Collegian</p>

Graphic by Annie Scalet/The Collegian

Editor's note: This is a developing story. 

Republican Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares said in a press release today that international students endorsing terrorist organizations do not deserve opportunities provided to them in the U.S. Miyares signed a letter to the Biden Administration Nov. 8, asking to remove international students from university campuses in the U.S. who are in support of “foreign terrorist organizations.” 

The letter called out the global student organization Students for Justice in Palestine, which has an existing chapter at the University of Richmond, with having links “to Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.”

“SJP issued a ‘call to action’ asking its college chapters to demonstrate, and more than 20 chapters responded, spearheading anti-Israel activity on campuses across the country,” the letter wrote. 

UR’s SJP has not held events or demonstrations since the start of the Israel-Hamas war. 

“The terrorist attack on Israel cannot be justified or rationalized. Supporting or endorsing the terrorist organizations who committed the acts is not only immoral, but un-American and peddles dangerous misinformation. Foreign student visa holders endorsing or supporting terrorist organizations do not deserve the privilege and opportunity provided to them," Miyares said.  

Tim Griffin, the Republican and attorney general of Arkansas, wrote on behalf of 20 state attorneys general to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, stating antisemitism has been on the rise since Oct. 7. 

The letter cites the Immigration and Nationality Act, which states “[a]ny alien who … endorses or espouses terrorist activity or persuades others to endorse or espouse terrorist activity or support a terrorist organization” is “ineligible to receive [a visa] and ineligible to be admitted to the United States.”

International students who have already been studying in the United States are liable to deportation, the act reads. 

The Office of International Education wrote in a newsletter that it will bring in Crystal Malik, immigration attorney at McCandlish Holton and UR School of Law graduate, to speak on what rights and responsibilities student visa holders have on Nov. 16 at the International Commons. 

Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin issued Executive Directive Six Oct. 31, which lists a set of plans for educational institutions, including UR, to coordinate with law enforcement to combat threats of violence against religious organizations following the Israel-Hamas War. 

“The Secretary of Public Safety & Homeland Security shall designate a chief coordinating officer to oversee a ‘situation room’ focussed on enhancing our comprehensive efforts to protect houses of worship and religious-affiliated institutions in the Commonwealth of Virginia,” one of Youngkin’s measures read. 

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The Biden Administration told NBC News on Oct. 31 that the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security will partner with campus law enforcement to track hate-related threats.  

Since the Israel-Hamas war started on Oct. 7, UR’s Jewish Life and Muslim Life chaplaincies have hosted numerous events, including vigils and prayers, for Palestinian and Israelis lives lost. Spiders Against Apartheid held a demonstration Oct. 25 during which pro-Israeli students attended and called demonstrators Nazis in a video obtained by The Collegian. Last week’s reports by The Collegian show that students of all backgrounds have expressed concerns of safety and wellbeing on campus. 

UR’s SJP posted on its Instagram Nov. 8 to wear “black and other symbols of support” for the 10,000 Palestinian lives lost since the Israel Defense Forces set off airstrikes on Gaza, as reported by AP News

A member from UR’s SJP declined to comment on the letter. 

Approximately 1,400 Israelis have died since the start of the Israel-Hamas war. UR’s Alpha Kappa Psi chapter condemned Hamas’ actions in October and said it “stands in support of Israel” in an Instagram story. UR’s Kappa Kappa Gamma chapter wrote that it “stands in solidarity with Israel as they fight for peace” early October in an Instagram story. UR’s Delta Gamma Fraternity chapter wrote it condemned Hamas’ attacks on Israel, that it stands in solidarity with Jewish sisters and “grieves for our Palestinian sisters and all civilians suffering in the Gaza Strip” early October in an Instagram story. 

Contact executive editor Ananya Chetia at ananya.chetia@richmond.edu.

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