For Immediate Release

Washington, October 21, 2020 – Today, Acting Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Ken Cuccinelli indicated in a press conference that an unnamed number of Designated School Officials (DSOs) are engaged in ‘willful ignorance or a level of negligence’ in placing international students in Optional Practical Training (OPT) programs in the U.S.  The following is a statement by NAFSA Executive Director and CEO, Dr. Esther D. Brimmer:

“Mr. Cuccinelli’s remarks today constitute an unsubstantiated and reckless attack on key members of the higher education community who work diligently to support the roughly one million international students who are currently enhancing U.S. campuses, communities, and workplaces. While the scope and all other pertinent details of this investigation are unclear, NAFSA and our members stand for the fullest adherence to immigration regulations. It is not the responsibility of DSOs to investigate international students’ OPT employers. Threats to terminate certain DSOs for violating a duty that is not theirs is unnecessarily punitive. The fact is, DSOs work hard every day to comply with the law and advise their international students while responding to an ever-changing environment.

“Despite the vagueness of this latest announcement, what is clear is that this administration feels justified in making international students, and now the school officials that support them, scapegoats for the nation’s economic woes, at a time when it can ill-afford to do so. Amid a global health pandemic and economic recession is certainly not the time to thrust further instability into the field of international education, particularly when international students contributed nearly $41 billion to the U.S. economy last academic year and are a proven source of job-creation. Actions like this will further deter current and future international students from choosing to study in the U.S and send them into the arms of our competitor countries, including the U.K., Canada and Australia, who will continue to reap the rewards of their ingenuity, work ethic, and diverse perspectives.”


About NAFSA: Serving more than 10,000 members and international educators worldwide, NAFSA: Association of International Educators is the largest nonprofit association dedicated to international education and exchange. Visit us at To learn more about our advocacy efforts on behalf of international education, visit Resources to guide our members on these issues can be found at