F-1 International Students and Advocacy

I consulted with a trusted immigration attorney.  This is her advice regarding advocacy actions.
 
F-1 international students have to remember that U.S. immigration law involves a lot of government official discretion, and the current government often exercises its discretion against foreign nationals.  What they need to be careful about is:
 
1.  F-1 students have a legal right to sign petitions and engage in other political activity, except that it is very important that they not make financial contributions to political organizations.  Legally, it should not have any effect on their immigration status now or in the future.  
 
2. Giving interviews to media requests. If you are contacted by a reporter and want to give an interview, it should not pose a problem down the line, with two cautions:  1) you  should be in valid status now, and not talk about having any past immigration status violations, if you had any; and 2) you should not reveal names or other identifying info about other international students unless they’ve consented.  
 
3. Anything having to do with elections, including political campaigns about elections.  It is a violation of federal law for a non-immigrant to be involved in any way with a political campaign concerning an election.  The parameters of this are not completely defined, but I would recommend, for example, that they not even sign any petition for anything having to do with U.S. elections, and don’t carry any sign about any political candidate.  But participating in a peaceful protest, carrying a sign against police brutality or against racism or for justice, etc., is lawful and they have the right to do that.
 
4.  Any law enforcement contact.  Even an arrest.   First of all, an arrest can lead to prosecution and conviction. And while an arrest without conviction likely would not get the F-1 status revoked,  it would be an issue for the rest of their future immigration applications.  For example, it is something a consulate could consider in its discretion in deciding whether or not to renew their F-1 visa or give them any other type of visa in the future, like even a visitor visa.  An arrest will be something that they will always have to disclose and explain throughout their U.S. immigration history, so it is highly advisable to not get arrested or even briefly detained by law enforcement. 
 
 
 
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