GEO and International Student Rights

Frequently Asked Questions
about International Students and the GEO

Here are some frequently asked questions that pertain to international
students. You can find more answers to questions like these on our FAQ
. If you still have questions about the GEO or rights, contact
the geo at or call us
at 344-8283. We’d be happy to talk with you about any concerns or questions
you may have.

Q. Do I have the same Constitutional protections as
domestic students?

A. YES, international students
have protection under the Constitution. This right has been repeatedly
upheld in the U.S. Supreme Court:

  • In Yick Wo v. Hopkins, 118 U.S. 356 (1986), the Supreme
    Court held that the constitution, and in particular the 14th amendment,
    applied to all inhabitants of the U.S. who are "either permanently
    or temporarily residing in the territory of the United States."

    • 14th Amendment, Section 1: All persons born or naturalized in
      the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are
      citizens of the United States
      and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce
      any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens
      of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of
      life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny
      to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the
  • In Bridges v. California, 314 U.S. 252 (1941), the
    Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment’s guarantees of free
    and association apply to internationals.

    • 1st Amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting
      an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise
      thereof; or abridging the
      freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people
      peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for
      a redress of grievances.


Q. I’m an international student. If I join the Union,
will the University retaliate against me? Will I be in danger of losing
my assistantship or deportation?

A. No. Every international graduate student, regardless
of national origin or type of visa, has the right to join a union. Your
right to belong to a union is protected by the right to freedom of association
guaranteed in the United States Constitution. The United Nations Universal
Declaration of Human Rights Article 20 also says that "Everyone has
the right to form and join trade unions for the protection of his (or
her) interests." The University’s own Statement
on Individual Rights from the Code of Policies and Regulations Applying
to All Students states that students "have at least the rights
and responsibilities common to all citizens." This statement is
not exclusionary of international students–it applies to all of us.
The University’s
non-discrimination statement also says that they cannot discriminate
against someone because of their "national origin."

That discrimination exists against international students,
however, is clear. This is even more of a reason that international students
should join the GEO and help fight for union recognition. Only with an
union, independent of the University administration, can you be assured
that if you are subject to discrimination by the administration that there
is a group that will stand behind you and will help to defend you.

In fact, international graduate assistants have many reasons
to join the Union and fight for representation:

  • The union can provide a voice and advocacy for international
    graduate students who don’t always know the U.S. university system.
  • A union can help ensure that departmental hiring practices are
    clear, open, and fair
    so that international graduate students don’t
    miss out on work opportunities.
  • Since U.S. law prohibits international students from being paid for
    more than 20 hours per week, the need for a minimum stipend that
    guarantees a decent living standard
    is even more critical for them.
  • Better and more affordable benefits, a fair and enforceable grievance
    procedure, higher wages, a voice in our working conditions, and respect
    as employees
    are things all assistants and their families deserve.


Links to other web pages about GEO’s involvement in issues
important to international students:

4/2003: Spouses of International Students Allowed to Obtain Driver’s
Licenses, Briefly

9/2002: GEO Reacts To New Policy On International Grad Employee Pay

2/2001: International
Grads Working for Justice

9/2000-12/2001: International
Graduate Assistants Docked Pay!

3/1999: University
to End In-State Tuition Benefit for Spouses of Graduate Employees

11/1998: Orchard
Downs Residents Call for Renovations to Ailing Grad Housing Units

2/1997: Fair
and Just: International Grads Support Unionization

11/1997: Orchard
Downs: Keep It Affordable for Graduate Families