International students from the University of Idaho caused a social media stir Wednesday in Lewiston when they were misidentified as migrants from the southern border.
The group of students arrived Wednesday afternoon at the Social Security Administration building in Lewiston to receive their tax ID numbers so they could get on-campus jobs, said Dean Kahler, UI’s vice provost of enrollment management.
Kahler said it happens every semester and they either bus students to the office in Lewiston or someone from the office will come to Moscow. He said that when students came last year, he heard someone ask a question about it. When he told them what was actually going on, he didn’t hear anything else about it.
On Wednesday, there were two buses that brought international students to the Lewiston office because 118 students applied for jobs. Immigration laws allow for international students to work at on-campus jobs in a variety of positions, as long as the students apply for a tax ID number.
“And that’s all it is,” Kahler said.
One of the students, Upal Kundu, from Bangladesh, is attending the university to earn his degree in computer science and cyber security. He wanted to come to the university because he can study both and earn a double major. He got a job on campus and the university offered free transportation to the Lewiston office.
Kundu arrived for his freshman year Aug. 11 and has been enjoying the area and the smaller size.
“My experience has been good so far,” he said. “The education and teachers are great.”
There were some social media posts Wednesday afternoon wondering who the students were, with some people speculating they were migrants brought to Lewiston. Idaho state Rep. Mike Kingsley posted a photo of the students on his Facebook page and offered an update when he learned they were UI students.
“I understand everyone being on edge over illegal immigrants,” Kingsley wrote in the post. “This is not the case.”
Kahler said he saw a social media post that referenced “illegals” in the area. He said that the students have gone through the immigration process and are earning their degrees at the UI.
“We’re excited about having international students on campus and we work hard to bring them here and support them,” Kahler said.