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Colleges file lawsuit after U.S. rules to strip visas for students studying online

Posted: Wednesday, July 8, 2020. 1:46 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: The Trump administration is accused of trying to create chaos for universities and their international students by the order of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) to rescind exemptions for international students, according to NBC News.

This would mean that those who are in-country on F-1 visas who are expected to study online would be made to leave, and those outside the country would be barred from entering or returning.

Students on F-1 and M-1 visas who face such a situation “must depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status,” ICE said in a news release.

Those who violate the rules “may face immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings,” the agency said.

Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are suing the Trump administration in U.S. District Court in Boston, seeking a temporary restraining order against the policy, which was announced Monday. The lawsuit also seeks an order vacating the policy and a declaration that it is unlawful.

“ICE’s action leaves hundreds of thousands of international students with no educational options within the United States,” the lawsuit said. “Just weeks from the start of the fall semester, these students are largely unable to transfer to universities providing on-campus instruction,” the lawsuit said, adding that for many such students, returning to their home countries for online instruction is “impossible, impracticable, prohibitively expensive, and/or dangerous.”

The Trump administration’s move was seen as a way to pressure colleges and universities to re-open their campuses with in-person classes during the pandemic, but the colleges say that housing students in the usual densely packed residential halls was not safe nor educationally advisable and would force schools to reopen without sufficiently addressing additional risks.

Ken Cuccinelli, the acting deputy DHS secretary, defended the policy during an interview with CNN Tuesday, stating that students in such circumstances “don’t have a basis to be here” but “can return when the school opens.”

On Monday, Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences announced plans to bring back up to 40 percent of its undergraduates back to campus, including all first-year students, for the fall semester. MIT said only seniors will be invited back to campus this fall semester.


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