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Two top universities have filed suit against the Trump administration in an effort to stop an Immigration and Customs Enforcement rule calling for rescinding visas of foreign students who can’t attend in-person classes this fall.
ICE announced the new rule on Monday, noting that any foreign students who transfer to a college or university that planned to hold on-campus classes this fall could remain in the U.S.
The rule also states that foreign students who can attend at least a portion of their classes in person, while performing the remainder of their studies online, would be able to stay.
“The U.S. Department of State will not issue visas to students enrolled in schools and/or programs that are fully online for the fall semester nor will U.S. Customs and Border Protection permit these students to enter the United States,” an ICE news release read.
“Active students currently in the United States enrolled in such programs must depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status. If not, they may face immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings.”
But two institutions that have already decided not to hold in-person instruction this fall — Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) — filed suit Tuesday in federal court in Boston to block the rule, The Hill reports.
The universities, which are seeking a temporary restraining order and a permanent injunction, claim the ICE rule seeks to “force universities to reopen in-person classes,” increasing students’ risks to the coronavirus — despite the fact that COVID-19 has mild-to-no effect on the vast majority of young college-aged adults.
“The effect — and perhaps even the goal — is to create as much chaos for universities and international students as possible,” the suit states.
The Hill adds:
The lawsuit alleges several violations of a federal law known as the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), which concerns how much decisionmaking power resides with federal agencies. At issue is whether ICE’s new policy is legally justified or if it was “arbitrary and capricious,” and thus illegal under the act.
The suit also references a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling against President Donald Trump, who attempted to rescind by executive order the Obama-implemented DACA program, which was initiated the same manner by his predecessor.
A majority of justices ruled that Trump’s decision to rescind the program was “arbitrary and capricious” as he failed to provide adequate justification under the APA.
The ICE rule is the latest in a series of immigration-related actions by the Trump administration to mitigate the coronavirus pandemic.
The instruction applies to F-1 and M-1 visa holders, which are designated for vocational and academic students.
According to the State Department, 388,839 F and 9,518 M visas were issued to students during the previous fiscal year, which ran from Oct. 1 to Sep. 30, 2019.
The instruction notes further that M-1 vocational students and F-1 English-language training program enrollees must take all of their instruction in-person, and that none of it can be online.
The ICE instruction comes as President Trump and others in his administration push for all schools to reopen in the fall.
“In Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and many other countries, SCHOOLS ARE OPEN WITH NO PROBLEMS. The Dems think it would be bad for them politically if U.S. schools open before the November Election, but is important for the children & families. May cut off funding if not open!” Trump tweeted.
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