Trump reverses ICE ban on foreign students taking classes only online


James Martin/CNET
For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO website.

A week after US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said international students whose universities remain online-only are required to transfer schools or leave the US, the Trump administration has backtracked on the ICE rule. The decision came Tuesday, on the back of multiple lawsuits as well as a public outcry by colleges, states and tech giants across the United States.

The decision to rescind the rule was announced at the start of a hearing over a federal lawsuit filed by Harvard and MIT in Boston. Federal immigration authorities said they’d agreed to “return to the status quo” prior to ICE’s July 6 guidelines. The decision provided relief to many foreign students whose colleges plan to use online-only learning in the fall amid the coronavirus pandemic, which would’ve left the students at risk of deportation.

ICE, which oversees the US Student Exchange and Visitor Program and issues foreign students academic and vocational visas, had last week said its new rule was that the “US Department of State will not issue visas to students enrolled in schools and/or programs that are fully online for the fall semester.”

Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology filed a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security and ICE last Wednesday to try to stop the change.

“ICE’s action leaves hundreds of thousands of international students with no educational options within the United States,” the suit said. “Just weeks from the start of the fall semester, these students are largely unable to transfer to universities providing on-campus instruction, notwithstanding ICE’s suggestion that they might do so to avoid removal from the country.”

The US Chamber of Commerce and tech companies including Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter announced their support of Harvard and MIT in their lawsuit against the US government in an amicus brief filed on Monday this week. The 19 tech associations and companies backing the brief argued that ICE’s restrictions on foreign students would be harmful to the economy. 

“These students contribute substantially to the US economy when they are resident in the United States,” the companies wrote. “Without international students, American educational institutions face a sudden loss of critical mass — jeopardizing their ability to maintain their standards of excellence; produce research that helps keep US businesses on the cutting edge of innovation; and provide the training that makes American students a strong talent pool for their future employers.” 

On Monday, 17 states and the District of Columbia also filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration with the aim of blocking ICE’s rule to revoke foreign students’ visas if they take a full online workload in the fall. The lawsuit alleges a violation of the Administrative Procedure Act.

“The Trump administration didn’t even attempt to explain the basis for this senseless rule, which forces schools to choose between keeping their international students enrolled and protecting the health and safety of their campuses,” Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, who was spearheading a lawsuit, said in a statement. Healey described the rule as a “cruel, abrupt, and unlawful action to expel international students amidst the pandemic.” 

Under ICE’s July 6 guidelines that’ve now been rescinded, international students who were already in the US and were planning to take online classes in the fall would’ve been forced to transfer to a university offering in-person instruction, or risk deportation. If students chose to leave the US, ICE said they could continue online learning from their home country. 

The agency’s preexisting regulations ban a full course load of online classes, but ICE allowed international students to finish their spring semester remotely because of the pandemic. Under the updated guidelines, students planning on attending schools that use the “hybrid model,” part online and part in-person instruction, would be allowed to stay in the US for the fall semester if their university files with the agency beforehand.

ICE’s new guidelines came at a time when many schools are grappling with how to reopen after switching to remote learning in the spring. Harvard University said it’ll allow 40% of undergraduates on campus but continue online classes. California State University, the nation’s largest four-year public university system, said in May that classes across its 23 campuses will primarily be virtual for the fall semester. 

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.

Source Article