Harvard, MIT File Lawsuit to Stop New International Student Policy

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Harvard files lawsuit against ICE
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Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration on Wednesday in an effort to block a federal directive that requires international students to choose between taking in-person classes or leaving the U.S.

The new rule, which was announced by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on Monday, states that international students who attend U.S. colleges and universities operating entirely online are not permitted to take an online-only course load without facing “immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings,” according to a press release.

“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,” ICE stated in the release.

International students who are already in the U.S. and enrolled in online-only programs can transfer to an American institution offering in-person instruction or attend classes virtually if they leave the country.

Harvard announced on Monday that it will not be reopening its campus for the fall 2020 semester. The university’s president, Lawrence S. Bacow, told CNN that the government directive’s “cruelty [is] surpassed only by its recklessness.”

The visa rule “undermines the thoughtful approach taken on behalf of students by so many institutions, including Harvard, to plan for continuing academic programs while balancing the health and safety challenges of the global pandemic,” Bacow said in a public statement.

Visa requirements for students have always been strict and coming to the U.S. to take online-only courses has been prohibited, CNN reports.

The number of students choosing to attend school in the U.S. has waned in recent years, which some critics blame in part on the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant sentiment. The coronavirus pandemic was already expected to exacerbate this decline; now, experts say that the federal directive will further diminish international enrollment and the sizable amount of revenue that colleges and universities receive from international students.