In a surprising move, today the Trump Administration pulled back on its previously issued student visa policy, which would have prevented foreign students from remaining in the U.S. to complete their studies if their schools switched to an entirely online/remote format in the autumn. The move was met with widespread criticism and outrage, and rightly so. On the one hand, it put a tremendous amount of unnecessary pressure on schools to re-open for in-person learning in the autumn, even if it is not safe to do so, in order to retain their foreign students (and their high tuitions), despite the surge of COVID-19 cases across the U.S. in recent weeks. On the other hand, it meted out heavy-handed punishment to students of these schools by forcing them to either transfer schools or depart the United States, not to mention putting these students at increased risk of infection as well. This reversal of course by the administration means that ICE will revert back to its guidance from March 2020, allowing for online-only instruction throughout the duration of the pandemic.
This move comes in wake of several lawsuits that were filed against the Trump Administration by schools and immigration advocacy groups, including Harvard and MIT. This administration has used the COVID-19 pandemic to further their ultimate goal of the piece by piece dismantling of the lawful immigration system. This decision is a welcome break from the madness.
Copied from Law360:
(July 14, 2020, 3:21 PM EDT) — The Trump administration has agreed to rescind a directive that would have barred foreign students from the United States if their colleges canceled in-person instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic, following lawsuits by a number of universities and states, a Massachusetts federal judge said in a Tuesday hearing.
During the hearing Tuesday in a case filed by Harvard University and MIT, U.S. District Judge Allison D. Burroughs in Boston recounted her understanding of an agreement between the federal government and those schools.
The hearing was slated for a 90-minute spar between the two sides over a motion for a preliminary injunction. Instead, it ended in less than two minutes, after the parties acknowledged a truce had been reached.
The settlement means U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will revert back to guidance issued in March that allowed international students to remain in the U.S. even if their college or university opted for online-only instruction during the pandemic.
The abrupt course reversal by the federal government moots not only the suit brought by Harvard and MIT but also similar suits filed by the state of New York, a group of universities in the Western U.S., Johns Hopkins University and a coalition of 17 states led by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey.
Harvard and MIT are represented by Ari Holtzblatt, Paul R.Q. Wolfson, Seth P. Waxman, Felicia H. Ellsworth, Mark C. Fleming and William F. Lee of WilmerHale.
The government is represented by Rayford A. Farquhar of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts.
The case is President and Fellows of Harvard College et al. v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security et al., case number 1:20-cv-11283, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.
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