ICE agrees to rescind policy prohibiting international students from studying online in US : Coronavirus Updates : NPR
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Updated at 6:34 p.m. ET
In a quick turnaround, the Trump administration agreed to reverse a directive that would have barred international students from the United States if their colleges offered classes entirely online during the fall semester.
US Immigration and Customs Enforcement rule change, released last week, reportedly banned foreign students from entering or staying in the country to take course loads entirely online. A Number colleges and universities had already announced plans to offer online-only courses due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The agency’s July 6 announcement was met with immediate backlash.
Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology for follow-up the US government in federal court two days later, call the “arbitrary and capricious” directive and seeking to have it overturned and declared illegal.
Many colleges, universities, municipalities and technology companies expressed their support for legal challenge in their own court cases.
In Tuesday’s session in U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, universities were expected to make arguments that the rule was onerous for schools and even dangerous for students.
Instead, Judge Allison Burroughs announced that the schools had reached an agreement with ICE and its parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security. She said the government would reverse this policy.
“The Court has been advised by the parties that they have reached a resolution on the combined motions for a temporary restraining order/preliminary injunction,” reads the court filing. “The government has agreed to rescind the July 6, 2020 Policy Directive and July 7, 2020 FAQ, and has also agreed to rescind their implementation.”
With new directive rescinded ‘nationwide’, schools will follow ICE tips from March which allows flexibility regarding student visa eligibility.
ICE did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday afternoon.
The Department of Homeland Security had previously maintained its decision in a legal response on Monday, saying the leniency request “reverses the deference given to administrative agencies in complex and interrelated areas like immigration enforcement.”
According to the association Institute of International Educationmore than one million higher education students in the United States – about 5% of the total student body – come from abroad.
Last week’s rule change left many scrambling to figure out their plans.
In order to maintain legal status, students already in the country would have had to be moved to a school with in-person instruction, which presented both logistical and public health challenges.
Sumana Kaluvai, an Indian international student who graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles last year, created a Google Doc that becamewebsite to help international students find in-person classes.
She welcomed the news on Tuesday.
“It relieves me so much, and I think it’s just proof that universities have a lot more power than we realize, and I’m glad they acted so quickly,” Kaluvai said.
Many colleges and universities had already begun taking steps to retain their international students.
Some have announced or reiterated their fall semester plans for a hybrid model of in-person and distance education, under which students could stay in the United States
Others have also begun to arrange for individualized in-person instruction if health conditions require them to convert to online-only operations.
In one example, Yale Law School Dean Heather Gerken wrote in a July 8 post statement that she had spoken to most of the faculty members and that each had volunteered to provide one-on-one tutoring to international students to help them avoid expulsion.
“A colleague of mine told me he would teach outside in the snow if he needed to,” she added.
Pablo Ortiz, vice president of Florida International University, oversees international students and the school’s global campuses and welcomed the reversal, but said administrators will continue to plan for multiple scenarios so it’s no longer caught off guard.
They were in the process of reworking around 3,500 student lesson schedules to comply when news of the reversal became public.
“We were happy to hear that, but we’re cautiously optimistic that it will stay that way, and we’ll be ready for whatever decisions are made,” Ortiz said.
International students often pay full tuition, meaning many schools linked to the now-resolved lawsuit would have suffered heavy financial losses.
It would be the same for the economy itself: a analysis showed that international students studying at US colleges and universities contributed $41 billion in the 2018-2019 academic year and supported more than 458,200 jobs.
Still, Tuesday’s announcement was not universally applauded.
Dan Stein, president of the American Federation for Immigration Reform, which advocates lower levels of immigration, issued a statement denouncing the move as “bowing to pressure from the business lobby and open border advocates”.
NPR’s Elissa Nadworny and Jeffrey Pierre contributed to this report.