Harvard and MIT sue Trump administration’s step foreign students

Harvard and MIT sue Trump administration's step foreign students
Harvard and MIT sued Trump administration. Source: CNN
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Daily US Times: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University on Wednesday sued the Trump administration over its guidance not allowing foreign students to take online-only courses in the US this fall semester.

Earlier this week, Harvard announced that all course instruction will be delivered online, including for students living on campus. The university said in a statement that the guidance stands to affect approximately 5,000 international students.

Harvard University President Larry Bacow said: “The order came down without notice—its cruelty surpassed only by its recklessness. It appears that it was designed purposefully to place pressure on colleges and universities to open their on-campus classrooms for in-person instruction this fall, without regard to concerns for the health and safety of students, instructors, and others.”

Visa requirements for students have always been strict and coming to the United States to take online-only courses has been prohibited. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) maintained that prohibition in its guidance, while providing some flexibility for hybrid models, meaning a mix of online and in-person classes.

Students currently enrolled in the US consider other measures, like transferring to schools with in-person instruction, the agency suggested that.

In an FAQ published by the ICE, the Department of Homeland Security reasoned that “all students scheduled to study at a U.S. institution in the fall will be able to do so, though some will be required to study from abroad if their presence is not required for any in-person classes in the United States.”

The lawsuit is filed in the US District Court for the District of Massachusetts. Harvard and MIT to block the directive, arguing it violates the Administrative Procedures Act. The universities argue that ICE’s decision not to provide an exemption for online-only courses puts them in an “untenable situation” of either proceeding with their plans to operate fully or largely online or attempt to provide in-person learning.

“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 lawsuit pointed the challenges posed to the students.

“Moreover, for many students, returning to their home countries to participate in online instruction is impossible, impracticable, prohibitively expensive, and/or dangerous,” it continues.

There are more than 1 million international students in the US and they are a significant source of revenue for universities as many of them pay full tuition.

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program, which is run by ICE, had previously permitted foreign students to continue with their spring and summer 2020 courses online while remaining in the country.