Trump administration rescinds rule on foreign students
The Trump administration has rescinded a rule that would have required international students to transfer schools or leave the country if their colleges hold classes entirely online this fall because of the coronavirus pandemic.
US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced the decision as a court hearing was getting under way on a challenge to the rule by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Under the policy, international students in the US would be forbidden from taking all of their courses online this fall. New visas would not be issued to students at schools planning to provide all classes online, which includes Harvard. Students already in the US would face deportation if they didn’t transfer schools or leave the country voluntarily.
The rule creates a dilemma for thousands of foreign students who stayed in the US after their colleges shifted to remote learning last spring.
As part of the policy, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement had told colleges to notify the agency no later than today if they plan to hold all classes online this fall. Other colleges would have until August 1 to share their fall plans with ICE.
The case was to be heard by US District Judge Allison Burroughs, who was nominated to the court in 2014 by former President Barack Obama.
The policy had drawn sharp backlash from higher-education institutions, with more than 200 signing court briefs supporting the challenge by Harvard and MIT. Colleges say the policy puts students’ safety at risk and hurts schools financially. At least seven other suits have been filed by schools and states opposing the policy.
Immigration officials issued the policy last week, reversing earlier guidance from March 13 telling colleges that limits around online education would be suspended during the pandemic. University leaders believe the rule is part of President Donald Trump’s effort to pressure the nation’s schools and colleges to reopen this fall even as new virus cases rise.
Harvard and MIT argue that immigration officials violated procedural rules by issuing the guidance without justification and without allowing the public to respond. They also argue that the policy contradicts ICE’s March 13 directive telling schools that existing limits on online education would be suspended “for the duration of the emergency”.