US universities sue federal government over international student ban

Harvard, MIT, coalition of universities file lawsuits against Trump administration's restrictions on international students

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University of Southern California

University of Southern California (AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Universities across the U.S. are suing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in federal court to challenge the agency's new rule barring international students from staying in the country if their fall semester classes are taught solely online.

Following a lawsuit by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, universities from coast to coast on Monday (July 13) filed a court brief in support, per the AP. Attorneys are seeking an injunction to prevent the rule from being enforced.

Under ICE’s latest directive, students holding nonimmigrant F-1 or M-1 visas must depart the U.S. if all of their classes are online or if they are enrolled in fully online schools. To avoid deportation, international students are only given two choices: transfer to schools that offer them in-person instruction or leave the country, potentially ruining their academic career.

The rule has been widely criticized, as many universities believe it's forcing them to choose between sending away international students and risking their safety by reopening campuses. Additionally, schools claim that ICE is breaking its promise to be flexible with international students and educational institutions during the pandemic, according to AP.

Many have also criticized ICE over what they see as a brutal and arbitrary decision that damages the country's reputation. In addition, ICE announced it without giving sufficient justification or allowing input from universities, the AP cited the Harvard-MIT suit as saying.

The University of Southern California (USC) and 19 other schools on Monday jointly filed a separate lawsuit against the federal government over the decision. USC President Carol Folt said in an email that “we are preparing the next generation of leaders to enter an increasingly diverse society at a time when inclusion and understanding have never been more important. Our international students are core to our mission.”

International students are believed to be enormous assets to American universities — they not only bring diversity and contribute to the country but are also a significant source of income, as they usually pay the highest tuition rates.