Harvard and MIT sue US over student visa order
Two leading US universities asked a court to block an order by President Donald Trump’s administration threatening the visas of foreign students whose courses moved online during the pandemic.
Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology lodged the lawsuit after the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency said on Monday that the affected students must leave the country or switch to a school with in-person tuition.
“We will pursue this case vigorously so that our international students, and international students at institutions across the country, can continue their studies without the threat of deportation,” Harvard president Lawrence Bacow said.
The immigration agency said the US State Department would not issue visas to students enrolled in programmes that are fully online for the autumn semester. It said that such students would not be allowed to enter the country.
Universities with a mixture of in-person and online classes will have to show that foreign students are taking an equal number of both to maintain their status.
Mr Trump is pushing universities and schools to fully open when the academic year starts in September, despite the US registering record numbers of Covid-19 infections.
He threatened to withhold federal money if schools did not reopen in autumn and lashed out at federal health officials over school reopening guidelines that he said were impractical and expensive.
The threat to revoke student visas was considered to be a move by the White House to exert pressure on universities that are adopting a cautious approach to reopening during the pandemic.
“The order came down without notice, its cruelty surpassed only by its recklessness,” Mr Bacow said.
He said it was made “without regard to concerns for the health and safety of students, instructors and others”.
There were more than one million international students in the US for the 2018-2019 academic year.