Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion re­scinds rule

Schol­ars would have been asked to leave U.S. if classes were on­line only

Sentinel & Enterprise - - OBITUARIES/NATION - By Collin Bink­ley AP Ed­u­ca­tion Writer

Fac­ing eight fed­eral law­suits and opposition from hun­dreds of uni­ver­si­ties, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion on Tues­day re­scinded a rule that would have re­quired in­ter­na­tional stu­dents to trans­fer or leave the coun­try if their schools held classes en­tirely on­line be­cause of the coron­avirus pan­demic.

The de­ci­sion was an­nounced at the start of a hear­ing in a fed­eral law­suit in Boston brought by Har­vard Univer­sity and the Mas­sachusetts In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy. U.S. Dis­trict Judge Al­li­son Bur­roughs said fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion authoritie­s agreed to pull the July 6 di­rec­tive and “re­turn to the sta­tus quo.”

A lawyer rep­re­sent­ing the De­part­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity and U.S. Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment said only that the judge’s char­ac­ter­i­za­tion was cor­rect. The an­nounce­ment brings re­lief to thou­sands of for­eign stu­dents who had been at risk of be­ing de­ported from the coun­try, along with hun­dreds of uni­ver­si­ties that were scram­bling to re­assess their plans for the fall in light of the pol­icy. With the pol­icy re­scinded, ICE will re­vert to a di­rec­tive from March that sus­pended typ­i­cal lim­its around on­line ed­u­ca­tion for for­eign stu­dents.

Un­der the pol­icy, in­ter­na­tional stu­dents in the U.S. would have been for­bid­den from tak­ing all their cour­ses on­line this fall. New visas would not have been is­sued to stu­dents at schools plan­ning to pro­vide all classes on­line, which in­cludes Har­vard. Stu­dents al­ready in the U.S. would have faced de­por­ta­tion if they didn’t trans­fer schools or leave the coun­try vol­un­tar­ily.

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 be­lieved the rule was 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.

The pol­icy drew sharp back­lash from higher ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions, with more than 200 sign­ing court briefs sup­port­ing the chal­lenge by Har­vard and MIT. Col­leges said the pol­icy would put stu­dents’ safety at risk and hurt schools fi­nan­cially.

Many schools rely on tu­ition from in­ter­na­tional stu­dents, and some stood to lose mil­lions of dol­lars in rev­enue if the rule had taken hold.

Har­vard and MIT were the first to con­test the pol­icy, but at least seven other fed­eral suits had been filed by uni­ver­si­ties and states op­pos­ing the rule.

The un­ex­pected de­ci­sion was wel­come news to stu­dents across the coun­try who had been on edge. “I feel re­lief,” said An­drea Calderon, a 29-year-old bi­ol­ogy grad­u­ate stu­dent from Ecuador. “It would have been a very big prob­lem if I had to leave the coun­try right now.”

The City Col­lege of New York stu­dent said re­turn­ing home would have made it much harder to fin­ish her the­sis and pur­sue a Ph.D. In­ter­net ac­cess at home in Ecuador is spotty, and go­ing through the process to come back to the U.S. in the fu­ture would be too ex­pen­sive, she said.

The Amer­i­can Coun­cil on Ed­u­ca­tion, which rep­re­sents univer­sity pres­i­dents, praised ICE’s pull­back of the rule. The group said the pol­icy was mis­guided from the start and drew un­prece­dented opposition from col­leges. “There has never been a case where so many in­sti­tu­tions sued the fed­eral gov­ern­ment,” said Terry Har­tle, the group’s se­nior vice pres­i­dent. “In this case, the gov­ern­ment didn’t even try to de­fend its pol­i­cy­mak­ing.”

Some op­po­nents, how­ever, were hes­i­tant to call it a closed case. Mas­sachusetts’ Demo­cratic at­tor­ney gen­eral, who is lead­ing a sep­a­rate law­suit against the pol­icy, warned that the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion may at­tempt again to im­pose lim­its on in­ter­na­tional stu­dents.

“This is why we sue. The rule was il­le­gal and the Trump Ad­min­is­tra­tion knew they didn’t have a chance,” Maura Healey said on Twit­ter. “They may try this again. We will be ready.”

Har­vard and MIT ar­gued that im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cials vi­o­lated pro­ce­dural rules by is­su­ing the guid­ance without jus­ti­fi­ca­tion and without al­low­ing the pub­lic to re­spond. They also ar­gued that the pol­icy con­tra­dicted ICE’s March 13 di­rec­tive telling schools that ex­ist­ing lim­its on on­line ed­u­ca­tion would be sus­pended “for the du­ra­tion of the emer­gency.” The suit noted that Trump’s na­tional emer­gency dec­la­ra­tion has not been re­scinded and that virus cases are spik­ing in some re­gions. Im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cials, how­ever, ar­gued that they told col­leges all along that any guid­ance prompted by the pan­demic was sub­ject to change. They said the rule was con­sis­tent with ex­ist­ing law bar­ring in­ter­na­tional stu­dents from tak­ing classes en­tirely on­line.

STU­ART CAHILL / BOSTON HER­ALD

The Moak­ley fed­eral court­house on Tues­day.

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