White House re­scinds for­eign stu­dent rule

Schol­ars can take on­line classes and re­main in US

USA TODAY US Edition - - NEWS - Deirdre Sh­es­green

WASH­ING­TON – Pres­i­dent Donald Trump’s ad­min­is­tra­tion agreed Tues­day to re­scind its con­tro­ver­sial rule bar­ring in­ter­na­tional stu­dents from liv­ing in the USA while tak­ing fall classes on­line, a sharp re­ver­sal af­ter the White House faced a slew of law­suits chal­leng­ing the pol­icy.

A Mas­sachusetts judge an­nounced the de­ci­sion dur­ing a fed­eral court hear­ing in a case filed last week by Har­vard Univer­sity and Mas­sachusetts In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy.

Judge Al­li­son Bur­roughs said the uni­ver­si­ties’ re­quest for the court to block the rule was moot be­cause the govern­ment agreed to re­scind the pol­icy.

On Mon­day, 18 state at­tor­neys gen­eral sued the Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity over the rule, which would have forced for­eign stu­dents to leave or face de­por­ta­tion if they were en­rolled in only on­line classes this fall, when ex­perts fear ex­panded out­breaks of COVID-19 cases.

The court said the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion agreed to re­vert to a pre­vi­ous rule, im­ple­mented in March, when the coro­n­avirus pan­demic caused shut­downs across the coun­try. Un­der that pol­icy, in­ter­na­tional stu­dents were al­lowed to at­tend all classes on­line dur­ing the pan­demic.

Some uni­ver­si­ties plan to of­fer classes en­tirely on­line this fall be­cause of con­cerns that col­lege cam­puses could cre­ate coro­n­avirus hot spots and add to the coun­try’s caseload. The new rule, is­sued July 6 by Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms Enforcemen­t, would have been dev­as­tat­ing for stu­dents and uni­ver­si­ties alike.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is­sued the tougher im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy as it seeks to push uni­ver­si­ties and K-12 schools to re­open in the fall de­spite soar­ing COVID-19 in­fec­tions across the coun­try.

Last week’s shift en­raged many ed­u­ca­tors and law­mak­ers, who said the pol­icy threat­ened to upend care­ful plan­ning by uni­ver­si­ties and the ap­prox­i­mately 1 mil­lion for­eign stu­dents who at­tend Amer­i­can col­leges each year.

Led by Mas­sachusetts At­tor­ney Gen­eral Maura Healey, Mon­day’s law­suit sought an in­junc­tion to stop the rule from tak­ing ef­fect while the mat­ter was lit­i­gated.

Healey filed the law­suit in U.S. District Court in Mas­sachusetts, along with at­tor­neys gen­eral from Colorado, Michi­gan

and Wis­con­sin. Har­vard and MIT filed a sim­i­lar chal­lenge last week, which was sup­ported by sev­eral other uni­ver­si­ties.

Ma­jor U.S. tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies and other busi­nesses, in­clud­ing the U.S. Cham­ber of Com­merce, Google and Face­book, joined the le­gal fray Mon­day, ar­gu­ing in court pa­pers that the rule would have “se­ri­ous ad­verse eco­nomic con­se­quences.”

“Amer­ica’s fu­ture com­pet­i­tive­ness de­pends on at­tract­ing and re­tain­ing tal­ented in­ter­na­tional stu­dents,” the com­pa­nies ar­gued.

The rule could have dealt a ma­jor eco­nomic blow to col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties, as well as the com­mu­ni­ties sur­round­ing them, be­cause of the loss of tu­ition and other rev­enue from in­ter­na­tional stu­dents, who typ­i­cally pay full price.

The num­ber of in­ter­na­tional stu­dents study­ing in the USA reached 1.1 mil­lion in the 2018-19 aca­demic year, ac­cord­ing to the In­sti­tute of In­ter­na­tional Ed­u­ca­tion, and they make up 5.5% of the to­tal U.S. higher ed­u­ca­tion pop­u­la­tion.

In­ter­na­tional stu­dents con­trib­uted nearly $45 bil­lion to the U.S. econ­omy in 2018, ac­cord­ing to data from the U.S. Depart­ment of Com­merce.

The rule could have dealt a ma­jor eco­nomic blow to col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties.

GREGG PACHKOWSKI/USA TODAY NET­WORK

Zo­raida Bar­rios Lopez, a Venezue­lan in­ter­na­tional stu­dent at the Univer­sity of West Florida who came to the U.S. from Spain, is seen at home in Florida.

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