State, WWU contest ICE international student visa rule
Washington state has sued the Trump administration to halt a new visa rule for international students, according to a state news release.
The rule threatens to take away international student’s visas if they do not take at least some in-person classes this fall, forcing many to return or remain in their home countries. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency announced the rule July 6, and gave universities until July 15 to comply.
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed the lawsuit Friday, June 10. The move followed similar legal action from other states and universities, including Western Washington University. Around 27,000 international students attend higher education institutions in the state and spend nearly $1 billion in the state each year, the release read.
“The Trump administration’s actions will unnecessarily punish international students in our state’s higher education institutions,” Gov. Jay Inslee said in the release.
“This is just another way the federal government is demonstrating animosity toward immigrants and that is not acceptable in Washington state. I thank Attorney General Ferguson for taking action and I fully support this lawsuit.”
Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology filed a lawsuit this week to block the decision, and California was the first state to seek an injunction against enforcing the new visa policy.
“Shame on the Trump Administration for risking not only the education opportunities for students who earned the chance to go to college, but now their health and well-being as well,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said Thursday.
Some international students told the Associated Press they may return home, or move to nearby Canada.
Many American universities have come to depend on the revenue from more than 1 million international students, who typically pay higher tuition. President Donald Trump has insisted they return to in-person instruction as soon as possible, alleging that schools
are being kept closed to harm the economy and make him look bad.
The guidance was released the same day Harvard announced it would keep all undergraduate classes online this fall. Harvard said the new Trump directive would prevent many of its 5,000 international students from remaining in the U.S.
Western Washington University filed an amicus brief in support of a Harvard and MIT lawsuit to block the directive, according to a Thursday, June 9, university news release. Brent Carbajal, provost and vice president for academic affairs, described the order as cruel and unfair for international students.
“This targeted order is both blatantly xenophobic and oblivious to the reality of the public health situation in this country,” Carbajal said in the release. “At a time of excruciating uncertainty, this policy adds yet another layer of anxiety for one specific group of students.”
Though the university is contesting the rule, it is also preparing for the possibility it may be upheld. Carbajal said the university is working to accommodate international students and communicate with them about their options.
The Evergreen State College issued a statement last week objecting to the rule.
“We believe this is a callous, disruptive, and xenophobic decision. We object to its implementation. In the midst of an increase in COVID-19 cases this rule is especially harmful and disheartening. It creates an unnecessary and unjust dilemma for international students, who may be forced to choose between what is in the best interest of their health or their education.
“The decision also undermines the values of inclusiveness and intercultural exchange that are so important to our learning community and the larger society, especially at a time when such exchanges have been diminished due to travel restrictions during the pandemic,” the Evergreen statement said.
The state release said the rule jeopardizes the health and safety of higher education communities and reduces tuition revenue for colleges and universities.
“The Trump Administration is undermining public safety decisions made at the local level and jeopardizing more than a billion dollars in tuition revenue and economic activity in order to pursue a political goal of keeping schools open in the fall,” Ferguson said in the release
Additionally, the release said the rule arbitrarily forces higher education institutions to rush decisions on holding in-person classes in the fall. The rule may also force the expulsion of international COVID-19 researchers.
Ferguson asserts the rule is unlawful because it violates the Administrative Procedures Act, a law he has cited in dozens of lawsuits against the
Trump Administration, according to the state news release. He argues the rule is “arbitrary and capricious” and there was no “notice-and-comment” period for the public, the release read.
“President Trump and ICE need to let colleges and universities make their own decisions about the health, safety, and education of their students, not arbitrarily and illegally punish schools that want to provide classes remotely,” Ferguson said in the release.