Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday against the U.S. government over a policy change that would require international students to be on campus in person for classes this fall or lose their immigration status.
US Universities Brace for Big Decline in International Students Latest policy from immigration agency says students must be on campus or lose visa status
The lawsuit seeks a temporary restraining order and preliminary and permanent injunctive relief to prevent the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from changing the visa status of international students who study in an online-only format for the fall semester.
What Is Known about ICE's Rule Change for Foreign Students US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced this week that international students enrolled in US colleges and universities that switch to online-only courses will have to leave the country or risk deportation
"ICE's action leaves hundreds of thousands of international students with no educational options within the United States," the suit reads. "Moreover, for many students, returning to their home countries to participate in online instruction is impossible, impracticable, prohibitively expensive, and/or dangerous."
Earlier this week, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) announced that "due to the COVID-19 pandemic," international students enrolled in U.S. universities on an F-1 visa may not take all courses online. To maintain their visa status, students must transfer to a university offering in-person classes, or leave the country .
New Rules: Foreign Pupils Must Leave US If Classes Go Online Colleges received the guidance the same day that some institutions, including Harvard University, announced that all instruction will be offered remotely
Although there is flexibility for students who attend universities offering a hybrid model -- part online, part in person -- for the upcoming semester, many universities, including Harvard, have made the decision to offer many classes remotely for fall.
40% of Harvard Students to Return to Campus for Remote Classes Incoming freshmen and students who most need internet and other campus resources will return to Harvard's campus in the fall, but all classes will remain online
In a statement, Harvard President Lawrence Bacow said ICE's regulations disregard the health and safety of international students.
The order was "without notice-its cruelty surpassed only by its recklessness," the statement read.
The case argues that ICE's order violates the Administrative Procedures Act, by not considering the effects it will have on universities who have spent time adjusting the upcoming semester, and the international students who may not be able to return to their country due to travel restrictions.
MIT President L. Rafael Reif expressed his alliance with international students in an email to the MIT community. "MIT's strength is its people - no matter where they come from," he wrote.
Both universities are in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the suit was filed in federal court in Boston. There are more than 1 million international students in the U.S., with half from China and India.