Trump Administration Rescinds Plan That Would Force International Students Out Of U.S.

Lydia Wang

Update: On Tuesday, the Trump administration announced plans to rescind the policy to force all international students that were not enrolled in in-person classes out of the United States this Fall. The decision comes after mass criticism over the Immigration Customs and Enforcement Agency (ICE) plan, which would have resulted in millions of students forcibly leaving the U.S. if their colleges remained remote. According to the Wall Street Journal, this action effective settles a lawsuit filed by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which was backed by at least 200 other schools, who combating the Trump administration’s decision to pressure schools to re-open.

This story was originally published on July 8.

Many American colleges and universities are considering virtual or hybrid education models for the upcoming Fall semester, due to the COVID-19 precautions. Enter the Immigration Customs and Enforcement Agency (ICE), which announced Tuesday that, if schools opt to cancel in-person classes, their international students will be forced to leave the U.S. in the midst of a global pandemic. According to statistics from the 2018-2019 school year, over 1 million international students will be impacted by the policy. Students and professors alike immediately denounced the xenophobic, harmful decision — and now, universities are using lawsuits and new learning models to fight against this regulation.

Earlier this week, Harvard University announced that Fall classes would be online-only, but students would still be permitted to live on-campus. Now, together with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Harvard is suing the Trump administration over the new policy, arguing that the decision puts students at risk.

“The order came down without notice — its cruelty surpassed only by its recklessness,” wrote Harvard President Larry Bacow in a statement obtained by CNN. “It appears that it was designed purposefully to place pressure on colleges and universities to open their on-campus classrooms for in-person instruction this Fall, without regard to concerns for the health and safety of students, instructors, and others.”

Other colleges and universities are demanding that ICE revoke the rule and promising to protect international students. Schools including Columbia University and New York University have pledged to work with and accommodate students who wish to stay in the U.S. Columbia also announced that they would create new “Pop-Up Global Centers” around the world to combat these changes.

Several Tuesday night tweets even claimed that Columbia, NYU, and the University of California, Berkeley are also finding ways to circumvent the policy by offering one-credit, in-person classes for international students. This has not been confirmed, and Refinery29 has reached out to representatives from all three schools for comment. Josh Taylor, the Associate Vice Chancellor of NYU’s Global Programs, told Refinery29 in a statement that NYU’s Fall program will offer a mix of in-person, virtual, and hybrid classes, which will ensure that international students can stay in the U.S. “as long as they enroll in either an in-person or blended class.”

Stanford University, which announced in June that juniors and seniors would not be allowed to take in-person classes until the Winter quarter, also released a statement. “Our international students must be able to continue making progress toward completing their degrees, and as a university we intend to support them in doing so,” wrote Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne. “We will be working with our peers and national associations to understand how best to accomplish that in the context of these new rules, as well as to urge the Administration to rethink its position.”

The Association of American Universities (AAU), an organization comprised of 65 research universities in the U.S., also released a statement about the “immensely misguided and deeply cruel” ICE decision.

“We strongly urge the administration to rescind this guidance and provide temporary flexibility to permit international students to participate in the range of in-person, online, and hybrid instruction that institutions are implementing in light of the pandemic and their local conditions,” wrote AAU President Mary Sue Coleman.

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