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Trump Administration Walks Back Rule on Foreign Students

July 14, 2020 by Dan McCue
Princeton University. (Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON – The Trump administration has rescinded a rule that would have required international students to transfer or leave the country if their schools held classes entirely online because of the pandemic.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.”

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.

At least eight federal lawsuits had been filed against the administration since the policy was announced, and hundreds of colleges and universities across the country had vowed to oppose it.

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.

In their lawsuit, 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.”

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