Both Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have filed a federal lawsuit over a new policy announced earlier this week regarding international students. The policy includes temporary exemptions for the fall 2020 semester and was posted on the ice.gov site for the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). In part, “modifications to temporary exemptions for nonimmigrant students taking online classes due to the pandemic for the fall 2020 semester. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security plans to publish the procedures and responsibilities in the Federal Register as a Temporary Final Rule.
Temporary exemptions for the fall 2020 semester include:
- Nonimmigrant F-1 and M-1 students attending schools operating entirely online may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States. The U.S. Department of State will not issue visas to students enrolled in schools and/or programs that are fully online for the fall semester nor will U.S. Customs and Border Protection permit these students to enter the United States. Active students currently in the United States enrolled in such programs must depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status. If not, they may face immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings.”
Harvard’s President Lawrence S. Bascow posted a letter to the students calling the order cruel and reckless. “The order came down without notice—its cruelty surpassed only by its recklessness. 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.”
Many of Harvard’s professors shared their outrage via social media, including Professor Nils Gehlenborg, saying they would fight for their international students.
Strong response from @Harvard leadership regarding the cruel and misguided visa guidelines released by ICE earlier this week: https://t.co/MOZMLLHfjy Pleadings filed jointly with @MIT (https://t.co/0Z66mM9NxW) and a clear message that we will fight for our international students. pic.twitter.com/HcQIv8ifUT
— Nils Gehlenborg (@ngehlenborg) July 8, 2020
MIT posted an “Immigration News Alert” on their site, which stated they were currently reviewing ICE’s policy update release and would provide a summary to their international student community soon in regards to impacts for the fall semester.
On Wednesday morning, both Harvard and MIT filed a lawsuit in District Court in Boston against the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), according to University President Bacow.
According to Harvard’s website, their lawsuit is seeking a “temporary restraining order and preliminary and permanent injunctive relief ” to bar the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and ICE from enforcing federal guidelines barring international students attending colleges and universities offering only online courses from staying in the United States.