NEW YORK: Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have sued the Department of Homeland Security and the federal immigration agency over new guidelines that prohibit foreign students from remaining in the United States if their universities switch to online-only classes at fall. A report in The Harvard Crimson said the two pre-eminent educational institutions filed a lawsuit in Boston District Court Wednesday morning against the two federal agencies.
The lawsuit seeks a temporary restraining order and preliminary and permanent injunctions to prohibit the US Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement from federal guidelines that will compel international students to leave the US.
Harvard University President Lawrence Bacow told affiliates in an email that “the order was issued without notice, his cruelty was second only to his recklessness. We believe that the ICE order is bad public policy, and we believe it is illegal.”
“We will pursue this case vigorously so that our international students, and international students at institutions across the country, can continue their studies without the threat of deportation,” Bacow said, according to the Crimson report.
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service (ICE) said in a press release issued Monday that for the fall semester of 2020, students attending schools that operate entirely online cannot take a full load of online courses and stay in the United States.
“The US Department of State will not issue visas to students enrolled in schools and / or programs that are fully online during the fall semester nor will US Customs and Border Protection allow these students to enter the United States, “the statement said.
In what could cause further anxiety for international students already present in the United States, the agency said, “Students currently active in the United States enrolled in such programs must leave the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with personal instruction to remain in a legal state or potentially face immigration consequences that include, among others, the initiation of deportation proceedings. ”
The Crimson report said Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey announced Tuesday that her office will “sue” for the guidelines, which she called “cruel” and “illegal.”
The Harvard lawsuit argues that the guidelines violated the Administrative Procedure Act by failing to consider “important aspects of the problem” prior to publication, by failing to provide a reasonable basis for the policy, and by not adequately notifying the public.
Dean of Undergraduate Education Amanda J. Claybaugh told a panel Monday that Vice Chancellor for International Affairs Mark C. Elliot is also contacting ambassadors representing international students.
“As a university with a deep commitment to residential education, we hope and intend to resume in-person instruction as soon as it is safe and responsible to do so,” said Bacow. “But, until that time comes, we will not be waiting to see the dreams of our international students extinguished by a profoundly wrong order. We owe it to them to stand up and fight, and we will. ”
The federal agency has said that students who attend schools that adopt a “hybrid model,” which includes a combination of online and in-person classes, may take more than one class or three hours of credit online.
These schools must certify to the Exchange Student and Visitor Program that the program is not fully online, that the student is not taking a full online course load for the fall semester of 2020, and that the student is taking the amount Minimum of online classes required to make normal progress in your program of study.
The guide is sure to cause severe anxiety and uncertainty for the hundreds of thousands of international students studying in the country and for those preparing to come to the United States to begin their education when the new academic session begins in September.
Restrictions on international travel in force due to the pandemic have made it increasingly difficult for international students in the US to return to their home countries, while those outside the US are unsure whether they will be able to travel. to join their courses at American colleges and universities.
Before the ICE guide was issued, the Harvard College of Arts and Sciences (FAS) had said it will bring up to 40 percent of college students to campus for the fall semester, including all freshmen.
Bacow, FAS Edgerley Family Dean Claudine Gay, and Danoff Dean of College Rakesh Khurana co-authored a message to the FAS community that outlined the way forward, allowing first-year students the opportunity to adapt to college academics and begin create connections with the faculty. and other classmates, while learning on campus in September.
She said the university will address gaps in students’ home learning environments and identify those who need to return to campus to continue academic progress. Students on campus will move out before Thanksgiving in November and complete reading and testing periods from home.
MIT has said that many graduate students and research staff will be able to enter campus in the fall. But to limit the density of the campus population, most administrative staff who can work remotely will continue to do so.