As many universities switch to online teaching because of COVID-19 restrictions, not all foreign students can take in-person courses and they could be denied visas or fall out out visa status and have to leave the US.
The Harvard/MIT lawsuit, filed last Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for MA, asks the court to prevent ICE and the Department of Homeland Security from enforcing the new guidance and to declare it unlawful. Hundred of other schools had backed Harvard and MIT's suit.
"Both the policy directive and the frequently asked questions would not be enforced anyplace", Burroughs said, according to the New York Times. Harvard has stated it would have online-only classes over the next year, while M.I.T will employ a hybrid model, with most of its classes held online.
Still federal officials insist that United States immigration law has required students to take their classes in-person for decades and the July guidelines should not have come as a surprise.
Implementing the rules would "diminish the incomparable contributions made by global students to American social sector organizations, businesses, and the economy", the universities said in court documents filed on Tuesday before the hearing.
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The University of Arizona joined a coalition of 20 universities to sue the federal government for its order issued last week requiring worldwide students to attend classes in person or face the risk of deportation. These companies, along with local unions like the Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America, the Software Alliance and the Information Technology Industry Council among others join the brief filed by Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and 180 other colleges opposing this move. Students already in the US would have faced deportation if they didn't transfer schools or leave the country voluntarily. A group of 17 US states followed with their own suit.
The Trump administration has been adamant about schools and universities reopening their doors this fall, in spite of the steady rise of coronavirus cases across the country.
Colleges are asking the court to block the rule as quickly as possible, saying it's already being used to turn students away.
The administration has said the point of the directive is to encourage schools to open.
About 1.1 million (5.5% of higher education enrollment) foreign students attended U.S. higher education institutions in the 2018-19 school year, according to a report by the State Department and the Institute of International Education (IIE).