WASHINGTON – Seventeen states and the District of Columbia sued President Donald Trump’s administration Monday to block a new rule that would force international college students to leave United States if they’re only enrolled in online classes this fall.
Some universities are planning to offer classes entirely online because of concerns about the pandemic. The new rule could be devastating for students and universities alike.
The lawsuit, filed by 18 attorneys general against the Department of Homeland Security, calls the new rule a “cruel, abrupt and unlawful action to expel international students amidst the pandemic that has wrought death and disruption across the United States.”
The Trump administration issued the new immigration policy last week, as it seeks to force universities and K-12 schools to reopen in the fall despite soaring COVID-19 infections across the country. The rule, issued by the immigration and customs agency, is a reversal of the federal government’s policy in the spring, when international students were allowed to attend online-only classes as colleges abruptly closed campuses because of the pandemic.
The shift has enraged many educators and lawmakers, who say the new rule threatens to upend careful planning by universities and wreak havoc for the approximately 1 million foreign students who attend American colleges each year.
Led by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, Monday’s lawsuit seeks an injunction to stop the rule from taking effect while the matter is litigated. Healey filed the suit in U.S. District Court in Massachusetts, along with attorneys general from Colorado to Michigan to Wisconsin. Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology filed a similar challenge last week, which was joined by several other universities.
Healey said the rule would force schools to choose “between keeping their international students enrolled and protecting the health and safety of their campuses.”
The reversal could be a major economic blow to colleges and universities, as well as the communities surrounding them, because ofer the loss of tuition and other revenue from international students who typically pay full price.