Following announcement by the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement that it might deport foreign students taking online courses in US universities due to the Coronavirus pandemic, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have sued the US government.
ICE warned that students with specific visa types may not take a full online course load and remain in the country, adding that visas won’t be issued to those enrolled in fully online courses.
The court papers read, “Immediately after the Fourth of July weekend, ICE threw Harvard and MIT—indeed, virtually all of higher education in the United States—into chaos.
“On July 6, ICE announced it was rescinding its COVID-19 exemption for international students, requiring those on F-1 visas whose curricula are entirely online to depart the country.
“It also barred any such students currently outside the United States from entering or reentering the United States.
“ICE also purported to require schools whose classes would be entirely online to submit an operational change plan no later than July 15, 2020—nine days after the change was announced.
“It said universities that have adopted a hybrid model—a mixture of online and in-person classes—will have to certify for each student on an F1 visa that the program is not entirely online and that the student isn’t taking an entirely online course load for fall 2020 and that the student is taking the minimum number of online classes required to make normal progress in their degree program.”
The institutions said the July 6 directive didn’t offer any reasoned basis that could justify the policy and violated the Administrative Procedure Act’s requirement of notice-and-comment rulemaking.
“The order came down without notice — its cruelty surpassed only by its recklessness,” Lawrence S. Bacow, Harvard’s President, was quoted to have said in a message to the university community.
“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 health and safety,” he added.