Facing Multiple Lawsuits, ICE Decides Not To Punish Foreign Students For Furthering Their Education During A Pandemic

from the you'll-just-have-to-be-assholes-about-something-else,-ICE dept

ICE has already decided it won’t make foreign students here on visas choose between their health and their education. The temporary relaxation of rules governing remote learning — put in place in March when the coronavirus started rolling through the United States — was suddenly (and inexplicably) reversed by ICE last week, even as COVID infection numbers continue to spike.

The reversal made no sense, unless disrupting the lives of foreigners here legally was the real point of ICE’s unjustified rollback. With this rollback — and no sign of abatement in the pandemic — students here on visas were facing severe disruption. If the schools they were attending didn’t offer in-person classes during the fall semester, their only option was to return home and hope everything came together internet-wise so they could continue their education.

ICE was immediately sued. MIT and Harvard went after the agency, claiming its reversal violated federal administrative law. Its lawsuit was joined by another 170 universities — all of which faced the prospect of shedding foreign students or turning their campuses into COVID attack vectors. The agency was also sued by a number of state attorneys general for the same reason.

Fortunately for the ~100,000 affected foreign students, ICE has ditched its rollback, thanks to this legal pressure.

Facing eight federal lawsuits and opposition from hundreds of universities, the Trump administration on Tuesday rescinded a rule that would have required international students to transfer or leave the country if their schools held classes entirely online because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The decision was announced at the start of a hearing in a federal lawsuit in Boston brought by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. U.S. District Judge Allison Burroughs said federal immigration authorities agreed to pull the July 6 directive and “return to the status quo.”

The status quo referred to here would be (unfortunately for the health of the nation) the pandemic status quo. Released on March 13, ICE’s guidance for allowed foreign students to utilize online learning to further their studies without fear of losing their visas and being removed from the country.

The (temporary) move by ICE made no sense from a pandemic standpoint. And booting out non-immigrant students for something as minor as not being able to attend classes that aren’t being held in physical classrooms makes even less sense when combined with the economic downturn resulting from the COVID crisis. Foreign students bring money into the country and create jobs. Very few have access to grants or loans funded with US tax dollars. The group NAFSA: Association of International Educators has run the numbers. Foreign students are worth billions every year.

NAFSA’s latest analysis finds that international students studying at U.S. colleges and universities contributed $41 billion and supported 458,290 jobs to the U.S. economy during the 2018-2019 academic year.

This number grows along with the number of students visiting the US to study. Encouraging foreign students to attend US schools makes a whole lot more sense than chasing them out because the administration has arbitrarily decided we don’t have to worry about the coronavirus anymore.

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Comments on “Facing Multiple Lawsuits, ICE Decides Not To Punish Foreign Students For Furthering Their Education During A Pandemic”

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Koby (profile) says:

And booting out non-immigrant students for something as minor as not being able to attend classes that aren’t being held in physical classrooms makes even less sense when combined with the economic downturn resulting from the COVID crisis.

I think part of the motivation is the desire to reopen schools. If schools don’t reopen, then the schools risk losing a lot of money. Who wants to pay full price for an online course? It exerts a lot of pressure on schools to either reduce tuition, or open back up.

Reopening everything would likely avert any economic downturn. Folks are, of course, going to debate the safety of doing so, but places like Sweeden have shown that it will be okay without a shutdown.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

STOCKHOLM ? Sweden’s chief epidemiologist on Wednesday defended his country’s controversial coronavirus strategy, which avoided a lockdown but resulted in one of the highest per capita COVID-19 death rates in the world.

That hardly seems like a success story. What also needs to be taken into account is the people left with permanent heart or lung damage from the virus along with other problems for survivors,and there are many more of those that those who die from it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

The only trouble being that the US is not Sweden. The US is in the middle of a major upswing in the infection rate (and the rate of increase is increasing). Trying to pretend that this is a good time to try to open up the economy is the height of folly. As death rates tend to lag infection rates by about a month and the upswing has been going on for about a month, there is a very good chance that death rates are about to surge. To makes matters worse, from an economic point of view, this time a far larger number of the infected are "young and healthy", so the number of young dead and young permanently disabled is likely about to surge,

As an aside, did you hear about the 30 year old who died in a Texas hospital after deliberately getting infected at a covid party (he thought the disease was a "hoax")?

The problem with the Trump plan to open the economy (to get reelected, presumably) is that at some point a medical problem becomes an economic problem and the current push to reopen may be all that is needed to reach that point.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

"The data coming out of John Hopkins University shows that both fatalities per infection, and fatalities per general population are preferable to several other countries that did lockdown, such as Italy, Spain, and the UK"

WTF does the fatality rate have to do with lockdown rather than age of population and medical capacity? Infection rate, sure, but fatalities?

Also, according to those figures they’re still firmly in the top 10 worldwide, so yay I guess?

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

This is true. But, without access to a time machine I can only work with the figures that are currently known. These figures, which are the same ones that people in charge of the response to the pandemic have, show that Koby is yet again full of shit.

I’m happy to have another discussion in a few years when this is actually historical data that doesn’t affect current decision making, but until then we have to work with what is known.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

"…preferable to several other countries that did lockdown, such as Italy, Spain, and the UK."

Not sure about the UK but Spain and Italy got hit with the pandemic exploding before a lockdown was even under discussion. With both of those countries alike having a long tradition of multiple generations of a family living under one roof it was predictable that any infectee would automatically infect dozens of other people.

The lockdown did succeed in flattening the curve in both italy and spain. Sweden as well is still paying for it’s failures to act swiftly.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

"Come back after the pandemic is over and compare the numbers again"

I’m sure we will. Are you telling everyone to stop talking about a current situation because we don’t have access to future data, or are you just uncomfortable with what the current data clearly implies? Bear in mind that this is the same data everybody is working with, including those in charge of the response.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

International students have no ability to persuade schools to hold classes on campus, so your guess seems terrible and unlikely.

You don’t think exposing everyone to Covid will cause an economic downturn? People literally getting sick and dying, especially the essential workers who are exposed to everyone and thus expose everyone, will just cause another shutdown because workers won’t be available and businesses will close (and lose the trust of customers).

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: 'Today is great so tomorrow can take care of itself.'

You don’t think exposing everyone to Covid will cause an economic downturn?

Depends on how you look at it. If you only look at the short-term gains then getting everyone back out is great, creates a nice boost to the economy as people are out and about buying. Of course the explosion in cases will result in lots of people out and about dying shortly afterwards, but if all you care about is how things are going right now then that’s a problem to only worry about later.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2

When people start dying and being hospitalized in greater numbers because of the virus because our leaders decided that money mattered more than human lives, when the first child dies of COVID because they caught it at a school that re-opened in the middle of a pandemic, when hospitals essentially break down due to an overcrowding of COVID patients and a lack of both supplies and staff to treat those patients, when people are evicted and sent to live on the street because the government wouldn’t put a hold on evictions or pay people to stay at home…what do you think will happen to the economy then, as opposed to now?

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 'Today is great so tomorrow can take care of itself.'

Yes, it did, in the short term, because that was the cost to starve the thing out, cutting down the numbers so that they were manageable and wouldn’t overwhelm the system and spiral out of control, allowing things to slowly and carefully be reopened. However since that meant that the economy wouldn’t immediately get right back to pre-pandemic levels idiots rushed it and we’re right back to the start with numbers rising like mad, and as I’ve pointed out in another comment corpses make really bad spenders, so if you think a temporary dip in the economy is bad now add in a bunch of people not spending squat because they’re dead.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 'Today is great so tomorrow can take care of itself.'

"Attempting to not expose everyone to the coronavirus by imposing lockdowns already caused an economic downturn"

So, there’s an economic downturn either way, but the lockdown also saved millions from suffering and hundreds of thousands from dying at the same time?

Think about this for 2 seconds, you dimwitted psychopath…

TFG says:

Re: Re: Re:2 'Today is great so tomorrow can take care of itself.'

Opening up the economy now so that everyone can get sick and die is the absolute worst thing that can be done for the economy. By doing so, the current administration has ensured long lasting economic ruin for the United States of America.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 'So long as your death helps me I don't care.'

Insanely and tellingly enough they don’t seem to give a damn about what damage they will cause to the future of the country so long as their actions will help them out now.

It’s one thing to say that a particular politician or political party will happily sacrifice lives if that’s what it takes to get what they want but this pandemic is showing that for a much higher than zero number of them that’s not hyperbole.

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PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 'So long as your death helps me I don't care.'

"It’s one thing to say that a particular politician or political party will happily sacrifice lives if that’s what it takes to get what they want but this pandemic is showing that for a much higher than zero number of them that’s not hyperbole."

The sad thing is, Trump has already done that. Studies have shown that if lockdowns had occurred just one week earlier, most of the early deaths would have been prevented. On the optimal date where that would have worked, Trump was still calling it a hoax and pushing for relief to save the Dow. He sacrificed a majority of the 140k dead in the US so far so that he could coast to reelection on the economy.

Now that he can’t do that, he’s pushing to get even more killed by trying to force schools and businesses to further re-open before it’s remotely sane to do so, and he’s more interested in illegally using his office to sell beans than he is in ensuring the safety of his citizens. Wal Mart are doing a better job of protecting Americans than he is right now.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 'Today is great so tomorrow can take care of itself.'

"Attempting to not expose everyone to the coronavirus by imposing lockdowns already caused an economic downturn. Moot point."

What the actual fuck…

There is a significant difference between an economic downturn and a persistently increasing economic downturn, you know. If infectious cases and deaths keep accelerating you will face a collapse instead of just a downturn.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re:

Reopening everything would likely avert any economic downturn. Folks are, of course, going to debate the safety of doing so

If the number of COVID-19 cases are still rising — spiking, even! — three-to-four months after we were first told we needed to “flatten the curve”, I fail to see how sending everyone back into a world with no vaccine, cure, or widely effective (and widely available) theraputics for COVID-19 will help lessen the death toll.

And even if you want to argue about “oh but it’s not that lethal”, consider how many people will be left with permanent damage from the disease. Millions of people left with debilitating conditions will put as much of a strain on the economy as hundreds of thousands of dead people — especially in “essential” businesses and services, including the health care industry.

The United States had a brief window of opportunity to “flatten the curve”. That opportunity came and went because the man “leading” this country thought he could essentially pray the virus away (he couldn’t and still can’t). And the political party to which he belongs didn’t help because they’re so far up their own asses with their anti-science/pro-individualism stances coupled with their desire to prove the government doesn’t work (by destroying it from the inside) and their willingness to protect the wealthy at all costs. Now the United States is the epicenter of the disease — a country so sick that other countries are refusing to let Americans visit those countries.

The GOP would rather let people die before they ever even think to nationalize healthcare. Republican lawmakers would rather promote conspiracy theories before they ever teach (and rely on) scientific knowledge. Donald Trump would rather sacrifice American citizens for the sake of the economy (and his reëlection) before he would ever tell people to stay home for two months so the virus stops spreading. And if you think I’m being too hard on them and not hard enough on the Democrats…well, when the Democrats start shittalking scientists and start trying to hide the bodies by controlling the data and basically everything else the Trump administration and its Congressional enablers have done, I’ll be harder on them.

The United States has not “flattened the curve”. It is not nearly in a position to fully re-open every business, every national park, every public and private school in the country without serious risk. But hey, what’s a few dead bodies in an overpacked hospital desperately trying to get a handle on the disease if it means we can eat at a restaurant or go to a movie theater or send our kids to school again?

urza9814 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

As you correctly point out, the problem here is the GOP. They don’t control the whole country though, and in the parts they do control they’re literally killing off their strongest block of supporters. The problem will solve itself if it has to…

But blue states are generally doing much better. Here in the northeast (RI in my case) we’re seeing lower transmission rates than most of Europe as far as I can tell. Those idiots in Florida and Arizona are getting exactly what they voted for — rule by the Church of the Almighty Dollar.

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

As you correctly point out, the problem here is the GOP. They don’t control the whole country though, and in the parts they do control they’re literally killing off their strongest block of supporters. The problem will solve itself if it has to…

The problem is that much like anti-vaxxers they’re likely to take out everyone around them in the process, so it may eventually be a self-solving problem but a lot of collateral damage is going to be done until it reaches that point.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

Bingo. Their parents saw what polio and measles did to their peers and those of their own parents, so they took vaccination seriously. Now that they haven’t seen the ravages of disease first hand, they want to inflict it on another generation before they understand why vaccination was invented to begin with.

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PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

"I think part of the motivation is the desire to reopen schools"

…which would be best done by getting the orange spunk monkey and his sycophants to not oppose the basic steps taken by every other first world country to successfully suppress the pandemic, not by attacking people for attending.

Instead, you’re talking about reopening classical infection vectors in the middle of a time where you have double the number of infections that you had at the previous high (yesterday’s figures over 70k infections and still climbing), while everyone else is cautious about opening the when they have way less that 1k per day.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: How else are you supposed to boost sales of child-sized coffins?

No worries, children are well known to have incredible self-restraint, display the ability to follow strict rules without violating them, engage in sanitary habits like hand washing to an extent that they make surgeons look slovenly and above all else never get close to other children so I’m sure opening schools back up during an active pandemic will be fine.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re:

"Reopening everything would likely avert any economic downturn. Folks are, of course, going to debate the safety of doing so, but places like Sweeden have shown that it will be okay without a shutdown."

Places like Sweden do not have the equivalent of a 9/11 in covid-related deaths every two days. The US, on the other hand, has, precisely, this state of affairs.

So, uh, Koby, how about not running comparisons between a nation which observed it’s shutdown properly and have flattened the pandemic curve and a nation which has fed the pandemic to the point where the rest of the world looks on in shocked disbelief.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Silly Osama, should have run for office first

Places like Sweden do not have the equivalent of a 9/11 in covid-related deaths every two days. The US, on the other hand, has, precisely, this state of affairs.

Now that certainly makes for an unpleasant comparison. The USG mobilized the military and invaded another country due to the actions of a group that resulted in several thousand deaths, yet when individuals and a political party engage in activities that result in deaths on a scale that make 9/11 look like a mildly unpleasant day in comparison it’s no big deal for a good number of people, to the point that they will brush it aside if not actively defend the people trying to get them killed.

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PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Silly Osama, should have run for office first

"Now that certainly makes for an unpleasant comparison"

There’s lots of unpleasant comparisons with the data, sadly. The "9/11 every 2 days" was true back in April, but it was no longer true. Was. Deaths are a lagging indicator, meaning that they will start spiking a few weeks after a spike in infection. Infections were lowered, so the US got deaths down to less than 1,000 per day, at one point looking like they would dip to a few hundred. But, that was before idiots opened up too early and refused to wear masks. Now, the infections are spiking to 70k, around double what they were back in April. Meaning that, assuming deaths double in the way expected with a doubling of infection, you can expect a 9/11 every day within the next few weeks, and some areas of Texas and Florida are already saying their ICUs can’t cope with the demand.

Other "fun" comparisons: the US has reported just over 140,000 COVID deaths as of today (although there’s reasons to believe it’s much higher in reality). Total US deaths in Vietnam: 58,209. Total US deaths in World War 1: 116,516. In the Civil War, deaths are estimated to be around 520 per day, meaning that double the number of people are dying from the pandemic right now than did during that war. Sure, you have to account for differences in population, etc., but that’s what’s is happening.

(Sources for figures: https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/us/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_military_casualties_of_war#Wars_ranked_by_total_number_of_U.S._military_deaths)

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Silly Osama, should have run for office first

Well, thanks, PaulIT, for turning my afternoon coffee into ash in my mouth. ????

I’m sitting in my own apartment here in Sweden, chilling because despite all the obnoxious crap about covid spikes in stockholm nursing homes etc we’re still at a point where we can’t consider everything lost.

How come not every american citizen is out baying for blood and storming 1600 pennsylvania avenue? Instead, apparently, like utter fuckwits bereft of any sense of reason or rationality, sitting around trying to explain away more dead civilians than they lost soldiers in fucking World War One? – more than twice what they lost in Vietnam?

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Silly Osama, should have run for office first

Yeah, sorry for the harsh reality there, but these things need to be said. The perspective is terrifying.

I was shocked when I realised a while back that the Vietnam figures were surpassed. Now they’re at nearly 3 times that figure, and what’s happening? People are fighting each other for the ability to not protect themselves and others, and Trump is using his time to launch lazy personal attacks against Biden, and for him and his family to sell beans. By insisting on a "no mask no entry" policy, frigging Wal Mart is doing more to fight the pandemic than the federal government at this point.

I don’t want to be posting again in the near future to say that they’ve also passed the WWII death toll, but I’m not sure how it’s avoided at this point.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Silly Osama, should have run for office first

"Now they’re at nearly 3 times that figure, and what’s happening?"

From what I can see? The US is tearing itself apart over issues from "Maybe the police shouldn’t murder people" to "Covid is a chinese bioweapon" to "No one is dying, it’s all a democrat hoax".

It’s really hard to see this from the outside and not come to the conclusion that apparently the US citizenry is composed of clones of the Marx Brothers.

"I don’t want to be posting again in the near future to say that they’ve also passed the WWII death toll, but I’m not sure how it’s avoided at this point."

If the CDC’s predictions bear out and, importantly, the infection rates don’t spike further, sometime in november. 405k isn’t that hard to reach, using the current numbers.
But that’s a big if given that there really isn’t anything preventing any and every major US city to be the new New York.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Parts of the US wish they were third world. Some reservations, for instance. And this has been true for generations.

But be careful what you wish for. Nationalized healthcare systems (for all that they have definitely fared better in the current emergency) have their own problems. Canadians furiously reject the notion of allowing the use of off-hours hospital equipment for treatment of paying patients, even though it could improve health care for all by reducing wait lists and injecting extra money into the system. It would enable a "two-tier" system, which is morally wrong!!! Stupid if you ask me. The simple fact is no one has solved the health care problem, though some do better than others. I suspect the problem is that health care is just to expensive and most of our systems – particularly the US one – have perverse incentives that keep the prices high.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

"The U.S. already has a two-tier healthcare system"

Well, three tier at least. You have the treatment people get if they can afford an actual decent plan. You have the ones who can only afford a plan that barely covers anything (less of an issue since Obamacare, but still an issue). You have the people who actually get socialised medicine through Medicare or whatever. Then you have the people who have nothing except maybe the occasional ER patch up.

The sad thing is that most of the people who have nothing are still paying for Medicare, Medicaid and VA healthcare systems with their taxes. They just can’t access what they paid for. Then, the average American still pays way more for their healthcare than people with socialised medicine do, at least in part due to the fact that patching people up in the ER instead of accessing preventative healthcare is the most expensive way of doing things.

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Dave Cortright (profile) says:

Only applies to previously-enrolled students; possible loophole

https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/07/24/895223219/ice-confirms-new-foreign-students-cant-take-online-only-course-loads-in-the-u-s

So couldn’t a school simply have one class with one in-person session as a requirement for all incoming international students? Call it “Essential in-person orientation for all new incoming international students” and each session is simply a 1:1 between the student and a faculty member in their department. Although I prefer “Fuck You, ICE: this is what compliance with your bullshit guidance looks like.”

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