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Facing eight federal lawsuits and opposition from hundreds of universities, the Trump administration on Tuesday rescinded a rule that would have required international students to transfer or leave the country if their schools held classes entirely online because of the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