California officials on Thursday announced plans to file a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s decision to reintroduce limits to online courses for international students in the fall semester that could force tens of thousands of them to leave the United States if universities decide to hold their classes entirely online.
The change would put “themselves, teachers, other students, and the community at large at risk of getting and spreading the coronavirus—or be subject to deportation,” the lawsuit contends.
California’s lawsuit in federal court comes after Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology sued the Trump administration this week over the updated policy, arguing the new rules did not appear to take the health of students and faculty into consideration and would cause chaos at universities and colleges around the country.
“This will allow a mixture of both in-person and some online coursework to meet the requirements for nonimmigrant student status,” the release states.
This “temporary accommodation,” the spokesperson said, will provide greater flexibility for nonimmigrant students to continue their education in the United States, while allowing for “proper social distancing” on open and operating campuses across the country.
“The United States has long been the destination of choice for international students, and we are pleased that many international students who had planned to study this fall in the United States may still have the opportunity to do so.”
There are more than a million foreign students at U.S. colleges and universities, and many schools depend on revenue from foreign students, who often pay full tuition. The State Department issued 388,839 F visas and 9,518 M visas in fiscal 2019, according to the agency’s data.
ICE said institutions moving entirely to online learning must submit plans to the agency by July 15. Schools that will use only in-person learning, shortened or delayed classes, or a blend of in-person and online learning must submit plans by Aug. 1.
The University of California system announced Wednesday that it planned to sue over the new policy.
“As part of our effort to respond to COVID-19 and to protect the health of all our students, UC has increased online instruction and decreased in-person classes," UC Board of Regents Chair John A. Pérez said in a statement Wednesday. "Even last-ditch efforts can cause real harm, so it is imperative for UC to file this lawsuit in order to protect our students.”
"To UC's international students, I say: ‘We support you and regret the additional chaos ICE's action has caused,’" he added. "To the courts, I say, ‘We are the University of California. UC knows science, UC knows law, and we approach both in good faith. Our opponents have shown you time and again that they do not.’"
California had nearly 162,000 international students in 2019, according to a report by the U.S. State Department and the Institute of International Education.