A bloc of 18 state attorneys general on Monday asked a federal court to intercede and block the Trump administration from implementing a new rule stripping visas from international students who attend U.S. colleges and universities offering only online courses for the fall semester. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Massachusetts, argued that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency’s “abrupt reversal” on its previous directive was issued with no rationale and violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).
According to the complaint, the states are seeking an injunction against “the federal government’s cruel, abrupt, and unlawful action to expel international students or force campuses to be less safe amidst the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic that has wrought death and disruption across the United States.”
The lawsuit was filed jointly by Democratic attorneys general of Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia.
“The Trump Administration didn’t even attempt to explain the basis for this senseless rule, which forces schools to choose between keeping their international students enrolled and protecting the health and safety of their campuses,” Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey (D) said in a statement. “Massachusetts is home to thousands of international students who make invaluable contributions to our educational institutions, communities, and economy. We are taking this action today to make sure they can continue to live and learn in this country.”
In light of the pandemic, the administration in March issued an exemption to student visa rules normally requiring holders to attend most of their classes in person. The exemption permitted foreign students to telecommute to their classes while maintaining their visa status “for the duration of the emergency.”
The AGs argued that colleges and universities in these states “were forced to rely on the March 13 guidance” in creating plans for the upcoming semester only to have the administration reverse their position “without warning.”
“ICE’s reversal is senseless and cruel to our universities and students. It also violates the [APA] by failing to offer any reason for the dramatic policy reversal, neglecting to consider the myriad ways in which the colleges, universities, and students relied on the previous policy, disregarding our country’s ongoing— indeed worsening—public health emergency, and imposing an effective date that makes compliance all but impossible,” the AGs wrote.
“Thus issued wholly without warning or opportunity for notice and comment from the myriad affected individuals and entities, the July 6 Directive is also procedurally invalid. This Court should therefore stay the effective date of the Directive pending judicial review; grant the Plaintiff States declaratory and injunctive relief from the Directive on a preliminary and permanent basis; vacate and set aside the Directive; and award the Plaintiff States such other relief as is requested herein.”
Similar to the lawsuit filed last week by Harvard University and MIT challenging the same rule, the states specifically named as defendants the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the agency’s Acting Secretary Chad Wolf, ICE, and the agency’s Acting Director Matthew Albence.
See below for the filed complaint.
[image via Alex Wong_Getty Images]
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