Graduating Masters Students from the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP) wave to passing traffic from an overpass the day before their graduation ceremony, which is to be held online due to the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., May 15, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly -/File Photo


The Trump Administration has reversed Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) guidelines that would have forced some international students to return to their home countries if they were enrolled in any online classes this fall. The announcement came after two Boston-based universities, Harvard and MIT, filed a lawsuit against the administration, coupled with the support of more than 200 universities and 18 states. For foreigners on F-1 and M-1 visas, the U.S. Student and Exchange Visitor Program typically does not allow students to participate in online-only courses, requiring them to have at least one in-person course. Following the start of COVID-19, these requirements were temporarily suspended as colleges and universities scrambled to take higher learning online.

The ruling last week was met with swift backlash from students, educators, and politicians. Thirteen “friend of the court” briefs were filed in conjunction with the lawsuit, along with personal testimonies from students on how returning to their home countries could impact their education and livelihood. ICE initially responded to the backlash by reiterating that they had communicated to college that any guidance prompted by the pandemic was subject to change. 

Harvard and MIT’s enrollments would have been greatly impacted by the ruling, due to the fact that in 2018, 23.8% of Harvard students and 29.8% of MIT students were international. Harvard President Lawrence S. Bacow published a letter addressing the lawsuit, stating that the order’s cruelty was “surpassed only by its recklessness.” Rice University President David Leebron also claimed that the original ICE rules were cruel, and added that they “didn’t serve our universities, didn’t serve our students and frankly didn’t serve our country.”


Trump Administration Cancels ICE Plan to Block International Student Visas – Intelligencer – 7/14/2020
Following immediate pushback from academia and tech — a field that hires a substantial number of F-1 visa grads — a federal judge in Boston announced on Tuesday that the Trump administration would rescind the order, allowing international students enrolled in online-only classes to remain in the country for the coming semester.

Trump administration rescinds rule on foreign students amid pressure from colleges – Fox News – 7/14/2020
The Trump administration on Tuesday said it is withdrawing a proposed rule that would have forced foreign students to return home if the college courses they were enrolled in were to be held entirely online when colleges reopen in the fall.Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced last week that those on F-1 and M-1 student visas would need to leave the U.S. or transfer to another college if their schools offer classes entirely online when they reopen in the fall.

In reversal, federal government will allow international students to stay in the U.S. while taking only online classes – The Texas Tribune – 7/14/2020
On Tuesday, the Trump administration walked back recent guidance that would have deported international college and university students if they were enrolled exclusively in online classes this fall. The repeal follows outspoken criticism from universities, legal experts and higher education advocates, who deemed the rules unfairly punitive for foreign students.

International students are losing their ‘idealized vision’ of the US and weighing options to leave the country if Trump wins in November – Insider – 7/14/2020
Gabriella de Lorenzo left Brazil and headed for college in New York City two years ago. After the coronavirus pandemic reached the US, she took to virtual classes after spring break when schools closed in March to help slow the virus spread. But recent guidelines from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) would prevent her and other international students on certain visas from attending schools that are fully online in the fall. 


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