• Henry Huang

Trump Administration Rescinds International Student Status Order

On Tuesday, the Trump Administration rescinded the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) decision on restrictions on international student visas. The previous policy would strip the student visas for the international student studying exclusively online amid ongoing global pandemic.

The reversal happened on Tuesday when Judge Allison Burroughs, a federal district judge in Boston preside over the oral arguments in the case launched by Harvard and MIT. The judge made a surprising statement at the beginning of the proceedings.

“I have been informed by the parties that they have come to a resolution…they will return to the status quo.”

Last week, the ICE announced its new policy to the student visa holders. The new policy restricts the entry of the United States for international students if their course is moved exclusively online. According to ICE,

“students attending schools operating entirely online may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States.”
"The U.S. Department of State will not issue visas to students enrolled in schools and/or programs that are fully online for the fall semester nor will U.S. Customs and Border Protection permit these students to enter the United States."

In usual circumstances, international students are required to attend in-person classes only. Back in March, under the public health crisis, the ICE has provided a temporary guideline to student visa holders to allow them to take online courses while staying in the United States legally. Based on ICE guidelines in March,

“Given the extraordinary nature of the COVID-19 emergency, SEVP will allow F-1 and/or M-1 students to temporarily count online classes towards a full course of study”

The decision from the ICE faced a backlash from the higher education institutions. Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has filed a lawsuit against the federal government regarding this decision. The two universities believed that this policy is a violation against the Administrative Procedure Act. The two universities also argued that

“The ICE decision was a political move calculated to force universities to reopen campuses and hold classes in person despite the soaring toll of the coronavirus in death and illness.”

Meanwhile, a coalition of universities, including Stanford University, California Institute of Technology, and the University of Southern California have also filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn this order. Some other universities, such as NYU and Columbia, have their fall plans to accommodate those who are influenced by the new order.

Henry Huang is a Policy Correspondent for The National Times.