US ICE back flips on international students

Only on July 6 the Trump administration’s US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) department announced that all those international students whose face to face learning had to convert to online classes – due to COVID-19, will not be permitted to stay in the US. This caused a great consternation among not only the students but also their providers.

The ruling in part said:

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. Active students currently in the United States enrolled in such programs must depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status. If not, they may face immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings.

The result was a swift challenge in the court of law and as many as 17 US states and the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration’s new visa policy for international students, calling it a “cruel, abrupt, and unlawful action” to expel them amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. The states that joined the lawsuit were Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin.

Leading the coalition of 18 Attorneys General, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, said the Trump administration did not even attempt to explain the basis for this “senseless” rule.

“It is the latest in a series of irrational actions that is deepening the pandemic crisis in our nation and it comes as no surprise that the lives being threatened in the first instance are those of immigrants, lawfully studying here to contribute productively here and abroad,” said Mark Rosenbaum, directing attorney of the Public Counsel’s Opportunity Under Law project.

Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology called the U.S. government directive “arbitrary and capricious” and sought to have it reversed and declared unlawful. Many colleges, universities, municipalities and tech companies supported the legal challenge.

And on Tuesday, 14 July, when the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts was getting ready to hear the universities’ arguments against the new rule Judge Allison Burroughs announced in the court that in light of the challenge by the schools, an agreement had been reached with the ICE and its parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security and the Court had been informed that the government will rescind this policy.

“The Court was informed by the parties that they have come to a resolution to the combined temporary restraining order/preliminary injunction motions,” read the court docket. “The Government has agreed to rescind the July 6, 2020 Policy Directive and the July 7, 2020 FAQ, and has also agreed to rescind their implementation.”

The new ICE directive was rescinded “on a nationwide basis“.  Thus within days of the announcement on 6 July, in a quick reversal, the Trump administration has agreed to rescind a directive and international students being offered classes entirely online in the fall semester, can stay in the US.

According to a report of the US Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), there were 1,94,556 Indian students enrolled in the US in January 2020.

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