Thw Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on Wednesday applied to court to stop the Trump administration’s decision to strip foreign students taking online courses of their visas if their universities move exclusively to online classes amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The institutions filed the lawsuit following announcement by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that Non-immigrant F-1 and M-1 students attending schools operating entirely online may not be allowed to take a full online course load and remain in the United States.
The ICE also stated that 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.
According to a report by The Hill, the Ivy league schools had asked a federal court in Boston for a temporary restraining order and permanent injunction against the administration’s new policy.
The universities’s lawsuit alleged that the ICE’s decision appears designed to “force universities to reopen in-person classes,” thereby increasing the risk of exposure to the coronavirus, while scrambling carefully laid plans to conduct courses online and upending foreign students’ lives.
“The effect — and perhaps even the goal — is to create as much chaos for universities and international students as possible,” the lawsuit states.
The report says Department of Homeland Security, which oversees ICE, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The lawsuit alleges several violations of a federal law known as the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), which concerns how much decision-making power resides with federal agencies. At issue is whether ICE’s new policy is legally justified or if it was “arbitrary and capricious,” and thus illegal under the act.
The lawsuit makes several references to the Supreme Court’s recent decision to block the administration’s plan to end an Obama-era deportation shield for young undocumented immigrants. In that ruling, a majority of justices found the Trump administration had failed to give an adequate justification under the APA for terminating the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.