Trump Admin Walks Back Plan to Deport International Students Enrolled in Only Online Classes

online classes

After sparking a series of lawsuits, the Trump administration backed out of its proposed visa policy that planned to deport international students enrolled only in online classes

What ICE intended to do: Last week, the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that student visa holders whose courses are now entirely online due to the COVID-19 pandemic would be required to depart the country or transfer schools. 

  • International students, who are normally required to attend in-person classes to remain in the country, were earlier granted a reprieve by ICE back in March. 
  • This reprieve was reversed by the proposed policy, with ICE saying that any student visa holders in the U.S. would be sent back to their home country if their schools held classes entirely online.
  • The policy was met with criticisms from the public, especially the schools affected. 
  • Up until Monday, the administration had been adamant in claiming that it is not breaking the law in its changing policies regarding student visas. 

Schools fight back: Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which both have thousands of international students enrolled in online classes for the upcoming fall semester, filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration over the new visa policy. 

  • As NextShark previously reported, the case sought a temporary restraining order and permanent injunction against the administration’s new policy from a Boston federal court.
  • According to the lawsuit, ICE’s plan is designed to “force universities to reopen in-person classes,” which would potentially increase the risk of COVID-19 exposure among students and teachers. 
  • The Harvard-MIT suit was then followed by California’s public colleges and a coalition of 17 states.
  • The Trump administration was accused of violating the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), which presides over which federal agencies develop and issue regulations.
  • The suit put into question whether ICE’s new policy was legitimate or if it was “arbitrary and capricious,” making it illegal under the act.
  • Last month, the Supreme Court decided to block the administration’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which was implemented by President Barack Obama in 2012, according to the Washington Post.
  • That case revealed that the government did not provide proper legal justification for the policy decisions under the APA.

Rescinding the policy: On Tuesday, Judge Allison Burroughs announced at the start of the court proceeding that the controversial visa policy has been redacted, reports The Hill.

  • “I have been informed by the parties that they have come to a resolution,” Burroughs was quoted as saying. “They will return to the status quo.”
  • According to Star Tribune, Harvard President Lawrence Bacow called the outcome a “significant victory.”
  • “While the government may attempt to issue a new directive, our legal arguments remain strong and the Court has retained jurisdiction, which would allow us to seek judicial relief immediately to protect our international students should the government again act unlawfully,” Bacow said in a statement.

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