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18 attorneys general sue Trump administration over international student policy

July 14, 2020
Immigration officials say international students can remain in the U.S. only if they are enrolled in in-person classes.

A group of states has asked a federal court to block a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) rule that bars international students from taking online-only coursework in the fall semester.

CBS News reports that the states contend that the Trump administration is not taking into account the challenges faced by schools during the coronavirus pandemic.

Led by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, 18 attorneys general joined in a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Boston against the ICE directive.

The suit is the latest of several court challenges mounted by states and universities such as Harvard and MIT.

Regulations that govern the Student and Exchange Visitor Program generally bar foreigners on F-1 and M-1 visas — which are for academic and vocational students, respectively — from participating in online-only school semesters.

But in March, ICE issued an exemption to these requirements during the spring and summer semesters because of the coronavirus.

On July 6, ICE announced that the exemption would not be in place during the fall semester. That meant international students would not be allowed to enter or remain in the United States if they intended to take only online classes.

ICE said international students would need to transfer to other schools providing in-person instruction, leave the country or face potential deportation.

The lawsuit brought by the attorneys general argue that the ICE guidance violated the Administrative Procedure Act because the Trump administration "failed to offer a reasoned explanation for its action." ICE, the suit contends, also did not give students and colleges sufficient time to adapt to the changes and failed to consider the policy's impact on measures to contain the coronavirus.

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