NAICU Washington Update

New Guidance Could Send International Students Home

July 09, 2020

This week, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued new guidance prohibiting international students from staying in the United States if they are enrolled in an American college or university that implements an online-only platform for instruction or if the student is enrolled in online courses only even while living on campus in a hybrid model. The following day, DHS also issued a series of FAQs related to the proposed guidance.  

The policy, which also applies to institutions that move exclusively to online learning mid-semester in response to rising COVID-19 cases on campus, contains a number of upcoming deadlines.  First, college leaders will need to decide by July 15 if they will go exclusively online.  Additionally, colleges have until August 4 to issue students new I-20s reflecting their updated status. DHS intends to issue the guidance as a temporary final rule in the near future.  

Shortly after the policy was announced, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) jointly filed a lawsuit in federal district court in Massachusetts against DHS and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) seeking both a temporary and permanent injunction on behalf of their institutions and students.  In the lawsuit, Harvard and MIT allege that DHS and ICE violated various provisions of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). Legal challenges under the APA have been the basis for numerous successful lawsuits against the Trump Administration, including the recent Supreme Court ruling on the DACA program.

The policy is not only extremely punitive to international students, it also threatens the safety of other students and the communities surrounding college campuses.  It is also the exact opposite of what the higher education community, including NAICU, recommended last week to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf requesting extended flexibility for international students.  

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