States Demand Action From ICE on International Students

July 24, 2020

A coalition of 17 states and the District of Columbia that filed a lawsuit challenging a Trump administration directive barring international students from taking exclusively online courses says they want to see more action from the government before they determine whether the rescission of that directive will satisfy their concerns.

The Trump administration agreed to rescind the July 6 directive in response to a separate lawsuit filed by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, reverting to a policy issued in March that gave current students flexibility to take classes online for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But a filing in the multistate lawsuit led by the state of Massachusetts notes that the government has not published formal notice of the revocation or amended a field manual for consular officials that directs them to reject visa applications from students whose course of study would be online. The filing also notes the continued lack of guidance around the implications of the rescission of the July 6 policy for new international students.

“The Plaintiffs States have heard from colleges and universities in our States that, after the Defendants’ agreement on July 14, 2020 to rescind the implementation of the July 6 directive, students have nevertheless been told by consular officers at the State Department or other government officials or websites that they will need updated I-20 forms or other proof that that their programs of study are not entirely online if they wish to obtain visas and/or enter the country,” states the status report by the states filed on Wednesday.

The status report further says, "The Plaintiff States believe that further guidance is needed to fully rescind the July 6 policy directive and, specifically, to provide clarity and additional details -- to our schools and students, as well as to consular officials and [Customs and Border Protection] officers at the country’s borders -- as to how the flexibility provided by the March policy will be applicable to new and returning students."

A spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which oversees the student visa program, declined to comment.

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