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A federal judge for the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts has enjoined a Department of Education rule that bars undocumented immigrant students and other noncitizen students not eligible for the federal Title IV financial aid program from accessing emergency grants authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

The injunction applies only to the state of Massachusetts.

In ordering the injunction, U.S. District Judge Leo T. Sorokin cited the reasoning in a different case involving Farah Noerand, a Bunker Hill Community College student from Haiti who holds temporary immigration status in the U.S. In deciding that case, Sorokin wrote that the "CARES Act unambiguously authorized the provision of funds … to students without regard to their immigration status, i.e., without regard to whether the student is eligible for Title IV financial aid, and rejects the Department’s contention that the statute is ambiguous on this point."

In seeking the injunction, the state of Massachusetts argued that some of the state's "most vulnerable students," including many first-generation, low-income and minority students, were excluded from accessing CARES Act funding under the Education Department's rule.

“We’re pleased the court has blocked this senseless rule that could harm tens of thousands students in Massachusetts by preventing them from accessing relief under the CARES Act," said Meggie Quackenbush, a spokeswoman for Massachusetts attorney general Maura Healey. "We should be doing everything we can during this public health crisis to support our vulnerable populations, not finding cruel new ways to hurt them."

A spokeswoman for the Education Department, Angela Morabito, said the agency is reviewing the decision.

"Congress did not direct the Department to give U.S. taxpayer dollars to wealthy students from China or Iran, nor authorize it to allow payments to be made from federal funds to illegal aliens," Morabito said. "Colleges and universities retain the discretion to fund foreign students or illegal aliens. They just cannot use U.S. taxpayer dollars in order to do so."