Calif. Blasts ICE’s New Int’l Student Attendance Policy In Suit
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Law360 (July 9, 2020, 8:53 PM EDT) — California became the first state on Thursday to lodge a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s new requirement that international students whose universities go fully online during the pandemic leave the U.S. or risk deportation.
During a virtual press conference Thursday afternoon, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra slammed the administration’s insistence that international students attend classes in person in order to keep their student visas, saying the move invites the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
“This could put everyone at risk of getting and spreading the coronavirus or subjecting these students to deportation,” Becerra said. “This policy turns our universities into hot spots for the disease.”
The new policy, which was announced by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcementon Monday, directly contradicts the Trump administration’s previous guidance in March that loosened student visa rulesto allow international students on F visas for academic studies and M visas for vocational training to take their classes online as colleges and universities shut their doors amid the pandemic, Becerra said.
That’s why the attorney general, along with California Community Colleges and California State University, is leading a lawsuit challenging the new policy, he said. Becerra added that the policy will only further the spread of coronavirus among California college students, faculty and staff, while exiling hundreds of thousands of international students studying in the U.S. through ICE’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program.
California counted more than 184,000 international students in its colleges and universities as of January this year, Becerra said — more than any other state in the country.
During the press conference, California State University Vice Chancellor Leo Van Cleve said the new policy will disrupt many of those students’ educations and will deprive the U.S. of their contributions. He said international students offer a diversity of thought, perspective and life experiences to their schools and communities.
“These students deserve better than to have their dreams put on hold and to face possible deportation,” Van Cleve said.
California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley on Thursday added that the state’s community colleges serve more than 21,000 international students and that the policy only serves to create fear and anxiety on campus. Many of those students, he said, don’t have the resources to just pick up and move back to their home countries.
“We want to make sure they can continue to receive their education safely,” Oakley said.
If colleges and universities are forced to accommodate in-person classes next semester, Becerra said, everyone will be at risk of catching the coronavirus, which continues to tear through California and the rest of the country at lightning speed.
Becerra noted that California is not the only entity to fight back against the new “arbitrary and capricious” rule.
Just two days after ICE announced the new policy, Harvard Universityand the Massachusetts Institute of Technology filed suitchallenging the rule. The schools argue the policy is arbitrary and fails to consider the risks to foreign students in the U.S.
On Thursday, the judge in the case said she is looking to decide by July 15whether student immigrants attending the two schools can be denied entry into the U.S. if their colleges go fully online.
“What [President Donald] Trump has tried to do will fail because it’s against the law,” Becerra said Thursday.
The attorney general said he also plans to file an injunction to prevent the administration from enforcing the new policy.
Counsel and case information was not immediately available as of Thursday evening.
–Additional reporting by Alyssa Aquino, Suzanne Monyak and Chris Villani. Editing by Philip Shea.
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