Harvard University, MIT Sue U.S. Over New Immigration Rule For Foreign Students
Pedestrians walk through Harvard Yard on the closed Harvard University campus. (Photographer: Adam Glanzman/Bloomberg)

Harvard University, MIT Sue U.S. Over New Immigration Rule For Foreign Students

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Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology are seeking a temporary restraining order to prevent the U.S. from enforcing new visa guidelines that could force foreign students out of the country if schools offer only online classes in the fall.

A report in The Harvard Crimson said the two educational institutions filed a lawsuit in District Court in Boston Wednesday morning against the two federal agencies.

The lawsuit seeks a temporary restraining order, and preliminary and permanent injunctive relief to bar U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement from the enforcing federal guidelines that will force international students to leave the United States.

Harvard University President Lawrence Bacow said in an email to affiliates that the order came down without notice—its cruelty surpassed only by its recklessness. “We believe that the ICE order is bad public policy, and we believe that it is illegal.”

"We will pursue this case vigorously so that our international studentsand international students at institutions across the country can continue their studies without the threat of deportation," Bacow said, according to the Crimson report.

The U.S. ICE said in a press release issued Monday that for the fall semester this year, students attending schools operating entirely online may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States.

The U.S. Department of State will not issue visas to students enrolled in schools and/or programs that are fully online for the fall semester nor will U.S. Customs and Border Protection permit these students to enter the United States, the release said.

The Crimson report said Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey announced Tuesday that her office will sue over the guidelines, which she called cruel and illegal.

The Harvard lawsuit argues that the guidelines violated the Administrative Procedure Act by failing to consider important aspects of the problem in advance of its release, failing to provide a reasonable basis for the policy, and failing to adequately notify the public.

Dean of Undergraduate Education Amanda J. Claybaugh said in a panel Monday that Vice Provost for International Affairs Mark C. Elliot is also contacting ambassadors on behalf of international students.

“As a university with a profound commitment to residential education, we hope and intend to resume full in-person instruction as soon as it is safe and responsible to do so," Bacow said in the email. “But, until that time comes, we will not stand by to see our international students' dreams extinguished by a deeply misguided order. We owe it to them to stand up and to fightand we will.”

International travel restrictions in place due to the pandemic have made it increasingly difficult for international students in the U.S. to return to their home countries, while those outside the U.S. are uncertain if they will be able to travel to join their courses in American colleges and universities.

Before the ICE guidance was issued, Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences had said that it will bring up to 40% of undergraduates to campus for the fall semester, including all first-year students.

MIT has said that many graduate students and research staff will be allowed on campus for the fall. But to limit the density of the campus population, most administrative staff who can work remotely will continue to do so.

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