Tuesday, August 4, 2020

ICE removes policy to ban international students from taking online classes in the US

July 14, 2020
<p>The International Center photographed on July 7, 2020.</p>

The International Center photographed on July 7, 2020.

Photo by Matt Schmucker | The State News

An Immigration and Customs Enforcement policy that would prohibit international students with all-online classes from studying in the U.S. has been rescinded, a federal judge hearing the case announced on Tuesday, according to the Boston Herald.

The policy drew public and legal backlash from hundreds of universities nationwide, including Michigan State University and the Michigan Attorney General's Office.

Last week, ICE notified colleges that students under the F-1 or M-1 visa were not to remain in the country if all of their course work was online, leaving many international students worried and confused about their options.

"I think when we have pandemics, global crises, like COVID-19, it's important that we are, at the very, least empathetic towards every group that we serve," the Associated Students of Michigan State University President and international student Abii-Tah Bih said. "It's important that we are understanding of every group, empathetic toward them and making sure that we all are advancing out of this crisis without losing much more than we have already. The policy that was passed last week would have been an extra crisis on top of the one that we are already going through."

The policy received immediate pushback, with over 200 universities — including Michigan State — backing Harvard and MIT's lawsuit.

"I'm a proud Spartan today because MSU also joined the lawsuit, so that makes me so proud because I know that my university is fighting for me, and a lot of students know that too," Bih said.

MSU President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. said, following this news, MSU will continue to support its international students.

"This is welcome news for all international students who come to our country to study at our colleges and universities. We appreciate the federal government’s heeding the call of hundreds of institutions of higher education throughout our country," Stanley said in a statement. "MSU will continue to advocate on behalf of our international students, who are an essential part of our Spartan community.”

It also drew backlash from the Michigan Attorney General's Office, with Attorney General Dana Nessel joining 17 other attorneys general filing a lawsuit to stop the entire federal rule from going into effect.

The lawsuit was filed against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and ICE, in the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts on Monday.

Members of the MSU International Students Association, or ISA, and Bih were preparing for their webinar with Stanley when they received the news.

ISA thanks the Office for International Students and Scholars for the support when this regulation was first announced but recognizes the Student and Exchange Visitor Program, or SEVP, still needs to work with international students on the variables of pursuing their education during the pandemic.

"This is a huge victory for the entire international student community," ISA President Chittawan Boonsitanon said in a statement. "It is a testament to the importance of collaboration between the students and the administrators. ... However, we also recognize that there is still more work to be done and although the regulations have been rescinded, new guidance from SEVP is still required for Fall 2020. Until that happens, we demand that international students be given a choice to decide on how they pursue their coursework for Fall 2020 without jeopardizing their enrollment status."

This story was updated at 6:30 p.m.


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