Harvard, MIT sue to block Trump administration rule on international students during pandemic
Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology sued the Trump administration on Wednesday, seeking to block a new rule that would bar foreign students from remaining in the United States if their universities move all courses online due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The two universities filed a lawsuit in federal court in Boston asking for an emergency temporary restraining order on the new directive issued by the government on Monday.
“We will pursue this case vigorously so that our international students — and international students at institutions across the country — can continue their studies without the threat of deportation,” Harvard president Lawrence Bacow wrote in a statement addressed to the Harvard community.
The lawsuit, filed by two of the most elite U.S. universities, is the first to challenge the order that could force tens of thousands of foreign students to leave the country if their schools switch fully to remote learning.
Harvard had announced it would hold all classes online in the coming fall term. The university says the directive would prevent many of its 5,000 international students from remaining in the U.S.
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said in a statement it was also planning to sue over the rule, which she called “cruel” and “illegal.”
Her office said it was still working out the details of any potential legal action but that it had been in touch with Harvard and other major colleges and universities in the state to “support their efforts to protect students.”
In a statement, the U.S. State Department said that while international students are welcome in the U.S., the policy “provides greater flexibility for non-immigrant students to continue their education in the United States, while also allowing for proper social distancing on open and operating campuses across America.”
U.S. President Donald Trump is pushing schools across the country to reopen in the fall.
The Trump administration’s announcement blindsided academic institutions grappling with the logistical challenges of safely resuming classes as the coronavirus pandemic continues unabated around the world and surges in the U.S., especially among young people.