Top American universities have sued US immigration services over a decision to withdraw visas from international students whose courses are not being taught fully online.
Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology filed the lawsuit against Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
The lawsuit accused the ICE of “proceeded without any indication of having considered the health of students, faculty, university staff, or communities” and leaves “hundreds of thousands of international students with no educational options within the United States”.
Harvard President Lawrence Bacow said: “We believe that the ICE order is bad public policy, and we believe that it is illegal.”
On Monday, ICE announced that international students will not be allowed to stay in the country if they attend institutions, like Harvard, that are holding courses online this fall.
The policy means that foreign students are either to transfer to other institutions that provide in-person or hybrid (both in-person and online) instruction—or to leave the country and risk not being able to return.
Worse still, foreign students who fail to comply with the new ICE guidance may face deportation.
“The order came down without notice—its cruelty surpassed only by its recklessness. It appears that it was designed purposefully to place pressure on colleges and universities to open their on-campus classrooms for in-person instruction this fall, without regard to concerns for the health and safety of students, instructors, and others,” said Harvard president.
The ICE announces comes at a time when the US has been setting daily records for the number of new infections, with more than 300,000 new cases reported since July 1.