Administration rescinds rule on international students

University filed brief in support of lawsuit challenging federal policy

The Trump administration on Tuesday quickly rescinded the July 6 policy directive that would have prohibited international students from being in the United States if all of their classes were online.

Ridgely Hall-Brookings archwayWashington University in St. Louis had filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting a lawsuit by Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology challenging the policy. A hearing had been set for Tuesday.

“We are grateful for the swift decision from the administration to rescind the new ICE policy, which would have had a huge and detrimental impact on international students,” Chancellor Andrew D. Martin said. “Here at Washington University and at institutions across the country, our international students make invaluable contributions to our academic communities. We are extremely relieved that they will not have to deal with this unnecessary disruption and stress.

“We will continue to support our international students in every way possible, and to take all necessary steps to ensure they can pursue their studies and remain an integral part of our community, without unnecessary obstacles or interruption. We applaud our fellow institutions for taking this swift legal action, as well as all who joined us in showing support on behalf of all of our students.”

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement had announced last week that it was changing Student and Exchange Visitor Program policy to prohibit international students from entering or remaining in the country if all of their classes are online. The move came as universities across the country grapple with whether and how to hold classes this fall in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the public health concerns it raises for students, faculty and staff in close quarters.

Last week, Martin and Provost Beverly Wendland wrote a letter to the university community expressing their unwavering support for international students in light of the “ill-conceived and dangerous” federal policy change.

“Please be assured that we will continue to take all possible steps to support and advocate for our international students, and that we place tremendous value on the contributions of all members of our international community,” they wrote. “Our international students, faculty and staff make Washington University a more vibrant, engaging, and intellectually stimulating place through their innumerable contributions.”

Washington University was among 180 colleges and universities who filed an amici curiae brief in the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for Massachusetts. Washington University plans to offer some in-person instruction, with an online option for those who need or prefer it.

International students “make valuable contributions to amici’s classrooms, campuses and communities — contributions that have helped make American higher education the envy of the world,” the universities stated in the court filing. They argued that the government’s move was arbitrary and capricious, didn’t provide a reasoned explanation for the change and failed to consider the consequences the policy will have for universities and their students.

The full text of the brief is available online.

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