180 US colleges, universities join lawsuit opposing Trump administration's new visa policy for int'l students

Some 180 academic institutions in the United States joined the avalanche of opposition to the Trump administration's controversial visa policy for int'l students.

Some 180 academic institutions in the United States joined the avalanche of opposition to the Trump administration's controversial visa policy for int'l students, according to an amicus brief document filed to the Massachusetts federal district court and released to the public on Friday.

The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced a new visa policy for international students and this move prompted Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to launch a legal action against it.

The 22-page document issued by the Presidents' Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration representing 180 higher education institutions showed a nationwide support for rescinding the guidance.

"ICE's new policy serves only to severely disrupt international students' educational attainment, and our country is worse off for it," said Miriam Feldblum, executive director of the Presidents' Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration in a statement posted on the group's official website.

"This quasi-international student ban represents another unfortunate assault by the administration against immigrants and higher education," she added.

The Alliance is composed of over 450 presidents and chancellors of public and private colleges and universities, representing over 5 million students in 41 states, Washington DC and Puerto Rico.

The extraordinary number of colleges and universities pooling together so quickly is indicative of the serious nature of the opposition to the brash move, academic pundits said.

The ICE announced on Monday that students currently in the United States on F-1 and M-1 visas must depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status, if their schools' classes are entirely online in the fall semester.

The measure also stipulated that those in violation would risk "immigration consequences, including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings."

The White House defended the action Wednesday. In academic circles, the decision hit a stone wall.

As of Saturday, hundreds of thousands of signatures have been collected online from supporters of several open letters and petitions that slammed the Trump administration's decision.

The University of Southern California (USC), where a total of 12,265 international students were enrolled during the 2019-20 academic year with around 7,000 from China, announced on Wednesday it had joined an amicus brief strongly supporting the lawsuit filed by Harvard and MIT.

The University of California (UC) also announced plans to file suit against ICE. The UC's 2019 fall enrollment data showed that 27,205 of the university's 226,125 undergraduate students are non-resident international, while 13,995 of the university's 58,941 graduate students are non-resident international.

"I am deeply concerned about the timing, motivation, and substance of this government action," said Alan W. Cramb, president of Illinois Institute of Technology in the statement released by the Presidents' Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration.

"Our university, our city, and our nation are profoundly enriched by the contributions of international students. We stand with them and higher education institutions across the nation to ensure that America continues to be a place where all are welcomed and encouraged in their pursuit of educational excellence."

The public health danger was highlighted by Danny J. Anderson, president of Trinity University, in the statement.

"While so many people in the United States are suffering and recovering from COVID-19, it is even more important that campuses protect and ensure the health and safety of their students," he wrote.

"By issuing such ill-advised guidance, the administration is in effect pressuring campuses to reopen prematurely, thereby endangering their students' health; or to deport their international students, placing their international students' health in danger. "

"This ICE policy will have far-reaching detrimental effects on our students and communities," noted Wake Forest University President Nathan O. Hatch, who urged more schools to join the movement and to "resist new federal restrictions that threaten the education and wellbeing of international students."

The harshest assessment of the new restrictions came from Dwight A. McBride, president of The New School, who was quoted by the statement as saying "The proposed ICE guidelines are cruel, unnecessary and deeply flawed - for students, for higher education, and for the country."

"Caught in the crosshairs of politics, dedicated scholars and future leaders who contribute mightily to US culture and the economy could be exiled from the country they have seen as a haven. We need to be building educational bridges for our students right now, not bureaucratic trap doors." he concluded. 

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