17 US States and the District of Columbia have filed a lawsuit against the Donald Trump Administration’s recent order stating new visa policies for international students. The lawsuit was filed calling the Trump’s order to be “a cruel, abrupt, and unlawful action” to expel them amidst the coronavirus pandemic. The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) released an order on 6th July 2020, which declared that the non- immigrant students with F-1 and M-1 visas attending schools and colleges operating entirely online or taking only online courses will not be allowed to stay in the United States of America. The lawsuit was filed in the US District Court in Massachusetts against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and ICE seeking an injunction to stop the entire rule from going into effect. The lawsuit challenges, what 18 attorney generals call the federal government’s “cruel, abrupt, and unlawful action to expel international students amidst the pandemic that has wrought death and disruption across the United States.”
The modifications further limit many students in normally operating schools from taking more than one class or three credit hours online to remain in the country. In the 2018- 2019 academic year, there were moreover 10 lakh foreign students in the Country. According to a recent report of the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), there were 1,94,556 Indian students enrolled in various academic institutions in the US in January. The US states that have filed the joint lawsuit are Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, who represented a team of 18 attorney generals in the lawsuit, stated in a statement that the Trump administration did not attempt to justify the rationale behind this "senseless" rule that forces schools to choose between keeping their foreign students enrolled and protecting the health and safety of their campuses. The statement said, “Massachusetts is home to thousands of international students who make invaluable contributions to our educational institutions, communities, and economy. We are taking this action to make sure they can continue to live and learn in this country.”
The case was brought days after Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) filed a lawsuit against the latest ICE rule that bars international students from staying in the US unless they attend at least one in-person course. It challenges the abrupt policy shift of the ICE to reverse the guidance issued on 13th March 2020, which acknowledged the public health emergency of COVID-19, provided flexibility for schools, and allowed international students with F-1 and M-1 visas to take classes online for the duration of the emergency. The lawsuit further alleges that the new rule causes significant economic harm by prohibiting thousands of international students from entering and remaining in the US and seeking jobs in fields such as science, technology, biotechnology, health care, business and finance, and education, and by adding to the overall economy.