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Harvard, MIT sue to block ICE rule on international students

BOSTON (AP) — Colleges and universities pushed back Wednesday against the Trump administration’s decision to make international students leave the country if they plan on taking classes entirely online this fall, with Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology filing a lawsuit to try to block it, and others promising to work with students to keep them on campus.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement notified colleges Monday that international students will be forced to leave the U.S. or transfer to another college if their schools operate entirely online this fall. New visas will not be issued to students at those schools, and others at universities offering a mix of online and in-person classes will be barred from taking all of their classes online.

The guidance says international students won’t be exempt even if an outbreak forces their schools online during the fall term.

In a statement, the U.S. State Department said that international students are welcome in the U.S., but the policy “provides greater flexibility for nonimmigrant students to continue their education in the United States, while also allowing for proper social distancing on open and operating campuses across America.”

The guidance was released the same day Harvard announced it would be keeping its classes online this fall. Harvard says the directive would prevent many of Harvard’s 5,000 international students from remaining in the U.S.

Harvard President Lawrence Bacow said the order came without notice and that its “cruelty” was 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,” Bacow said in a statement Wednesday. “This comes at a time when the United States has been setting daily records for the number of new infections, with more than 300,000 new cases reported since July 1.”

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