DENVER – The Trump administration rescinded a rule on Tuesday that would have forced international students taking online-only classes out of the state and country this fall a day after Colorado and 16 other states sued to try to keep the rule from going into effect.
The Department of Homeland Security announced as a court hearing was underway Tuesday it was rescinding the July U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement guidance and attached FAQ. Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology had originally challenged ICE’s rule, and eight other lawsuits have since been filed, including Colorado’s.
The now-rescinded rule said that international students with F-1 or M-1 nonimmigrant visas who take all of their classes online – as some colleges and universities have already committed to during the COVID-19 pandemic – would not be allowed to stay in the U.S. to do their schoolwork.
Colorado, along with 16 other states and the District of Columbia, also sued over the rule Monday asking the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts to block the rule. Attorney General Phil Weiser said the rule would have “adverse” effects on the 11,316 international students studying in Colorado on F-1 or M-1 visas as of January.
Several universities and college systems in Colorado had also opposed the measure before ICE and DHS reversed course – for now – on Tuesday. The University of Colorado President Mark Kennedy said earlier Tuesday, before the rule was pulled, that he hoped the rule would be withdrawn and that the university was eyeing amicus briefs to join in the cases.
“International students are critical and valued members of the University of Colorado community, and the concern and confusion the ruling has caused – particularly amid the uncertainty of the pandemic – hurts our international students and our communities,” Kennedy and chancellors of the CU campuses said in a joint statement.
“We are pleased with that the ICE directive has been rescinded, and that our international students can freely attend CU Boulder,” CU Boulder tweeted after the rule was rescinded.
The state officials argued in the suit filed Monday that in making its rule, ICE offered no rationale, failed to consider the health and safety of students, faculty and other residents, did not consider the costs or financial ramifications for higher education institutions and did not account for the fact that remote learning in some of the countries from which the students hail is difficult or impossible.
“It is the essence of arbitrary and capricious to withdraw, without explanation, a commonsense measure to manage the pandemic currently engulfing our country,” the attorneys general wrote.
In a statement, Weiser said he was thankful the rule had been rescinded.
“More than 11,000 international students who attend colleges and universities in Colorado have had their lives turned upside down since the administration announced it would revoke their visas if they did online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. The policy was as unfair as it was cruel. I was proud to join the fight against it, and I’m glad it was rescinded today,” Weiser said. “Thankfully, America's foreign students and institutions of higher education can now move forward without this illegal policy disrupting their plans.”