DHS, ICE rescind visa rule on international students

Before the parties were to meet for a preliminary hearing, the government agreed to rescind an order it handed down July 6 that would restrict visas to international students taking online classes.

Prior to a hearing Tuesday afternoon between the plaintiffs, attorneys for Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the defendants, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. District Judge Allison D. Burroughs was informed that they had come to a resolution, the court record shows.

The government agreed to rescind the order, and effectively ended its attempt to implement an order that would have affected hundreds of thousands of international students currently enrolled for the fall semester who hold F-1 and M-1 non-immigrant visas.

“ The Government has agreed to rescind the July 6, 2020 Policy Directive and the July 7, 2020 FAQ, and has also agreed to rescind their implementation. The Government will return to the March 9, 2020 and March 13, 2020 policy,” the record shows. “This moots the temporary restraining order/preliminary injunction motions, and will preclude enforcement of the July 6, 2020 policy directive and July 7, 2020 FAQ, which are being rescinded on nationwide basis.”

The new restrictions would have put a cap on how many credit hours a student on this particular visa could use for online-learning or remote classes.

If implemented, the rule would have impacted hundreds of thousands of students who were already scrambling to prepare for a fall semester with a pandemic as the backdrop.

The lawsuit filed July 7 in Massachusetts U.S. District Court, demanded the court hand down a temporary injunction against the government, and preliminary and permanent relief denying U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and DHS from implementing the rule this fall.

Harvard, and MIT, in the document claim they host about 5,000 and 4,000 international students on F-1 visas, respectively.

According to the Institute of International Education, in the 2018-19 academic year, there were at least 11 universities across the country that hosted more than 10,000 international students each at its institutions, with New York University leading the way with 19,605 international students.

Additionally, according to IIE’s data, Texas ranked third overall in states who hosted international students during that year with 81,893, only behind New York and California which hosted 124,277 and 161,693, respectively.

The day after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials announced the order, the attorneys for the aforementioned educational institutions filed the lawsuit; with several other institutions joining the lawsuit subsequently.

The news of the rule was met with majority opposition not only by the affected students and higher learning institutions, but also congressional representatives across the country who underscored the economic impact of denying so many international students the opportunity to live and study in the country.

U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen, underscored how more than 1 million international students who attend classes in the country contribute roughly $41 billion to the economy.

On Tuesday, Gonzalez acknowledged the resolution as a “small victory,” against an administration who has shown it will keep advocating for xenophobic policies.

“ While the developments that ICE will rescind its recent rule to deport international students is welcome news, the Trump administration is still pursuing openly punitive and xenophobic policies,” Gonzalez said in a prepared statement. “We celebrate the small victories, but there is still much work to be done. I look forward to working with an administration that values students, immigrants and minorities in the, hopefully, near future.”

Locally, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley President Guy Bailey expressed his support of international students as news broke last week.

The Monitor reached out to UTRGV for reaction to Tuesday’s news of the rescission but had not responded as of press time.

Bailey said in the release that as many as 800 international students enroll in classes at UTRGV each year.

With the order rescinded, institutions may move forward with online-only classes for the fall semester without fear that it would be an issue for international students.