Nessel sues ICE for threats to deport international students if classes are online

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    Attorney General Dana Nessel, along with 17 other attorneys general, filed a lawsuit on Monday to stop a new federal rule that threatens to deport international students if college classes move online in the fall.

    “International students play an incredibly valuable role in the learning process at Michigan’s colleges and universities, and contribute not only to the vibrant culture of those institutions but also to our local economies,” Nessel said. “This is just another example of the Trump administration using our educational system to make a political statement, at the expense of our students and schools.” 

    The lawsuit challenges a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) policy announced on July 6 that states international students cannot take all of their classes online during the pandemic and continue living in the United States.

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    Prior to the new policy change, international students with F-1 and M-1 visas were allowed to take classes online for the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency.

    The lawsuit, filed Monday in the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and ICE, seeks an injunction against a “cruel, abrupt and unlawful action.”

    The policy gives colleges and universities until Wednesday to inform the federal government of their plans for remote courses in the fall and require that each international student is certified for in-person classes by Aug. 4 in order to maintain their visa status. 

    “This demand comes not only during an ongoing nationwide emergency, but also at a time when many faculty, staff and students are not on campus and may not even be in the country; students may not even have registered for their fall classes, and schools and individual teaching staff members may not yet have determined whether their classes will be held remotely, in person or a combination,” Nessel spokesperson Ryan Jarvi wrote in a statement Monday.

    The attorneys general say the new rule and abrupt reversal of the previous guidance fails to consider a number of issues, including the costs and administrative burden to readjust plans and certify students, that remote learning in students’ home countries may not be possible and the health and safety of students, faculty and staff.

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    The lawsuit also states that the rule imposes significant financial harm to schools if they lose revenue from a loss in tuition dollars, imposes harm to schools’ academic, extracurricular and cultural communities and forces colleges and universities to offer in-person classes amid a pandemic.

    Nessel joins the lawsuit alongside the attorneys general from Massachusetts, Connecticut, Colorado, Delaware, District of Columbia, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, Maryland, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin. 

    Allison Donahue
    Allison R. Donahue covers education, women's issues and LGBTQ issues. Previously, she was a suburbs reporter at the St. Cloud Times in St. Cloud, Minn., covering local education and government. As a graduate of Grand Valley State University, she has previous experience as a freelance researcher for USA Today and an intern with WOOD TV-8. When she is away from her desk, she spends her time going to concerts, comedy shows or getting lost on hikes in different places around the world.