Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on Wednesday filed a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) over an order that would force international students on student visas out of the country in the fall if their colleges refuse to offer in-person courses, as reported by The Washington Post.
The move by the distinguished universities came after the federal government issued the controversial order on Monday — which would displace or deport thousands of students from Harvard alone.
“The order came down without notice—its cruelty 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,” Harvard University President Larry Bacow said.
The higher-ed institutions — which announced earlier this week that they plan to conduct all of their coursework entirely online this coming academic year — are hoping for a temporary restraining order and an injunction that would prevent the government from enforcing the directive.
However, the swift response by Harvard and MIT seemed to have only heightened tensions between educators and President Donald Trump as he has been pushing for local officials to open the nation’s schools despite the surge in coronavirus cases.
“I see what Harvard announced. That they’re closing for the season or for the year. I think it’s ridiculous. I think it’s an easy way out and I think they ought to be ashamed of themselves, you want to know the truth,” the president said at a White House event on Tuesday.
Trump also tweeted earlier today that he would withhold federal funding from schools that refuse to open in the fall, sparking outrage among many educational institutions and unions, including the National Education Association, per The Inquisitr.
Student visa regulations have always been strict in the United States, though the Student and Exchange Visitor Program issued temporary guidance and flexibility to both educators and students while COVID-19 reminded widespread. Many assumed this would roll over into the fall semester as cases have yet to decrease.
However, since the federal government announced its proposed actions, many universities are now scrambling to protect thousands of international students who are on an F-1 or M-1 student visas, on top of exploring ways to safely reopen campuses.
Still, the Department of Homeland Security reasoned that “all students scheduled to study at a U.S. institution in the fall will be able to do so,” so long as their universities offer in-person courses.
The United States hosts more than 1 million international students.