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July 13, 2020

Nearly 60 colleges and universities call for halt of federal directive impacting international students

Michigan State University Sunday joined 58 other institutions of higher education from 24 states and the District of Columbia in filing an amicus brief in support of Harvard and MIT’s motion for a preliminary injunction on the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) July 6 directive. The directive places entirely new restrictions on institutions of higher education and hundreds of thousands of international students studying in the United States.

In the new directive issued by ICE last week, students with F-1 and M-1 visas who are not taking any in-person courses in the United States will now be required to leave the country — an about-face from the agency’s March guidance that allowed international students to count online courses toward a full course of study for the duration of the current public health emergency.

“The worldwide pandemic we’re all facing together has only highlighted the need for more global collaboration, not less,” said MSU President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D. “The federal government’s new directive that unilaterally places additional restrictions on international students without consideration for the undue burden it causes to so many is profoundly concerning and incredibly unfair to those who have come to us to further their educations.”

In the brief, the higher education institutions — which collectively enroll 213,000 international students each year — argue that a fundamental principle of administrative law is that the government must provide a reasoned explanation for its actions and consider all important aspects of an issue before imposing burdens on regulated parties. They state that this directive “fails this basic requirement,” and is “arbitrary and capricious.”

The colleges and universities outline four key failures of the policy:

• It fails to address substantial reliance on the government’s previous policies
• It gives no consideration to the dilemmas it imposes on schools and students
• It fails to consider the enormous and disruptive compliance burdens it imposes
• It is devoid of any reasoned explanation or justification

According to the brief, colleges and universities have continued to inform the federal government of operational changes to their campuses since March, and the “defendants’ only response has been an auto-reply thanking [them] for submitting their plans.”

In addition to filing an amicus brief, MSU also has engaged with members of Michigan’s congressional delegation and university organizations, including the Association for Public and Land-Grant Universities and the Association of American Universities, to lend its voice and advocacy to protect international students. MSU will also host an open discussion Wednesday with members of the International Student Association to hear their concerns and provide additional information on MSU’s actions to protect its international student community.

“MSU is proud to stand beside our higher education colleagues in this fight,” President Stanley added. “Our international students deserve better and we are demanding it on their behalf.”

The U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts will hear oral arguments on the motion Tuesday, July 14.

By: Dan Olsen