Trump administration rescinds controversial ICE rule for international students

UPDATE: According to the Associated Press, the Trump administration on Tuesday rescinded a rule that would have required international students to transfer schools or leave the country if their colleges hold classes entirely online this fall because of the coronavirus pandemic. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced the decision as a court hearing was getting underway in Boston on a challenge to the rule by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


Pitt has filed a brief supporting a lawsuit by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that challenges new U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement guidance that would prohibit international students from stay in the U.S. if their college courses are completely online

Pitt’s amicus brief filing on July 13 comes after an open letter to Chancellor Patrick Gallagher and Provost Ann Cudd — with more than 1,500 signatures — urged that all Pitt campuses “become sanctuary campuses with policies that protect students from the recent ICE decree.” This would include refusing ICE physical access to private University spaces without a judicial warrant.

The brief argues that the guidance from ICE, which was released on July 6, is “unjustified, burdensome and misguided.”

A statement from Pitt further outlined the University’s objections:

  • Harmful burden to international students — and education — across the United States: While the Flex@Pitt model is compliant with the new rule and will permit Pitt’s international students to safely continue their studies in the United States, the sudden, arbitrary policy shift creates uncertainty for hundreds of thousands of students at many other institutions. In the midst of the pandemic, students should not be burdened by even the suggestion of a choice between their health and their education.

  • Onerous administrative requirements: Under these requirements, Pitt is expected in the next three weeks to review and refile individual eligibility forms for approximately 3,500 students, and separately certify that each of these students is enrolled in the proper number of in-person classes.

  • Lack of justification: Against the requirements of federal law, the government policy does not provide sufficient justification for changing policy. In the face of a worsening pandemic, there is no health and safety rationale offered for replacing the previously announced exception that allowed students to remain.

Since March, colleges and universities, like Pitt, have closed their campuses to students and are devising strategies for resuming classes in the fall as the pandemic continues.

The University will use its Flex@Pitt program to give students and professors multiple options to attend and conduct classes this fall. Since this plan uses a combination of in-person and online activities, Pitt will be in line with the guidance from ICE.

But MIT and Harvard have announced they would only bring some students back to campus this fall, with the rest participating remotely. They filed a lawsuit against ICE on July 8, and soon after, research universities such as Penn State and Carnegie Mellon University threw their support behind the lawsuit. The city of Pittsburgh also has filed a brief supporting the lawsuit.

Josh Shapiro, the attorney general of Pennsylvania, has joined with his counterparts in 16 other states and the District of Columbia to file lawsuits against the new ICE policy.

Donovan Harrell is a writer for the University Times. Reach him at or 412-383-9905.


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