Utah schools join amicus brief denouncing rule change for international students

Jul 14, 2020, 9:09 AM | Updated: 1:35 pm
weber state university joins amicus brief...
FILE PHOTO: Weber State University is one of three Utah schools joining in an amicus brief aimed at stopping the Trump Administration from expelling international students taking only online classses (Photo: Kenneth Mays)
(Photo: Kenneth Mays)

(This story has been updated to include Utah State University joining the amicus brief.)

SALT LAKE CITY — Four schools in Utah have joined nearly 200 other colleges and universities across the nation in an amicus brief that supports Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in their legal complaint against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

On July 6, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program posted modifications affecting nonimmigrant students (F1 and M1 international students) studying in the United States. Among the changes was the stipulation that a nonimmigrant student would not be able to remain in the United States if their course load consisted entirely of online classes.

“The U.S. Department of State will not issue visas to students enrolled in schools and/or programs that are fully online for the fall semester,” the online announcement reads, “nor will U.S. Customs and Border Protection permit these students to enter the United States.”

Harvard University and MIT then filed a lawsuit against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) challenging the Trump Administration’s new rule.

Since then, nearly 200 colleges and universities have shown their support by joining an amicus brief filed by a group called The President’s Alliance on Higher Education. The group describes itself as an alliance of college and university leaders in the United States who wish to increase public understanding of how immigration policies impact students and campuses.

Utah State University

On Monday, Utah State University added the University’s name to the amicus brief in support of a lawsuit initiated by Harvard University and MIT.  USU President Noelle E. Cockett is a founding member and sits on the steering committee of the National Center for Civic Innovation, a partner program of the organization which has filed the brief.

“I think it’s essential that we show support for our international students,” Cockett said. “These rules, if they come to pass, would severely impact our students. Our international students are among our best and brightest students, and, more important today, they are our dear friends who bring critical cultural diversity and understanding to our entire student body.”

She said USU has more than 400 international students that could be impacted by the new rule on online classes. 

Weber State University

On Monday July 13, Weber State University announced it had joined the amicus brief filed in support of Harvard and MIT.

“The new ICE guidance announced on July 6 has added significant uncertainties both for higher education institutions and for international students, in addition to the existing challenges presented by the ongoing pandemic situation,” said Dr. Yimin Wang, senior international officer at Weber State University.

“Cases of the virus are increasing and the national emergency is still in effect. We request ICE to allow institutions to continue to operate under the flexible policies previously established so as to enable higher education institutions to best serve our students.” 

The brief argues that higher education institutions and international students will be burdened by the guidance’s arbitrary prohibition, without notice, to online-only courses for international students, particularly after investing substantial resources in planning their fall 2020 operations. Institutions, the amicus argues, relied heavily on the existing SEVP guidance that flexibility would continue “for the duration of the emergency.”

There are approximately 300 international students currently studying at Weber State.

Westminster College

Westminster College has announced that it opposes the new ICE regulations for international students and that it, too, has signed the amicus brief supporting the federal lawsuit filed by Harvard and MIT. 

“Joining the amicus brief is another demonstration of Westminster’s service and support for nearly 100 international students representing over 40 countries at the college,” the college said in a statement.

“Westminster’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion would be incomplete without the voices and lived experiences of our international students.”

University of Utah

The University of Utah added its name to the amicus brief last week. On Monday it announced it had joined in a second lawsuit, filed by 20 universities in the western United States, challenging the rule changes for international students. 

According to the University, there are 3,000 international students currently in attendance who would potentially be affected by the ICE rule change. The second suit seeks “a temporary restraining order, preliminary injunction, and permanent injunction to stop the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s July 6 directive from being enforced and its policies from being implemented,” the University said in a statement.

States also voicing concern

Colleges and Universities are not the only entities raising concern over the rules change instigated by the Trump Administration. On Monday, seventeen states, as well as the District of Columbia, filed a lawsuit against the Trump Administration. Calling it cruel, abrupt, and unlawful, the attorneys general want to prevent the new federal rule from taking effect. 

What happens next

The lawsuit filed against the Trump Administration by Harvard and MIT argues that the administration’s order is illegal. The lawsuit asks for a temporary restraining order as well as injunctions preventing ICE from enforcing the new rule.

A hearing on the temporary restraining order and injunctions will be held Tuesday, July 14.

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Utah schools join amicus brief denouncing rule change for international students