Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are suing the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security to support international students who attend their universities.
On Monday, the Trump Administration issued a new order that bars some 1 million international students from staying in the U.S. if they take classes entirely online this fall amid the coronavirus pandemic. The order says students must “depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction."
But on Wednesday, Harvard and MIT filed a lawsuit in in Boston's federal court, asking it to declare the rule unlawful and stop ICE and DHS from enforcing it.
In a statement, Harvard president Lawrence Bacow said the federal order came without notice and that "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."
Kenneth Cuccinelli II, the acting deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, defended the order deporting international students on Tuesday, telling CNN, “If they’re not going to be a student or they’re going to be 100 percent online, then they don’t have a basis to be here."
The new order comes as the U.S. passes 3 million confirmed coronavirus cases, including about 130,000 deaths. Colleges and universities across the country have been finalizing plans for how they will proceed with classes in the fall so students can maintain a quality education in the safest way possible.
MIT president L. Rafael Reif said ICE's order "disrupts our international students’ lives and jeopardizes their academic and research pursuits." He also said welcoming the world’s brightest, most talented and motivated students is an essential American strength" and that international students are "unequivocally" welcomed there.
Harvard and MIT said they will purse the case "vigorously" to make sure international students across the country "can continue their studies without the threat of deportation."
Contains footage from CNN.