July 8 (UPI) -- Havard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on Wednesday sued to block new immigration restrictions that would prevent students in the United States on visas from taking classes at institutions that offer fully online courses.
The lawsuit seeks a temporary restraining order and permanent injunction against the policy decision by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that would require international students whose universities move to fully online instruction amid the COVID-19 pandemic to transfer or face deportation.
On Monday, ICE announced that students on non-immigrant F-1 and M-1 visas who attend universities that operate entirely online "may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States" and that the State Department will not issue visas to students enrolled in schools that are fully online for the fall semester.
The lawsuit alleges that ICE's decision seems to be intended to "force universities to reopen in-person classes" which would ultimately lead to increased risk of exposure to the coronavirus.
"By threatening to force many F-1 students to withdraw from Harvard and MIT, defendants have put both schools to an impossible choice: lose numerous students who bring immense benefits to the school or take steps to retain those students through in-person classes, even when those steps contradict each school's judgment about how best to protect the health of the students, faculty, staff and the entire university community," the suit states.
President Donald Trump on Tuesday said the White House will seek to "pressure" governors to reopen schools in the fall during a roundtable discussion at the White House on opening schools amid the pandemic.