July 13 (UPI) -- Attorneys general in 18 states sued the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on Monday over a new threat to deport international university students enrolled in online-only classes this fall.
Calling a July 6 Immigration and Customs Enforcement ruling "senseless and cruel," states led by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said the ICE decision imposes "an insuperable burden on our colleges and universities." The higher-learning institutions have until Aug. 4 to provide to ICE a list of every international student and certify that they are attending in-person classes.
Universities have been developing programs to address how and whether students can return to in-person classes based on health recommendations amid the coronavirus pandemic. An earlier March ICE ruling allowed international students to switch to online classes "for the duration of the emergency" the suit said. Non-immigrant student F-1 and M-1 student visas were permitted under the previous rules.
Universities have developed protocols for the 2020 fall school schedule and which classes will be online and in-person, the suit said. Universities will have to choose "between keeping their international students enrolled and protecting the health and safety of their campuses," the complaint said.
Losing international students will be devastating for university budgets, as they pay higher international tuition, the suit said. States could lose hundreds of billions of dollars in lost tuition, as well as fees for housing and other services, the suit said.
States co-filing the suit include Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington. Private universities Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology filed similar lawsuits earlier.
The directive by ICE attacking university systems' bottom line was followed by a tweet Friday by U.S. President Donald Trump attacking the "Radical Left indoctrination" on college campuses.
"Too many universities and school systems are about radical left indoctrination, not education. Therefore, I am telling the Treasury Department to re-examine their tax-exempt status... and/or Funding," Trump tweeted "...which will be taken away if this propaganda or act against public policy continues. Our children must be Educated, not Indoctrinated!"