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Federal government rescinds harmful ICE directive on international students

Responding to legal challenges by scores of universities, 18 attorneys general in Harvard/MIT case

Confronted with legal challenges by scores of colleges and universities, including Northwestern, as well as by 18 state attorneys general around the country, the federal government withdrew a directive that threatened to deport international students who don’t attend in-person classes this fall. The directive also threatened to impact the status of international students outside of the United States. 

U.S. District Judge Allison Burroughs announced July 14 that “the government agreed to rescind the July 6, 2020 Policy Directive and the July 7, 2020 FAQ, and has also agreed to rescind their implementation.” She said it also had agreed to “return to the status quo.” 

That was welcome news for tens of thousands of international students and the colleges and universities in the United States where they are enrolled. It came after a tsunami of protests and legal challenges from universities and states’ attorneys general, who argued that the new rule issued abruptly last week was unjustified, onerous and arbitrary.

The agreement means international students currently in F-1 status will be able to keep this status for the Fall 2020 term, provided they register for a full course load, regardless of whether these courses are in person or online/remote, and regardless of whether they are in the United States or outside the United States, Associate Provost for Global Affairs Annelise Riles said in a message sent to international students.

Northwestern on July 13 joined two legal challenges opposing the directive from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. The University also had mounted lobbying efforts in Washington, D.C., to try to roll back the rule.

The litigation took place in U.S. District Court in Massachusetts, where Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology filed a case last week against the new ICE rule.

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